One of our students (I don’t know his name yet) is missing a part of both of his wrists so his hand are curved inward. His thumb curls below his hand. Besides this, he is a perfectly normal kid who has completely overcome his disability. He’s good natured and I don’t think the kids around him even realize that he had difficulty sometimes using his hands.

We watch him struggle for hours with the trackpad on his XO. I’m not even sure what to say to him because I’m honestly just holding my breath for the trackpad to keep WORKING. We’ve had quite a few trackpad issues in the past, and Etoys is a very detail-oriented software so we can’t afford those. Not to mention that if he did start having trackpad problems, he wouldn’t be able to independently deliver the “four finger salute”, or the trackpad recalibration by pressing all four corners of the keypad at the same time.

So needless to say, there are bigger fish that we are looking at while he struggles. And then Bill looks at me and he goes, “wait. Why don’t we just give the kid a mouse?”

I remembered that I kept an “emergency” mini-mouse in my computer bag and there was no better time to use it than now. I whipped it out, plugged that puppy in and within five minutes the kid was on fire, making designs and stars, filling them in with his paint bucket, quick with his hands and big with his smile. Oh, did my heart melt. I literally almost cried seeing this kid suddenly come out of nowhere and fly through Etoys with a mouse in his hand.

In my four weeks here in Haiti, I haven’t had a desperate need to use much Creole. In Darbonne, it came in handy because there were quite a few mentors that didn’t speak English. But in Petite Riviere, almost all of the mentors spoke English so I hardly used it at all. Here in Williamson, our translator is not a professional translator, but a teacher (and not even an English teacher; he teaches something else). He is a great guy but sometimes I just need to get the message across directly to the kids without a middle man. Sometimes I surprise myself with how good my Creole is getting. I can’t communicate horribly complex ideas, but I can give directions (and especially directions related to the use of a computer) to kids and speak to them on their level.

This has been an amazing blessing because the kids have grown close to me very quickly. They are already asking me to come back soon, and I am already sad to go. They tell me that I speak lots of Creole, not just a little. It’s not true, but it makes me happy to know that the kids feel they can communicate freely with me. Each one is filled with so much love, so much need. It’s heartbreaking, really. It’s beautiful and heartbreaking.

Class today went well. The kids are SO smart. The problem is that they’re used to a little bit of disorganization, a little bit of chaos. So we try to sit them down and teach them Etoys and they’re playing with the Record program or Tam Tam or the Maze or anything else. We try to teach them how to pull a rectangle out of the supply box when they’re already creating houses and airplanes and fields of flowers in Etoys’ paint program. We want to encourage them so we’ve been skipping around a little bit. We successfully completed three lessons in one day because the kids are extremely smart, extremely fast and extremely difficult to hold down.

Johnny, our translator, has shown an interest in the computers and we are thinking of taking him and a couple of students aside to teach them how to take apart a computer and repair it if necessary. Some of the students from last year and some of the other teachers are also interested in the computers. We are trying to encourage them to help other students too but, as we discovered in Petite Riviere, it isn’t as easy as you think to get people to start helping one another due to the idea that has been burned into their brains that helping each other is like cheating. We’re working on it. Luckily, we’re working with an enormous family that is used to helping one another in other respects outside of the classroom. Wherever you go, the bigger kids take care of the little kids. We’re trying to communicate as much as we can that it’s okay to do that that in our class, too.

When class was over, we went to load the computers into the truck so that we could charge them at Kaliko again because of the diesel problem that is keeping us from using the generator much. The kids fought to hold onto them. “My computer has a full charge!” Some kids exclaimed. “Please don’t take it back with you!” Even the older kids were just heartbroken to have their computers taken away for them for the night. “How will they practice??” The cried. We reassured them that the computers would be back in the morning, and when we leave on Wednesday the kids will be able to use the computers 24/7 because hopefully the diesel problem will not be so much of a problem anymore at that point. They nodded, but we literally had to pry some of those computers out of the kids’ hands.

All in all, a successful day. We’re excited that Johnny is interested in lending a hand in the long-term. I’m not sure we’re going to get these kids to have daily lessons while we’re gone, but we’re lucky that these kids are extremely smart and extremely self-sufficient, so I know they’ll be using the computers even without class. Now if we can just teach them to do some animations so they really have the tools they need to build upon Etoys!

John put up a great post on the Haiti Partners website today about our Darbonne program. Don’t miss it.

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