Haiti, Children, School, and Important Lessons — The North Star Project Reports, sponsored by The Middle Ground Journal. By Dennika Mays


Haiti, Children, School, and Important Lessons — The North Star Project Reports, sponsored by The Middle Ground Journal. By Dennika Mays

On January 12, 2012, I went on a trip to Haiti. I stayed there for 4 months as part of a study abroad trip that I created myself. I had the opportunity to travel all around the country and even went to the Dominican Republic for a day. Haiti has so many palm trees, people, and all different types of food. Most of the people I met in Haiti were very nice to me. They would always greet me with a “Bonswa, madam” [Good day, miss] or “Bonwi, madam” [Good evening, miss] and a bright smile. I also visited a few different schools around the country and met many children in Haiti. The children in Haiti have to wear uniforms to school, and each school has a different color scheme. For example, some schools have a blue and white color scheme, while other schools wear brown and orange colors. Each school is different. Every day after school, kids walk home, and I would see the many different colors of all of their uniforms. After staying a while in Haiti, I could tell which school a kid attended by simply looking at the colors on his or her uniform.

Many kids in Haiti can afford to go to school, but there are also students who don’t have to money to go. These children  stay at home and help with chores around the house. I met many kids in Haiti who can’t read or write because they didn’t have enough money to pay for school fees and a uniform. But the President of Haiti has been working hard to get poor kids in school so they can have an education and a good meal. The President in Haiti started a school program for kids who can’t afford to go to school and now hundreds of kids are in the program.

Seeing the children of Haiti made me think about growing up as a kid in the U.S. My family was poor and didn’t always have money for food, but the education system had a program for my family and I was able to attend school and have a good lunch. Seeing many poor kids in Haiti reminded me of myself growing up, and it made me grateful for everything I have now. I now have clothes, food, running water, electricity, and access to education. I didn’t always have those things and living in Haiti reminded me of that. It also reminded me to always be grateful for everything I have because I know what it’s like to live without things like running water, electricity, heating, air condition, and food.

Photo (map) credit: “Haiti (orthographic projection)” by Connormah – Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Haiti_(orthographic_projection).svg#mediaviewer/File:Haiti_(orthographic_projection).svg

Please contact Professor Liang if you wish to contribute to The North Star Project Reports — HLIANG@CSS.EDU

For all of the North Star Project Reports, see https://mgjnorthstarproject.wordpress.com/

The North Star Project Reports: The Middle Ground Journal’s collaborative outreach program with K-12 classes around the world. We acknowledge North Star Academy of Duluth, Minnesota as our inaugural partner school, and the flagship of our K-12 outreach program. We also welcome Duluth East High School, Duluth Denfeld High School, Dodge Middle School and other schools around the world to the North Star Project. The North Star Project has flourished since 2012. For a brief summary, please see the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at:



The Middle Ground Journal will share brief dispatches from our North Star Project student interns, particularly from those who are currently stationed, or will soon be stationed abroad. Student interns have reported from Mongolia, Southern China, Shanghai, northeastern China, The Netherlands, Tanzania, Ireland, England, Finland, Russia, and Haiti. We also have students developing presentations on theatrical representations of historical trauma, historical memory, the price individuals pay during tragic global conflicts, and different perceptions of current events from around the world. We will post their dispatches here, and report on their interactions with the North Star Project students and teachers.

Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal, Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica, Duluth, MN, USA

(c) 2013-present The Middle Ground Journal. See Submission Guidelines page for the journal’s not-for-profit educational open-access policy.


Filed under North Star Student Editors, Professor Hong-Ming Liang

36 responses to “Haiti, Children, School, and Important Lessons — The North Star Project Reports, sponsored by The Middle Ground Journal. By Dennika Mays

  1. Miranda King

    It is always amazing to see how when people don’t always have access to things such as education that it opens eyes. These are the experiences that teach us to appreciate these opportunities.

  2. Amy North

    That sounds like a great trip. It is good to know that the president of Haiti is aware that there is a problem with the education system and is trying to do something to change it.

  3. Kyle Hellmann

    My Mother has also been to Haiti twice for mission trips, and she is planning to go on a third. Every time she returns she says the same things written in this article, about how grateful she is to have all the commodities we have here. She always says that the people she meets in Haiti are often the most happiest people she has met. Hopefully the program that the President is running helps improve the lives of those children.

  4. Cali Stabe

    Thats awesome you created a study abroad program yourself and that the president of Haiti created a school just for kids who could not afford to go to school. Going to Haiti was be an amazing experience and i think that i would realize also how much we do take for granted in the US.

  5. Jonia G

    Thank you for sharing. The image you created of uniforms in various colours at the end of a school day was wonderful; it must have been interesting to observe and learn which uniform belonged to which schooling system. I believe that this helped me open my eyes a bit wider; I’m very lucky to be raised in family that has all the basic needs (and some wants). I also know that one day; even those basic needs could be gone. Thank you.

