There is nothing quite as radiant as the smile of a child. Spontaneous. Authentic. Curious. Bright. Accepting. Joyful.
Psychologists tell us that love and joy must be experienced in childhood or one may never feel joy as an adult.
Pandemic life has brought home for American parents’ the roles we play in preserving our children’s joyful childhood. How do we protect our children from real-world realities that can replace a child’s natural joy with the darkness of fear? It’s been tough to explain why their schools closed, why we wear masks, why you can’t visit or hug grandparents, why we are experiencing this invisible killer virus. In attempts to explain, we reveal our own confusion, fears and worries. We know the legacy of COVID’s psychological strain will permanently affect our children. We gird our strength and our resources to overcome our doubts, reassure our children, and celebrate gathering in hope.
Haitian kids have experienced the COVID pandemic, just like our kids. But before the pandemic, there were other joy-stealers. For many of the kids of the EcoVillages, it was the massive earthquake that destroyed all that they had known. Then it was years in tent camps. Category 5 hurricanes brought fear, and drought brought empty bellies. The accumulated impact has been parents and children with PTSD, with joy hard to find. What renews their joy and instills hope?
For the survivors of the earthquake, cholera, economic crises, corrupt government officials and COVID, there has been one reliable constant. Seven years ago, our parents asked for a school for their children. The Haiti EcoVillage School dream emerged. From a blue tent to 2 classrooms to 10 classrooms today, they watched a dream grow into a solid rock on which they have built hope. At school, children are part of the community that supports them. They stand in the morning and sing the national anthem along with 280 other kids and teachers. They belong. They run to school with joy. In school, they can just be kids again.
Look at the smiles of the kids at the EcoVillage School.
Many of you have helped restore some joys of childhood for these children. We Atlantans helped build that school and we are now keeping that school open to give these Haitian children the chance they deserve. We have provided a building. Teachers. Books. That’s the tangible part that requires money. But that is not our mission.
Joy and Love. That is the mission. Our mission brings joy and love to the Haitian kids. Joy and love for us, too. We can see it in the smiles which make us smile, too, no matter what darkness may besiege our daily lives. We are joy makers.
As a supporter of the school, you are a joy maker — both for yourself and for the Haitian kids.