Our visit to Haiti was an incredible moment for us to deepen our work with our partners, the TOYA Foundation and the Children of Haiti Project (COHP) and envision how we can grow together. We began our visit by spending time with the girls, a rejuvenating experience after a long travel day. We got to meet LitClub girls in Carradeux, a neighborhood in Port-au-Prince about an hour from where we stay. Driving through the streets we were struck by the changes over the past few years. There are no tent camps anymore, there are three new fancy hotels in Petionville (the neighborhood where we stay), and there are fewer piles of rubble on the streets. Last year the team could drive on one road and it would change from pavement to rubble several times. Almost all of the roads are paved now.
At Carradeux we were greeted by Nadine, the founder of the TOYA Foundation, Sacha, our very enthusiastic Regional Coordinator, and two LitClub mentors Figniola and Sara. All of the girls were so enthusiastic. They have one of the most energetic Hello Songs in any of our clubs, accompanied by fast claps and an occasional jump. The workshop went beautifully. After the check-in question, Figniola led two community-building games that left us all smiling, laughing and feeling like real friends already.
Sarah read, “Horton Hears a Who,” translating from the French writing into Haitian Creole in the moment. There is very little literature published in Haitian Creole so Sarah became very familiar with the French version so she was able to seamlessly “read” each page in Creole. The children followed along with the pictures and told their favorite parts of the story at the end. After the read aloud we made Kindness Tags with the girls, sharing messages of kindness on paper taped to one another’s backs. The club ended with snacks, songs and a lot of hugs.
After a lovely lunch (where Aimee tried goat for the first time), we headed to our LitCamp training with Sacha and the four TOYA Foundation Young Women Leaders who will be assisting her. This will be the first LitCamp in Haiti led without LitWorld team members. Sacha is nervous and excited to take the lead in this way. The training was fun and filled with the positive energy we hope to see in all of our programs. At the end we couldn’t bear to say goodbye but instead said see you tomorrow again and again.
We were all looking forward to beginning the Mentor Training Course and started the day off doing our presentation introducing LitWorld, Global GLOW, and the HerStory Initiative to 30 Young Women Leaders. We were impressed with how engaged and excited the young women were about our core values and three keys to girls empowerment.
After our lunch break we were able to complete most of our Mentorship Basics workshop. It was a good opportunity for us to start talking about all the different roles mentors play and share new mentor strategies throughout the workshop. The women’s ideas about mentor/mentee relationships made us so happy. They care so much about the safety and happiness of the girls and really look to each other for strength and inspiration. When asked, one young woman chose another mentor in the group as the person she most looks up to. Seeing that sense of community among the women made us feel great about the community they’ll continue to build with the girls!
We had to pause on the mentorship basics training and finish it the following morning, because the Moms’ Sewing Club was having their final celebration! These women were so inspirational. We sang songs and listened to the women speak about how they have grown together. Listening to the women talk about the club’s positive effect on their lives was truly moving. It was clear that they felt empowered and ready to move forward. It was an inspiring ending to our first training day!
We started our second day with the young women of TOYA and COHP by finishing the final pieces of the Mentoring Basics module, which focuses on expectations of a mentor, defining mentorship, and the stages of a mentor relationship. The mentors were so thoughtful in their definitions. They included not just the pieces that we discussed today, but also incorporated our conversations from yesterday and their own experiences.
We followed this with the LitClub workshop training, including the program outcomes, the 7 Strengths, the workshop structure and a demo lesson. The mentors were insightful in making connections between what we are trying to achieve with our programs and how that can have an impact on our girls. They also gave beautiful definitions of the 7 Strengths, sharing how curiosity is a deep desire to learn new things and hope is a life force. One mentor said the LitClub is hope, the expression of our shared hope that the next generation of girls grows up strong, confident and happy.