  6. Zach Dahlman

    That seems like a fun and exciting experince of studying abroad. I think the coolest part would be to see the differences in schools here in Minnesota compared to Haiti. I hope to do some type of study abroad from reading this article and many like it.

  7. Alayna McCawley

    I think it is incredible that you created your own study abroad program in order to go to Haiti! Do you have any plans on returning to Haiti or have any ideas on how to make it so more children can attend school? I found it very interesting that certain schools wore specific uniforms and colors– overall, I think you had a great experience and I appreciate your post because it has given me a look at how other cultures and societies live.

  8. Annie

    As much as people criticize the public school system here in the U.S. I think your article really points out the impact that education and school provided meals can have, all at relatively no cost to students. If it were up to me every one would have a public school system and have access to this things regardless of gender, economic status, race, religion (ect). It was also really refreshing to read about the Haitian politeness and everyday life. It painted a much different picture of the country than most people have in the U.S. Thanks for sharing!

  9. Jenna M

    When reading this I was really happy to hear that the president started a school program for those who did not have the means to provide an education for themselves. Growing up I never once thought about the idea of not being able to go to school, but rather it was a chore. However, today I am grateful for the society and culture we live in that puts a lot of value on our education from k-12 and into higher education.

  10. The opportunity you had to study abroad reveals the greater our differences with the Haitian culture, but as you rightly point out, it reveals the more obvious of our similarities. Your experience highlights how education, thankfully, remains a top priority in Haiti as the President is keen for school programs to be established so that even the poorest of children can receive an education and a good meal. It is endearing to see how your trip made you reflective of your life back in the US.

  11. Ada

    It sounds like you had a very meaningful stay, especially in getting to know other cultures and their different reality. It seems like the immersion into Haiti was an incredibly gratifying experience for you, thanks for sharing!

  12. Mickie Keuning

    This article pointed out how the U.S. has a good schooling system, making sure kids get an education. It’s nice to read that the president of Haiti is taking action in their education as well!

  13. Neil Vierzba

    I thought this was interesting to learn about Haiti and their schools. I feel as if you don’t hear much about Haiti in the news besides the earthquake that happened there. Great read.

  14. Chelsea Bastyr

    I’m so impressed that you were able to go to Haiti and form a study abroad group! I’ve always been interested in Haiti but haven’t had the chance to go for any type of mission trip! I think it would be extremely rewarding and reading this made me want to even more!! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  15. Sounds like you had a great experience studying abroad. It is good to know that the President of Haiti has recognized this flaw in the education system and has taken measures to reassure equality among the children of Haiti. It sounds like you were really able to appreciate your time there because of your own personal experiences growing up, thanks for sharing!

  16. Robert Ochs

    I had no idea that the people of Haiti care so much about putting their kids through school and trying to give everyone an education! You don’t really hear about things like that from the media. It sounds like an eye-opening trip. Thank you for sharing your own life experience along with the what you experienced on the trip!

  17. Maija

    It’s sad to think that some of the children were not able to go to school because they could not afford it. We often don’t think of this being a problem, maybe only when talking about college (at least where I come from that’s the only sort of education that is more or less “optional”). Not taking those everyday things for granted is great!

  18. Mindy Aubin

    What a cool experience that was to travel there and see everything you did! I find it interesting that each school has a different color scheme for their uniforms. I wonder how they go about picking the colors! I also think that if some kids can’t afford the uniforms maybe they shouldn’t have it be a “uniform wearing” school so it would be cheaper.

  19. Katie Hass

    That must have been a wonderful experience to have. I didn’t know that Haiti had schools with uniforms or how their education system worked. I bet it must have been so neat to see all those children in a rainbow of colors walking home each day. One of my elementary schools I attended had uniforms, and personally I liked them. I think it’s interesting that the schools have fees attached, which makes sense given the uniforms, but that a child who can’t afford the school just doesn’t get to go. I applaud the President for making a difference in their education system as well.

  20. Mickie Keuning

    Although Haiti may be a poverty stricken country it’s nice to know that the president is doing something about the education of its’ youth. Education shows promise for citizens of the future and it would be nice to see a country like Haiti grow because of their new education program instilled by the president.

  21. Rachel Studley

    Your experience seems to be pretty common, we often gain a new appreciation for the luxuries that we have when we are able to see those less fortunate. It’s so good to hear about programs such as the president’s that are designed to help those people! I have a friend who has also traveled to Haiti and she is always talking about the differences in the culture.

  22. Kendra Johnson

    It’s sad to hear about places like Haiti that have such high poverty rates and how vastly different their lives are because of it. However, it is nice to hear how people like you go away from home for such a long period of time to help others. It’s hard to hear about things like these but we can’t just turn a blind eye. When we see how horrible living conditions are it should be our duty to help those who can’t help themselves.

