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  • Leyla Chéry

A little reflection on the virtues of a summer holiday in Haiti

My children have been to Haiti five times already but why do we keep going there?

Our country, Haiti, is badly managed, dispiriting but still has a lot to offer. It is a mysterious, sensual and wonderful place that I want my children to discover and, maybe, one day, know well.

This year, we could have booked a family package trip to go to Rhodes, Florence, Rome etc. We could have toured the museums and all those places for the same reasons everyone does. But, no, we chose Haiti, because we wanted the children to experience life on our island again and be able to challenge some of the prejudices they will hear or read about it.

Every time we go to Haiti, we try to explore the country and discover new places. We visited the north and the south of the country and of course the capital (Port-au-Prince). We had a chance to explore and appreciate the beautiful scenes and marvel at the mystery of nature ( Kenscoff in the West, Bassin Zim in Hinche, Saut Mathurine in Camp-Perrin,Port Salut and its breathakinly beautiful beaches, all the coastal communes in the south, the Marie-Jeanne cave, the imposing Citadelle Laferriere, Dondon's caves, the town of Jacmel and its beaches ...) But, the main reasons that I keep going to Haiti with my children is not for the beaches and their shocking blue water, the wondrous mountains or the best food one can find in the Caribbean. Here are the reasons.

Firstly, even though I want my children to become citizens of the world, I know that discovering and exploring their country of origin, spending time with their grandparents and other family members, play a critical role in helping them grow well, build their identity and orient or reorient their personality.

Secondly, Haiti, let us be honest, has some real psychological virtues that can help any child growing up in the “first world”. When your children see other children on the street as young as two or three years old carrying their own bucket of water, or people spending their days picking up rubbish in order to get food, when your children realise that for many people luxury is an old pair of sunglasses, a soap, coloured pencils, clean water; suddenly, they really become aware that most of their preoccupations are petty or irrelevant and they know that their life is a total cream puff in comparison.

In a place like Dondon where there is no electricity and where the wifi is practically non existent, a child growing up in the north learns to disconnect, listens to the cicadas, takes note on his/ her notebook, stares at the windows and finally observes the mountains, the trees, and learns to appreciate them.

I only hope that my children will keep in their heart, evidence of what they have seen, observed and witnessed in Haiti.

I and many people do accord so much importance to place of high culture like Florence or Rome, Paris, Venice, London but in Haiti, you can truly get an education in appreciation.

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