The following is a reflection by Anna Noel, a member of the team visiting Gonaives, Haiti, on January 18-25. Anna is a photographer, experiencing her first trip to Haiti.

Today is the story of two very different schools in Haiti. Both are here in Gonaives, just a bumpy car ride apart. The first school is in a little group of buildings surrounded by fields where we took class pictures for 500 students. We visited each classroom before the pictures and were greeted by 15 to 60 students in each class. The uniforms were clean and all students carried themselves with a sense of pride. The teachers were all very enthusiastic and caring. We were there to take class photographs for each of the grade levels. As we sat under a tree after we finished, the sounds of singing children and lessons being learned drifted from the open classroom buildings all around us and you could feel the joy in the air.

These students are the lucky ones – the ones that are getting a great education and have all of the possibilities of Haiti open to them. They will be the pride of their families. They will work hard, many of them for many years to get that education. Their parents will scrape together the cost of their education because it is a wonderful thing for a child to go to school.

Our second school is up a very bumpy dirt and rock road. Along one side of the road is a drainage ditch – the other side is block buildings. The road is traveled by bicycle, motorcycle, a very few cars and lots of people going about the task of everyday life in Haiti. Our destination is a building built of cut trees and walls of canvas. A fence built of sticks and wire surrounds a large dirt area where in one corner a well has just begun the process of being dug. A new latrine has been built and is ready for use. This compound is surrounded by homes in every stage of being built. Some with partial walls, some with doors and roofs, but all with families living in them. Lots and lots of people in a very small area.

This is our school. Children crowd into our little scrap of land to sing and laugh and learn. Our Haitian teachers have the full attention of these precious little ones as they teach them lessons about life and Jesus. This is a great thing for these little ones, many who come back every time there is a session. More people watch from outside the fence, not quite ready to come in. Not quite sure of this new thing going on in their community but they smile as the children play and sing. This is a good thing…

This is a school that has the potential to be an amazing light in the lives of so many children who need the opportunity for an education. So much needs to be done but there is a tenacious determination in this group of people here in Haiti. They will make it happen. When I go home I will think about each of these children and I will smile. They are going to be the lucky ones. They have all of the people at Many Hands for Haiti on their side.