  23. Evangelista Chicheko

    Reading this article took me back home in Zimbabwe. We have a similar system where students wear uniforms to school and also walk to school. I am glad you had this experience as it showed you the other side of life apart from yours. I was also impressed by how you realized how fortunate you are to have had the opportunity to go to school even if your family couldn’t afford to send you to school. Just like you encountered, there are kids in Haiti who can’t read because they cannot afford to go to school. This makes us realize how privileged we are to have some opportunities other people in the world do not have.

  24. Mackenzie Sherrill

    I loved hearing about your trip and how the children here gave you a sense of your own childhood, although that must have not been the easiest thing. I hope that the President’s efforts here continue on in order to allow all of the children in Haiti to one day attend school!

  25. Kyle Stepka

    Its cool to hear about this story and how the kids made you think of your past. Even that is was hard to think about I hope more effort is given so these kids can go to school one day and learn.

  26. Samantha Roettger

    As a future teacher, I value education very highly so it is important to me that kids go to school. School does so many good things for children. Besides learning the basic reading, writing and math, children discover themselves, learn to respect others, and learn that they can make a difference in the world. These aspects are much more important to me than being “intelligent” whatever that means. I am so happy that you got to experience other schools rather than just in America and understand how many people take education for granted.

  27. Daniela Rojas

    Even though Haiti is a completely different country you were still able to find similarities between Haiti and the US. While reading this I was thinking about education back in Mexico and how many people experience the same thing so it is nice finding connections that also in Haiti the president is doing his best for trying to give an education to all the children that really shows that he wants Haiti to grow as a nation.

  28. Zach Friederichs

    Your time in Haiti sounds like an eye-opening experience. It must’ve been really interesting to compare and contrast the different education systems there to the ones here in the U.S., especially with the use of uniforms. Personally, I’ve never come across many schools here in the U.S. that require their students to wear them.

  29. Morgan Young

    It’s so unfortunate there are still some children in every country who don’t have the money, and therefore access to education. It is good to know that the Haitian president is trying his hardest to make education available to all children. It humbles me to know that students are skipping class because they don’t want to go when they’re paying for education, and they take it for granted because they have access to it. Thanks for sharing!

  30. Tommy Traaholt

    It’s really sad to think about the experiences that these kids will never have. Not being able to get an education is one of the biggest problems i think our world has. It’s really good to see that the president of Haiti is trying to work on this situation, and hopefully more kids can get an education. Great article.

  31. Thomas Landgren

    Thank you for sharing both your experience and Haiti and what it was like being poor and how the education system helped you out a lot. It is sad to think about how many kids across the globe can’t afford school and how this can affect them on many levels including education, health, and food. It is good to see that the president is taking an active role when it comes to this problem. Great Article!

  32. Breena Alfredson

    Thank you for sharing this experience! I was completely unaware about the initiative to get poor children to school in Haiti, and surprised. Unfortunately the image that is projected about Haiti is rarely that of progression. It is so good that something is being done for the marginalized.

  33. Andrew Bailey

    Hello Dennika, Very interesting to read about your experience in Haiti. I wonder if there is quite a disparity in terms of the funding for certain schools in Haiti, and if the schools are heavily dependent upon students’ tuition for operating expenses, as it sounds like most of the schooling is privatized in Haiti. I also wonder how the education system has changed since you were in the country, as it has now been a few years. From doing some quick searches online, it looks as though the education system is still struggling in terms of ensuring that every child in Haiti is able to receive a quality education. It is somewhat disheartening to hear that this is still the case today, and I also reflecting on my primary and secondary education days feel fortunate for the education I was able to receive.

  34. Anna Becker

    Thank you so much for sharing! It is always interesting being able to relate to something like Haiti, as it holds a special place in my heart.
    I have been to Haiti on a couple of occasions, being part of a missionary family. There is nothing quite like experiencing Haiti for the first time. The people, the culture, and the atmosphere are unlike any other. No matter the amount of time spent there, Haiti will touch your heart. As the sun rises each morning, you realize what it feels like to be grateful for another day. As the sun sets, your body is tired, but your heart is so full.
    There was nothing quite like eating a fresh mango, cooking with Haitian mothers, playing soccer in the streets, learning to speak Creole, or joining together in Creole prayer.
    Throughout my time spent in Haiti, if there was one thing I learned, it was this: It’s not what you own or where you live that makes you grateful, it’s the life you live and the love you share that we should be grateful for every day.
    Thank you Dennika, for allowing me to relive my experiences through writing this article; you touched me heart.
    Anna Becker

  35. Claudina Williams

    Hello Dennika,

    By the end of your four months in Haiti, did you find yourself picking up on the language and able to understand a lot? Also, while you were there, what kind of work/study did you do? The school that I attended in Haiti had uniforms that was colored white and red. It was also a struggle for my parents to earn money to keep me in my siblings in school. I wasn’t aware that the president then was doing something about the education of children. But as of today, things are still not better, there is still a lot of children that are not receiving an education. Have you gone back to Haiti recently? Thanks for sharing!

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