It’s 95 degrees and humid in Port-au-Prince, and under the shade of a blue tarp, a class of 30 meet for class. They’re all adults—ages 18 to 65—and anxious to learn how to read.
For the last few months, they’ve endured unbelievable hardship. They’ve faced the reality of the earthquake, but even before the disaster, they’ve faced personal devastation. Everyone here is coping with HIV or AIDS.
This class is one of several ways World Concern supports the poor and vulnerable in Haiti. This ministry to people living with HIV and AIDS gives them support to find work, start businesses, learn about health and hygiene, and get a good meal – when food is in short supply. “Because of the earthquake” is something you hear a lot here. The earthquake changed everything.
The World Concern teacher extends a long wooden pointer on the blackboard, and behind him – is what remains of a damaged building where the HIV and AIDS support groups used to meet. Though the building is unsafe to occupy, the work continues just outside, in a new post-earthquake way.
A lean, determined man named Georges Lourent has the attitude of a leader. He’s a student, about 60 years old, optimistic and unashamed. He sits under the blue tarp in Port au Prince, eager both to learn, and show what he has learned.
Because of the earthquake, Georges lost his home. He now lives with fifteen family members under a tarp. Because of the earthquake, one of Georges' young family members lost her arm. And, because of the earthquake, Georges' cousin lost his life.
However, looking at Georges, one wouldn't think he has been through so many traumas. He is dressed sharply, in khaki slacks and a clean pressed shirt. His eyes dart across the board from behind his glasses as he watches another student write his name on the board for the first time.
Georges joins his class as they clap and applaud loudly.
This is the reason he's here.
"I've come here to learn how to write my name," says Georges. He wants to represent his family properly. Georges has to represent his family here since his brother couldn't join him. There was only enough money so that one person could attend. Transportation and school supplies are too expensive.
His family, which is now supported by his children and his wife, needs him more than ever. He wants to learn how to read and write so that he can find a job in an office.
He is also thankful for the help he gets from World Concern partners at the clinic who supply him with HIV drugs and educate him on how to take them properly. When asked about how is life is now compared to before he came to the literacy clinic, he laughs as if the answer is obvious.
"Much better," he says this without a hint of doubt.
One could forgive Georges if he chose to not try as hard he does now. They would not hold him accountable if he decided to take it easy after such a devastating and difficult life. Georges will not have any of it. He is determined to learn how to write his name so that soon he could begin to make money on his own for his family. When asked about how he feels about his experiences at this clinic, he responds in Creole.
"Tres bien," says Georges with a broad smile.
Very good. Spoken like a true highlight of hope.