“What were you afraid of?” I asked him.
Resting his head on his hand and looking at me he admitted, “I was afraid that education would be different in America and I was right.”
Looking down at the algebra problem scribbled on his notebook he said, “In Haiti, they tell you exactly what you have to know and you just have to remember it. In America, they tell you what they want you to know and then you have to actually think to find the answers. It is just very different.”
“It is different,” I said. “You are right. Thinking is harder than memorizing, yes?”
He laughed. And we both sat there for a minute. Quiet. Starring at “American” algebra.
A minute or two passed…
“But I can do this,” he said as he shook off his frustration. “I may just need to practice more. We have that Algebra book upstairs, you know? I can think I should study that in my spare time.”
“I think that is a good idea. Now how about you finish that math problem,” I advised, trying my best to keep him on task.
* * * * *
In Haiti, they tell you exactly what you have to know and you just have to remember it. In America, they tell you what they want you to know and then you have to actually think to find the answers. It is just very different.
As a trained educator myself, words like this make my heart hurt. Walk into any Haitian classroom and you will find a room full of kids either reciting after their teacher, reading aloud from their book, or copying straight from the board. Take a tour through Emmaus House around 3:00 everyday and all you will hear is our teens in their spaces of choice trying to put their assigned text to memory.
In Haiti, mastered=memorized (for the exam, at least).
I have had many conversations with many Haitians regarding the teaching methods in Haiti over the past few years, yet Djooly is only the third person I know who openly sees the deficits in his education. We’ve talked some about it before- how frustrated he feels about school. He used to spend hours in my house reading through Physics, Chemistry, and US History books donated by my mom’s school and he was amazed as to how much other information was out there in the world- information he was not being taught in his own classroom. And now, as we study for the ACT together every Sunday and the TOFEL exam every Wednesday, we talk. We talk about school in Haiti and school in America. I let him compare and contrast, but only for a minute, because I won’t let him get discouraged.
It is true. He is right. He wasn’t taught to think. He was taught to memorize. But there is a reason why I am having him studying for the ACT and for the TOFEL. There is a reason why I am placing my hope in the unknown with him, why I am taking this risk, why I am reaching for a dream that seems so BIG some days that I often have to remind myself to catch my breath. Djooly may not have been taught to think, but I have known Djooly for a while, and it is evident that God has supplied him with this ability despite the school system he was raised in. Djooly knows how to think. And he knows how to think well.
What is this dream Djooly and I are reaching for? A college education in America.
The odds are against us; its true. We have no money. We don’t come from a powerful, Haitian family with resources. We have no experience applying for student visas. And let’s face the facts: How many international students from Haiti are there in U.S. colleges right now? I bet the numbers are low. Most would look at our case and tell us, “Why even bother trying.”
Let me tell you why.
No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him. (1 Corinthians 2:9)
God loves Djooly.
And Djooly loves God.
And I know God has prepared great things ahead for Djooly- so great no eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind can conceive what is yet to come. I know these things to be true because I have seen God preparing Djooly for years. I have seen God provide opportunities for Djooly to have a home, learn English, be taught the Bible, and attend school even though he was abandoned in Haiti. I have seen God raise Djooly from a boy to a man, despite never being raised by one. I have seen God give Djooly the gift of leadership and the spirit of gentleness. And I have seen God grow a desire in Djooly for not only book knowledge but also Biblical wisdom so strong that despite how he was taught to learn, God has given him the ability to learn and think without borders.
I have seen all of these things with my own eyes. Proof that God is alive and well, working for the good of Djooly’s future, preparing the way, preparing him.
I don’t know how the future will unfold for Djooly. I have no answers. No solutions. No leads. Just BIG ideas. And I have a young man who is studying harder than he ever has in his life- for his national exams coming up this summer, for the TOFEL exam to prove his English proficiency, and for the ACT to try and earn scholarship.
“I know now I have to work for this myself. Nobody is going to do this for me. I have to work hard and stay focused,” Djooly said to me a while back as he packed his bags for his Saturday morning study group at his school.
He is focused and he wants to earn his education- not just be handed a free ride. In other words, God is using this time to make him into a man who understands the value of working for what you want.
God is making Djooly into someone beautiful. And this is only my first of many future posts about Djooly’s journey. Today, if Djooly’s story touched your heart in any way, I ask that you commit to join us in prayer for him and his future. We need to pray that God will open doors for us, that he will continue to give Djooly the wisdom and the confidence needed as he prepares for his multiple exams. And, as in so many situations, we need to pray that He would provide financial blessings.
That is what we are holding onto at Emmaus House for Djooly.
Will you trust with us?
If you feel called to help support Djooly financially, please email me at KittrellsinHaiti@gmail.com for more information.