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.
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!
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.
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.