I had the privilege of observing classes at the Jubilee School last week, as well as performing school physicals with the help of Anne Barr, RN. The Jubilee School (also known as Academie la Saline) is a special place for so many reasons, particularly the women and men who dedicate themselves to loving and teaching the students.
There is Laura Lynn, known to the community and her friends as LaLa. LaLa is from the small town of Jesup, Georgia but has truly become a part of the community of Jubilee Blanc. She and her adopted son, Youvendjy, live in a tiny apartment above the Jubilee School preschool building. LaLa rescued Youvendjy from his mentally unstable, abusive mother who actually tried to kill her own son. Despite the diagnosis of sickle cell disease and severe health problems early in life, Youvendjy is now a healthy and happy little boy who loves his mama. LaLa loves her son and the rest of the students with the fierceness of a mama bear. She is the school director/administrator but can be found doing everything from talking to a crying child, hauling large suitcases on her moto, ordering curriculum, and plunging a toilet. No job is too big or small for the amazing LaLa.
April left a promising career in federal law enforcement to teach and love the children of Jubilee. Her passion for her calling is unmistakable. Her degree is in criminal justice, but that doesn’t stop her from spending hours researching and writing preschool curriculum. April was a preschool teacher at the School, but is now the co-principal/administrator. She completed her masters degree online while in Haiti and is planning to return to the U.S. after the current school year to pursue a career in law enforcement. Her heart is to eventually combine her passions for loving the “least of these” and law enforcement to work against human trafficking in Haiti.
Terri Anne is from Destin, Florida and goes by Tia. When you visit Tia’s classroom, you would never guess that she doesn’t have a degree in education. She is developing her own 3rd grade science curriculum, and teaching her students about topics such as the animal kingdom, solar system, ecology and environmental responsibility. Her students are taught things that even college students in Haiti don’t learn. In addition to co-teaching third grade, she also co-teaches preK-5. She has a huge heart for her students. Tia will be returning to the U.S. after the current school year to marry her fiancee, Nathaniel, and to pursue her college degree.
Katie is a teacher from Pennsylvania who taught in Port-au-Prince before coming to the Jubilee School. Katie’s love for her students is evident the moment she begins talking about them. She is a champion for each of her students and knows each one well. It doesn’t take long for tears to come to her eyes when talking to a father who pleads for the School to help his 11 year old daughter who has been shunned from Haitian schools due to her disabilities. This little girl is starting in Katie’s class on a trial basis this week. Katie’s first grade students are already excited to welcome this new student into their class. She goes above and beyond in every aspect of her calling as a teacher.
These young women, as well as their Haitian counterparts, are so much more than just teachers. They are encouragers, mentors, coaches, counselors, protectors, disciplers. LaLa and a Haitian teacher talked to two students last Friday when they were disappointed that their sponsors gifts weren’t as nice as some of the other students’. They reminded them of the importance of gratitude, and talked to them about the gifts of God. The teachers consistently point their students to God, and teach them love, respect, gratitude, compassion and acceptance of others.
The challenges that these teachers face are huge. The Jubilee School is next to the city dump. The heat is sometimes oppressive and flies swarm in the school office. Their students walk through trash to get to school. They come from poverty stricken homes, and some students live in abusive environments. LuLu and Ifocoeur’s dad is a voodoo priest. Ashline’s mother parties late into the night at the RaRa festival. David’s stepdad sits drunk in his front yard.
We had the opportunity to take the Jubilee School staff members to dinner last Friday evening. We went to the nicest (but still reasonably priced) restaurant in Gonaives and it was a fun evening for us all. School director/principal Fresnel made sure that even the custodial staff were invited. They staff laughed and talked, teased each other, and also expressed their gratitude for dinner and the support of Jubilee Kids.
After dinner, Fresnel stood and spoke to the teachers and staff. He led them in singing the song that they sing every morning before school: “God’s compassion is new every morning”. His rich voice echoed the singing of the teachers. He then had everyone stand in a circle, holding hands, to pray for the school and the staff, that they will stay strong and stay a family. This man of God sacrifices more lucrative job opportunities to be where he knows God wants him to be.
These amazing men and women, the teachers and administrators of the Jubilee School, are mighty warriors. They battle the seen and unseen darkness around them. They bring light with every kind word, every act of love, every small victory. Their sacrifices are not unseen, they are known and treasured by a loving God who is using them to do great things every day at the Jubilee School. Please continue to remember them in your prayers….I know they value your prayers and support.