Confession #31: Our Youth Need Someone to Believe in Them
GUEST POST BY LETITIA JEFKINS, KIDS ALIVE INTERNATIONAL
With our move to the Emmaus House just a month away, I recently asked my good friend Letitia, Independence Program Coordinator for Kids Alive International, what she believed was most important for youth growing up in Haiti.
Letitia has been living in Haiti with her husband Brent for over a year and a half. Originally from a city called Barrie, which is a little north of Toronto, Letitia now works with Kids Alive to develop a program for teenagers who will eventually be moving out on their own. Teaching them the specific life skills they need like money management, how to life with others, and being compassionate, Letitia spends her days preparing youth 15 and older for a successful life in Haiti beyond Kids Alive.
With such expertise, I was curious as to what advice she would give me. What did she believe the Emmaus Youth would need from me the most? Good life skills? Stern Discipline? Job training?
Here is what she had to say….
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Haitians are a straightforward people.
They say what they see.
(Now I know I’m generalizing, but let’s just go with it for now with an understanding that there are always exceptions.)
“You’re too skinny.”
“I don’t like your white skin, it looks better tanned.”
“He’s not smart.”
I hear these phrases and many others that don’t take heed to “feelings” all the time. North Americans are all about being politically correct. So initially, I’m caught off guard when someone comments on my body or my intelligence, especially if it’s in a negative way…even if someone comments about someone else in a negative way.
Thanks to the wonderful training I received prior to coming to Haiti I can remind myself, ‘just because something is different doesn’t mean it’s inherently wrong or bad...it’s just different.’
So with judgment suspended, I can see both the positive and negative outcomes of this straightforwardness.
* * *
During the school year I help out our high school kids with their homework. There are some who naturally do well, and others who struggle to keep their grades above a passing mark. The kids who struggle are often dubbed: ‘lazy, unmotivated, or stupid’, by many adults around them. It’s honestly not because these adults are trying to be mean, but I don’t think they have ever been taught just how powerful our words can be…especially on kids. (Graciously retraining adults about things that are so ingrained in their cultural is not an easy task.)
Some of our teens are different. Some are challenging. Many are misunderstood.
Whether it’s in regards to their schooling or their personalities, I don’t believe many teens in Haiti receive much encouragement or positive affirmation…particularly the ones who are different and challenging.
In the girl who can’t sit still long enough to write down one sentence on her page, I see someone who has a servant’s heart. In the boy who gets low grades despite trying hard, I see someone who is creative and gifted with his hands.
And despite not fitting the mold of what everyone else expects, I believe in them. I believe they are intelligent, beautiful, and special. I KNOW they are loved beyond comprehension by our Heavenly Father.
I know that the expectations people put on us are actually limitations on what God has planned for us. Because in the long run, whether or not they get good grades doesn’t define who they are- and trust me, I really want them to get good grades!
Instead of telling them what is seen on the surface, affirming in them God’s insatiable love for them, encouraging them to live a life completely sold out to Jesus, and believing in who they were created to be is really what they need.
For more of Letitia’s writings, check out her blog at THE JEFKINS HAITI BLOG