A partnership between PHC and the Georgetown University Latin American Student Association during the 2014-2015 school year led to an experience likely to have a lasting impact on the lives of Haitian girls ranging in age from 7 to 18. The impetus for the initiative was the knowledge that not one of the orphan girls had ever owned a children storybook nor received a letter from someone. The main purpose of the activity was for Georgetown students to connect with the girls in the orphanage in a meaningful way, while supporting the development of a library for the school and orphanage.
Interested students were given bios of all the orphan girls and asked to select a girl to be sponsored thus pairing each GU student with an orphan. Each participant received an email with a carefully elaborated profile of the girl he or she would sponsor, which included a picture and a short background of the girls’ lives, personalities, dreams and aspirations. Students made a donation and on a given day they all gathered to write and decorate letters and choose the books that they wanted to give to their respective chosen girls.
All the letters were beautifully written and decorated. The messages were honest, deep and inspiring, with the intention of encouraging the girls to remain strong despite their difficulties and to use education as a tool to build a better future. It was clear that the donors read the profiles in detail and empathized deeply with the girl they would sponsor. Furthermore, all the books (in French including many translations of English titles) chosen by the sponsors had motivational messages and had often positively marked the donors in their childhood.
For the children who receive the books and letters this was a first in their lives, a real game changer as indicated in the acknowledgement letters written to their sponsors. Many of the books sent in their French version were classics such as James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl, or How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss or The Little Prince by St. Exupery or Tales of one Thousand and one Nights, or Harry Potter and philosopher’s Stone etc. Yet, the children knew not one of these books. They were all deeply moved by the letters and felt extremely special and fortunate. These books also changed the whole dynamic of their interaction at the orphanage because the books stimulated discussions among them.
In her thank you letter to her sponsor Sofia, 8th grade student Louimene tells her how much she liked the book –The Generous Tree by Shel Silverstein–sent to her which has a very empowering message of not being afraid of taking risk and discovering the world around us. This is a very powerful message for a young Haitian girl whose horizons are so circumscribed. Another girl 16 years old Dalie tells her sponsor Marina how reading her book has given her a great desire to read a lot more stories.
The girls were just ecstatic to receive from their sponsors books and beautiful letters that let their imagination fly.