Walking with Humility

Reflections from guest blogger, Katie Greene, 20|20 Research

Katie (pictured left) with fellow 20|20 peers

Many of us have heard it before. This time, I heard it outside The Joseph School, told by the one and only Jim Bryson with a couple of fellow market research comrades as we were getting ready to eat our breakfast. It’s the story of the girl who walks along a beach flinging starfish into the ocean, one by one so they do not dry out in the sun. When chastised by a passerby as to what difference it might make, she simply retorts, “It makes a difference to this one.” and proceeds down the coastline, unphased.

Taking this approach to serving a population in Haiti is no different. As a grad student in Public Health, while managing my duties as a Research Manager at 20|20, it is easy to walk through the world overwhelmed, seeing so many unmet needs. For instance, I could post a picture of the roadside in Port Au Prince and point out issues of sanitation and clean water, air pollution, personal hygiene, access to maternal and child health, food safety, infectious disease and more within a simple picture frame. So yes, some days, it’s downright discouraging. There are so many starfish to throw back into the ocean.

But, this time, in Haiti, Jim told the story with conviction. He greeted every child, one by one, as they hopped off the school bus for their day of learning at TJS. They all ran off toward the building, beaming. In their morning program, they too spoke and sang with confidence about being free to live and learn. You see, TJS may not be able to educate every child in Haiti, but to these 119, this school matters, more than anything in the world.

Their principal approaches every day as if the future President of Haiti is in her school. She not only wants them to be strong academically but to walk with humility and cultural awareness, and it shows. They are respectful of their teachers and peers, will tell you hello in three languages, and will shove their breakfast crackers in your face because they are just so happy to have something that is theirs to offer the world.

TJS Principal, Dallen (yellow) discussing the importance of The Joseph School to the team 

So, as I began to process the starfish story again, it carried weight and meaning this time around. I saw what the good faith and works of countless people could make happen and be a positive, sustainable change for generations to come. And for a person who dreams of saving the world one day, to be able to pick up trash with the founder of your company who just also happens to have planted the seed for TJS, is a pretty incredible reminder that I too can throw my proverbial starfish in the sea if only I am willing to walk humbly and persistently down the shoreline.

To those of you who have already supported TJS, I can assure you that you are helping to create sustainable, long-term change by facilitating an environment where Haitian citizens can begin to develop the tools and resources to take care of each other. For those of you who maybe haven’t yet– think on it. You too can help throw starfish back into the water.

Katie’s Image

Inspired by The Joseph School

Reflections from guest blogger,  Emily Koenig Hapka, Quirk’s Marketing Research Media

On January 24, I was fortunate enough to travel with a group of marketing researchers with the Marketing Research Education Foundation (MREF), an organization that brings the MR community together to focus resources on educating children worldwide, on a vision trip to Haiti. Our destination: the Joseph School in Cabaret, Haiti.

Guest blogger, Emily, is pictured right between The Joseph School hands! 

Two years ago Steve Quirk (my boss) visited the Joseph School on a similar trip. When he returned he talked about the engaged students, passionate teachers and unique mission of the school: to create the next generation of Haitian leaders. I was impressed with the Joseph School’s recognition that the best people to change Haiti will come from Haiti. It is an essential principle often disregarded by even the most well-meaning philanthropic groups. So when Steve asked me if I would like the opportunity to visit the school my response was an immediate yes!

The Journey

My journey to the Joseph School began in the Atlanta airport, where I met the majority of our group. Marketing researchers from all walks of life flew in from around the U.S. (and the world!) to experience this vision trip.

By the time we landed in Haiti I was full of energy and anticipation. We boarded the school bus and I slowly took in the heat (I left frigid Minnesota temps the day before), smell and color of Haiti.

The next few hours were a blur as we got to know each other and made plans for the next day. We were getting up at the crack of dawn so we could arrive at the school before the students.

The School

Our first morning in Haiti was beautiful. It was warm but not humid, and as the sun came up it highlighted the green vegetation and the colorful buildings. Our group was sleepy but excited as we boarded the bus and made the bumpy trek to the school, passing the packed children’s school bus on the way!

We arrived at the school a few minutes before the children and had a chance to look around the classrooms. The rooms were set up similarly to some of the small-town classrooms I attended back in Minnesota: desks facing each other; white boards and children’s school work on the walls; book shelves with lesson materials; a teacher’s desk near the front. I later learned that this is a very unique set up in Haiti as most schools work on the premise of pure memorization, cramming students into classrooms on rows of wooden benches.

At the school we experienced the opening ceremony, played with the children, served them breakfast and lunch, and watched a student soccer game. My favorite part was sitting and painting the girl’s nails while watching the game. I was impressed by how friendly and respectful the children were. Despite their poverty, they seemed happy and full of purpose. We also picked up trash around the property and learned more about the school from Jonaé Shaw, director of engagement for the Joseph School.

Changing the future of Haiti

When Bildad, the director of operations, led the opening ceremony for the students, he called each one of the students princes and princesses, reminding them of their potential. When I spoke to him later I learned that he and his brother taught their mother to read and write after school as children. Bildad said, “I want more girls at the school because each one reminds me of my mother.” Hearing this brought tears to my eyes and inspired my soul.

There is so much more I could say about my trip to Haiti but instead I’m going to encourage you to visit the Joseph School to see for yourself the amazing work being done. I know that my trip to Haiti won’t change the country but I truly believe the combined effort of everyone who
participates in the Joseph School’s mission will.