Friday, 4 November 2011

A smile on a rainy day

Portrait of Elie, a student in Tellier, where SOS Children’s Villages is renewing the public school

Elie (in background) on his way home from school - Photo: Sophie Preisch
 Walking home from school, Elie sings and hums to the music coming out of his walkman. “It‘s a radio, it plays a lot of different music“, he says in response to being asked what kind of music he has on it. Elie’s way home is a small path leading over rocks and hills, through lush vegetation and, on rainy days, puddles. He says he can make the way in 30 minutes if he runs or walks really fast, walking at a normal pace takes him approximately one hour.

Elie walks for about one hour to school - Photo: Sophie Preisch
 The 14 year-old goes to the fifth grade of the public school of the community Tellier in the south of Haiti. He is one of almost 200 students standing in the rain as we arrive at the school on a Friday around noon. Hurricane Tomas destroyed the already run down building even more in 2010; big holes in the walls and the roof now make it impossible to continue with the classes when it’s raining. Elie stands there laughing and joking with his friends - everyone seems quite used to the situation.

The already run-down building was further damaged by Hurricane Tomas in 2010 - Photo: Sophie Preisch
 Elie lives with his mother and his six siblings. His father died last year and his mother became sick soon after. Now, he is in charge of the family’s income, selling goods at the market in Cavallion. It takes him over two hours to carry papayas, bananas, coconuts, corn or yucca down to the market that takes place twice a week. On those days when he sells everything, the family can buy food – once, Elie even made enough to buy his radio and headphones that accompany him on his way to school.

For most students at this school, future career options are quite limited - Photo: Sophie Preisch
 The pressure of feeding his family does not give Elie a lot of room to dream about career options. Still, he has some dreams for the future: “I have never been to Port-au-Prince“, he says with a gleam in his eyes. “I wonder what it’s like. Probably I could go there and find out about different jobs one could do. I would really like to learn something that would make it easier for me to live better.“

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