Haiti was awoken early Monday morning, February 22, 2010, by a moderate 4.7 magnitude earthquake shortly before 5 am. A few hours later, students of the Union School were gathered for school under shady trees in the front of an apartment complex that was formerly the residence for their teachers. Some of the students felt the earthquake, others slept soundly through the tremors. To be candid, I clearly felt the tremors and just about jumped out of my skin! Numerous questions quickly ran through my mind: Should I jump out of bed? Should I grab an emergency bag? Wait, I don’t have an emergency bag….would I have time to put a few items together to create an emergency bag? Would I have time to layer my clothes? But instead I continued to lie in bed paralyzed. The windows were open and I did not hear any major commotion outside. One lesson I learned this past weekend working in a homeless camp is that Haitians indeed make commotion when they feel threatened. I was fortunate today. However, I cannot imagine what the 7 magnitude earthquake must have felt like almost six weeks ago on January 12th, the day that marked grave misfortune and changed Haiti forever.
The country is adapting to change, including the way the residents respond to tremors, find shelter, pursue health care, and educate their children. Some of the changes involve a significant reversion to less-than-basic living standards. Numerous Union School employees I have met are living with their families in tents, including drivers, teachers, and janitors. Conversely, other changes have led to the embracement of modernity and technology. I met with a friend from USAID today who informed me that hospitals are receiving donated medical technology to improve the methods of care and treatment. And, closely aligned to K¹²’s mission and vision, Union School is eagerly adopting the concept of online education.
Fifteen students spanning grades 6-12 officially joined the K¹² International Academy education program today to continue their education and complete the 2010-2011 academic year. The students logged into their laptop computers, connected to wireless internet, and participated in web-conference orientation sessions with K¹² International Academy teachers based in the United States. They checked their “Kmail” – internal email from K¹² teachers and administrators - welcoming them to the program and providing instructions for the first week of the online school program. And, they left the school day feeling encouraged by their new education challenges via online learning.
The Union School staff and students certainly have a unique road to recovery before each of them, but my hope is that through K¹²’s engaging education program, they will be able to focus daily on the world of knowledge before each of them. Likewise, I also hope that the larger K¹² community will benefit from the wisdom and experiences of our Haiti-based peers.
Postscript – I finished this blog entry last night before I went to bed. A few hours into sleep, Haiti was awoken again by two tremors before 2 am. This time, I heard commotion and raced downstairs. Fortunately, before I went to bed I packed an emergency bag and left it by the door. I slept outside last night, like thousands of other Haitians. I, too, am learning to adapt to change.