We had so much fun during the LitClub demo lesson. The hello song was cheered more than sung and we laughed together as we shared one thing that made us laugh this week. For our community-building activity a group of veteran mentors taught the Read-Along Song and Peterson, our intrepid translator, demonstrated a rousing read aloud. After sharing Four Square Memories, we ended the workshop with the goodbye song in Haitian Creole. It’s a beautiful song in any language and here it’s sung with arms around each other’s shoulders while swaying side to side. It was a lovely way to end day two of the training course.
Although everyone had a long, hot day, Nadine, Sacha and Judeline from TOYA and Dominique from COHP stayed an extra hour to go through the library manual with Ana. We have been so impressed with the dedication and engagement the leaders of our two partner organizations have demonstrated. The days have been so smooth and well managed for us and we feel lucky to be in the care of Dominique, Nadine and Sacha!
Days 4 and 5
The last two days of the Mentor Training Course were just as rewarding as the first, and really gave us a chance to get to know the young women leaders better. On the third day of the course, we did the Communication and Leadership Training. This is something we have been working on since the beginning of the year and now have a version that feels really strong and fits seamlessly into the training course.
The young women were such active participants in every part of that training: active listening, communication in action, and defining ourselves as leaders. We got to discuss both their strengths as well as areas of growth, learning about how many of them feel good about their listening skills but want to improve their ability to focus when their managing a group. We also talked about the importance of all the girls being heard and valued, and concrete strategies so the mentors can make that happen.
The last day of training was truly inspiring. We wish you all could have been there! The last training module is called Deepening Your Mentorship. We discussed free-writing as a strategy for reflecting more deeply on yourself as a mentor as well as the girls that you mentor. We talked about the importance of having time to express yourself freely, without judgments or corrections. To practice we wrote about ourselves and our worlds at the age of ten. This was a great exercise because it got everyone to open up, but it also helped us to to tap into the mindset of the girls in the programs. The young women shared how doing the writing exercise was like being transported back to that time in their lives. One mentor said that when she heard her partner’s writing, she felt like she would have liked to be friends with her when they were younger. It was so sweet and genuine!
Next we each created our own “River of Life.” In this activity we all drew and wrote about the important events, themes, and people that have shaped us. It was a really emotional experience as the young women shared the challenges they have faced, and their experience during the earthquake and its aftermath. It was amazing to hear the way they all ended their rivers: with a lot of hope and empowerment. One mentor, Rebecca, shared how she faced hard times in her childhood, losing a sibling and parent figures in her life, losing a lot in the earthquake and failing her secondary school exams. But joining TOYA Foundation and becoming a LitClub Mentor changed her. She really takes her mentorship seriously. She is now studying business management and wants to start a business so she can provide jobs for other young women. At the end of her River of Life she put three cars – one to drive herself forward, one to drive her family forward and one to drive her girls and the other mentors forward.
Last, we made Dream Webs. This was a chance for each woman to share one of her goals, and include the people who inspired these goals, the people who support her in reaching her goal, and the people who she will affect when she accomplishes it. These women are AMAZING – just so inspiring and inspired. Geraldine wants to be an interpreter and hopes to replace Peterson next year! Sarah wants to be the Minister of Environment and clean up the country. Judeline wants to get her PhD in project management so she can help take TOYA Foundation to the next level. They are all so brave and so supportive of one another. We know they will all reach their dreams!
After the Dream Webs, we shared our favorite parts of the training and wrote inspiring messages to each other. We asked the young women to each write a message to one partner, but they wound up taking the time to write messages to several other mentors in the group. It was so sweet and we even received inspiring messages too! We then wrapped up with a celebration. We presented each young woman with a certificate, we sang together, and we had some excellent cake. All of us were so excited about what we learned and shared together; it felt bittersweet to be finished!
Our new course facilitated genuine storytelling. We heard stories of strength, courage, leadership, and hope. The young women leaders of TOYA and the teachers of COHP have grown so much in the past year. It was wonderful to share that experience with them, and we know we have taken our work to the next level. I can’t wait to share this new facet of our work with more communities around the world!