Climbing the mountain, the air cools instantly as a fog blankets the looming peaks. The car lurches up the steep, demolished road as the city sounds fade below.
It’s not until leaving Port-au-Prince you realize how toxic it has truly become. How truly difficult the life is there: the murderous heat of the sun, the pollution of traffic, the persistent stench of poverty and disease.
Just above the capital, in Kenscoff, Haiti, life has a different tempo, a slower vibe. This is country life: the “Real Haiti” as they say. Quiet, slow; cool and relaxed.
And, like the rest of Haiti outside Port-au-Prince, it seems there are no jobs at all. No universities, no industry and little commerce beyond the mountain-terraced farms spread through the countryside. But without owning land, economic opportunities in Kenscoff, Haiti, are few and far between.
It is here on the mountain’s top, on the porch of a semi-abandoned home, the Dynamic English Club meets three times a week.
Robenson Cesar, founder, used to run the Dynamic School, before economic reality destroyed his venture.
“I realized if they have to pay, they are not going to come,” he said.
They simply can’t afford it.
But what the club lacks in stature it makes up for in spirit. Comprised of around 50 members, mainly students and young adults, club members spend hours each week practicing English and sharing spirited songs about perseverance, hard work and triumph.
In Haiti, knowing English creates opportunity, the students say. English is the “commercial language,” the language of money, of work and of tourism, of the nonprofit organizations spread through the country.
Despite this fact, not one member seems to have financially profited from the effort of learning. But these students are not giving up on their dreams, their dreams of working a decent job, for a living wage — their dreams of creating a life for themselves, for their families, for their children.
The club is Haitian grassroots organized and functions completely without funding or sponsorship. When there is need, like a blackboard and books, everyone pulls together scarce resources to provide for the whole. Everyone shares what they know, everyone gives what they can.
But the Dynamic English Club is not just about learning English. It is about community, solidarity and strength in numbers. Together they sing, they pray, they share their truths and their triumphs, their struggles and pains.
And so we went to the Dynamic English Club, not to teach language, but to celebrate together. To celebrate their strength, their struggle and what will one day be their success.
We went to the Dynamic English Club, and threw a party. And what a party it was.
The Dynamic English Club is seeking funding for a computer lab, library and Language software. For information contact unsungmedia.org