An hour after we left our gate at the Fort Lauderdale airport we were still sitting on the tarmac which meant it was about that time when conversations with your plane neighbor commenced. The Haitian-American man next to me jumped right into conversation with the classic question asked to any American on a flight full of Haitians, “Why are you on your way to Haiti?” For the next hour while we waited to take off, he talked, and I did most of the listening as he recapped all the challenges Haiti has had and continues to have. He mentioned everything from the food crises, to educational issues, to the infamous Haitian government. The one question I did manage to squeeze into the conversation was, “Although there isn’t an overnight solution, from a Haitian perspective, what do you think one of the biggest ways to solve these problems is?” He quickly answered, without hesitation, “Education.” That one powerful word reassured me that I was meant to be heading to Haiti for the week.
Flight delays and traffic jams were the norm for our first 30 hours of travel, but once we overcame the travel issues and finally arrived, the rest of our week was filled with teaching, learning, soaking in the culture, and an abundance of new friends.
My professor, Dr. David Morrisette, two students in the 2nd year physical therapy class, and I spent six days in Léogâne, Haiti, a city about 27 miles (a 2-hour car ride) southwest of Port Au Prince. Four and a half days of our six days were spent teaching at the Faculté des Sciences de Réhabilitation de Léogâne (FSRL), a part of the Université Episcopale d’Haïti. The Université Episcopale d’Haïti has one of the two rehabilitation programs in the country, and it also has a nursing program. Our week of teaching, the first week of a four-week Musculoskeletal course, emphasized an introduction to the musculoskeletal system, taking a history from a patient, and doing an upper-quarter or lower-quarter screen. Dr. Morrisette taught most of the lecture material and the two other PT students, Lexi and Kelsey, and I spent our time teaching most of the lab material. To complete my project, all of the lab material was recorded, and we received great feedback from the students about the idea of having videos to reference in the future while they are practicing and perfecting their manual skills. When we weren’t teaching, we spent time getting to know the students and exploring the town of Léogâne.
If Haiti teaches you one thing, it’s that things never go as planned. Working with Dr. Morrisette and the other physical therapy students improved my team work skills, especially when we had to make quick decisions or last-minute plan changes. Teaching in Haiti has given me more of an appreciation and desire to further pursue teaching in the future, especially globally. Despite only teaching for a week, I was placed in situations where I had to adapt my teaching to fit different learning styles, practice patience as some students took longer to understand concepts, and promote individual thinking so each student could improve their problem solving skills.
This trip marked my fourth time traveling to Haiti and my second time teaching at FSRL. Every time I have left Haiti, I have thought that my next trip couldn’t possibly be any better. But, every time I prove myself wrong. This trip, I gained a new appreciation for trusting the process and the power of education. The more these students know, the more they will be able to impact the people of Haiti and the country as a whole. The resilience and knowledge that our students demonstrated was pure proof that Haiti is going to be more than fine. They are students who I have no doubt will advocate for their patients, who will be life-long learners, and who will one day be teachers themselves. Haiti’s future of rehabilitation is looking pretty bright.