Laurette likes to start the beginning of each class day by singing and making music. She knows that combining enjoyment with educational activities has a great impact on young minds. And songs can provide good language models, introduce new words and concepts, tell stories, and provide the prompt for discussions of all manner of topics.
This is an important skill for a teacher whose classroom resources only include a blackboard, chalk, and some notebooks.
Meet Laurette, One of St. Jean Bosco's Dedicated Teachers
The 32-year-old Laurette was born in the village and attended the local parish school called Ecole Presbytérale Saint Jean Bosco herself as a child. She originally wanted to become a nurse, but could not afford the schooling. Laurette began teaching when she was in the 8th grade, at age 18. She became a teacher to earn money and help her family. Not wanting to depend on her parents, who subsisted only on farming, she endeavored to be self-sufficient.
Now, Laurette has fallen in love with teaching and has been serving in the classrooms of St. Jean Bosco for the last ten years.
The Community of Bois de Laurence
The village of Bois de Laurence is located high on a mountain in Northeast Haiti, with a scattered population of about 20,000. It is a poor and remote region, lacking any meaningful infrastructure or resources.
Education in Haiti is highly valued. St. Jean Bosco is known for many miles as the best school in this remote area, due to the quality of its education. Between the main center and its three satellite locations, it welcomes more than one thousand students per year. It is a dream school for the children and they are excited to start their day here, wearing their school uniforms with pride.
The school is located in the mountain-top village, so the children typically must walk a few miles up the mountain path to get there. Kids who progress to the high school level now have the option to leave home to attend in the nearest city or stay at home and attend our newly-constructed high school facility.
Saint Jean Bosco staff is comprised of an administrator (parish priest of Saint Anne), a principal, twenty teachers (sixteen men and four women) and seven other personnel.
What makes our school, and the whole area of Bois de Laurence, special are the people.
Pride runs deep in the community, and the people retain hope in the face of things that many people living in developed countries can hardly imagine. The primary source of income here is from farming, with a handful of jobs provided by government institutions.
The majority of the residents in Bois de Laurence have lived their whole lives here. They are very much invested in the needs of their community.
Helping your neighbors and caring for multiple family members is just what you do. One of our teachers at the parish school was genuinely confused when asked why she does so much for her family and for the community. After explaining that in other cultures such would be considered going above and beyond, her response was: “It’s just life.”
Laurette is no different. In fact, the joy and enthusiasm she brings to her classroom is just one part of her life of service.
What It's Like to Be Laurette
Until graduating from high school five years ago, a typical day for Laurette meant waking up at 5am to prepare breakfast for the family. She taught from 8am-1pm, then went home to make lunch for the family before attending high school from 1:30-5pm. She completed her degree and graduated from high school five years ago, at age 26.
Sadly, Laurette’s mother died three years ago, and her 70-year-old father is very ill. Laurette now lives in her childhood home and cares for her ailing father, her sister’s children, and her 3 younger siblings. Laurette is a brave breadwinner and caretaker for her family. But she would say: “It’s just life.”
In addition to her commitment and talents as a teacher, Laurette runs a youth ministry for the parish, called Ti moun misyonè (Missionary Kids). They meet at the church on Saturday or Sunday afternoons. Always ready to serve, Laurette also conducts the church choir.
Laurette Reflects on the Importance of Education
When asked about the importance of education, Laurette is adamant that it is crucial.
Here's what she had to say about education in the life of a child.
“You want to be happy; you need to feel good from within. To make this possible, you should have a sound mind and a balanced life. Education will help one to become independent and self-reliant in society. Being educated, no matter what kind of job you have, eliminates insecurity; you are in possession of an organized understanding of the world. Education may not be the key to happiness, but it definitely is the key to many things that come together to make you happy.”
The community of Bois de Laurence is served well by the example of our teacher Laurette. She embodies the scripture: “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have; God is pleased by sacrifices of that kind.” (Hebrews 13:16)
This story was originally published in Missionhurst Magazine.