Tuesday, November 13, 2012


A few weeks before I left, a dear family friend gave me a great gift: Two religious pendants, one for St. Christopher (for travelers) and one with a relic touched by St. Elizabeth Ann Seton (for teachers).

The "for travelers" one is obvious. But teachers?

Her reasoning, she told me, "You have the spirit of a teacher."

And to this I thought, "Aw, that's nice... I mean - I'm never going to be a teacher but the relic is pretty sweet."

I attended a university known for its education program where there were thousands of teachers-in-the-making. Hallways are lined with plaques of alumnae who have won Teacher of the Year and many of my friends' most anxious days were awaiting their student teaching placements. And these people... well... they like bright colors and are ridiculously organized and have the perfect sweet voice for teaching little kids how to add. They have mastered the "I'm-going-to-stand-here-silent-until-you-stop-talking" glare and they spend hours making cut-outs of suns and ladybugs to decorate bulletin boards. While we need people like them, that's just not me.

Yet by some course of events here in Haiti, my biggest commitment has just become teaching.

We have a visitor staying with us this month, a Sister of Mercy who spent 27 years teaching in South Africa. She sat-in on my first class and afterward, as she was helping me carry laptops up the hill while maneuvering between donkey poop and holes that will sprain your ankles, she said to me, "You're a  natural teacher."

I've concluded that someone, somewhere, knows something I don't.

I am teaching fifty girls, 10 at a time, basic computer skills and typing. I have had each write down three things they want to learn. Their goals are simple and yet so difficult here where computers, electricity, and an internet connection are a luxury. They want "to learn how to type many things," "to send a message," "write a document," "type my name," "save an image," "chat," "have an email address," and "look up a question on the internet."

They are such fast learners and so eager!
Most of the girls have never used a computer before. We are starting from the basics: What the power button looks like, how to use your finger to control the cursor, clicking, and finding programs from the Start menu.

To do these things, the girls will have to suffer through my handwriting, lack of inspirational posters, and general not-at-all-a-teacher aura.

And still, our world's vast digital-divide is closing with every hesitant left-click and each of their triumphant smiles.

My first class!


  1. Wonderful account of your transformation as a volunteer! I'm not surprised; I thought you were a teacher that day of the orientation meeting! Maybe God is telling you something? The class looks wonderful, and I'm sure this is a way of empowering girls that will last a lifetime for them! Loved you material on community living, too! Love to Pat and Aileen, and prayers as you spend your first Thanksgiving in Haiti! I think I'll post your latest in our BRIDGES. It's fantastic! Stay in touch. . .