Sunday, July 13, 2014

Brenda: "Tell My People I Say Hello"

Like the previous week, this week was another series of experiential learning exercises that allowed us to use flexibility and develop skills on the go. In the morning at FANM (the acronym of “Haitian Women of Miami” in Kreyol/Creole) I help an intern from an institution different than Duke teach English to our class of about twelve students. We then also have a shorter section about computer literacy. During class we have to gauge if an activity is conducive to learning the topic and then switch tactics if it’s not working. One of our challenges is that the students have different levels of English proficiency. After the classes and lunch, we worked on two main issues. One of which is outreach for the Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program. We are working within a network of people from the East and West Coast in addition to the South to create a social media strategy that will hopefully create interest in the issue and generate a response from the Department of Homeland Security. 

The other main issue of work this week, which Ritika took helm of and handled so well, was the raising of funds for a family to hold a burial for two brothers that had died in an incidence of gun violence. The proposed cost for the funeral was surprisingly high. I prefer to avoid thinking about death, but when I do it is more about the mental and emotional repercussions or societal customs than about the cost of death and dying (Death and Dying is also the name of a course at Duke that I’ve heard great things about). I am curious to know what funeral costs are in other countries, but unfortunately, I could not find a comparative bar graph.

Given this issue we had the chance to meet the parents of the brothers. While waiting for bank information to be collected the father asked me from where am I originally. I said Kenya and he said “When you go back home, tell my people I say hello.” He was alluding to the African ancestry that is a part of many Haitians. I think it is interesting, in the truest sense of the word, the way in which different Diaspora populations relate to each other so that for me was a stirring moment. Meeting the parents we were trying to help made our efforts seem more visceral to me.  I hope everyone in whatever line of work they choose has the opportunity to not only conceptualize their impact, but also feel it.

As a closing aside, In our last reflection we talked about the “walls we build” that President Brodhead discussed during DukeEngage Academy with the view that they are academic walls which separate theories and research from the people effected on a daily basis (more on the idea of academic walls and other issues facing college-aged kids (adults?) in this Ted talk Academic walls also come into play in the formation of economic walls/strata, which seems closer to what he was referring to and relate to the capacity of empathy which has been a running theme of our DukeEngage. 

Until next time,

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