Sabine Maurer, international volunteer expert in Special Pedagogy and employed in the school for children with special needs in Dielsdorf - German-speaking Switzerland, tells us about her experience at the CEAL in Haiti
In 2015 I spent 3 months in Haiti. There I lived in an orphanage and “worked” in a school for children with cognitive handicaps and / or hearing problems. Mostly I attended classes at school and tried to work with teachers. I advised them on teaching and discussed with them what options there could be for improvement. I myself am a teacher for students with intellectual disabilities and have been working in a special education school in Switzerland for several years.
The period in Haiti was an extraordinary experience for me, as life works very differently than in Europe. And so is the school system. What impressed me at school was the motivation with which the teachers went to work every day. It was clear that everyone wanted the best for the students. They always made an incredible effort with the few resources they had to educate children. They were also very interested in my suggestions for doing things differently and sometimes even getting out of the classroom. These proposals did not always find fertile ground, which was understandable since I had European standards in mind. Even if everything didn’t always work out right away, everyone was always motivated to change. It has been difficult for teachers to move beyond classic teaching subjects such as reading, writing and arithmetic and even more to consider whether these are really the most important things for children with intellectual disabilities. These are beliefs that cannot be changed in three months, but must be considered over and over again. Despite everything, the teachers’ motivation to learn something new and put it into practice was impressive.
For me, this stay was a fantastic experience. After returning to Switzerland, I saw some things here with different eyes. Teachers who work as passionately as in Haiti are not found everywhere. The children who lived in the orphanage were also surrounded by incredibly loving people who want the best for them. Wherever I went, whether in the orphanages or in the school, I was warmly welcomed and never had the feeling that I was “just a guest”.