It is very easy to stereotype a country or a culture based on what one might see in the news. However, these preconceived notions can often be inaccurate. Adam John, professor of French and Spanish for more than twenty years at Albright College in Pennsylvania, has always preferred to explore Haiti first-hand rather than listen to the media’s often grim portrayal of the conditions there.
“The first time I came to Haiti,” he shared, “I was with an American church group.” In 2013, he travelled to Haiti for a second time with some of his university students to give them a better picture of the country than they were being shown on TV. Based on the experience from his first trip, he felt that others needed to see for themselves what was happening in Haiti. “I told myself that other people should experience this.”
One of the students in the group was the son of Country Director, Neil Van Dine (who is an alumnus of Albright college). This connection allowed Professor Adam John and Country Director Neil Van Dine to meet. During their initial conversation, they discussed their love for Haiti and desire to see the country take the path of development. A fruitful collaboration was born that day.
Since then, Professor John has taken many more trips to Haiti, and each time he encounters a meaningful experience. One such example he shared was in 2016: “I remember, we were working on a well house in the town of Pignon, in the Nord department. A passerby who was on a motorbike with his two daughters stopped to thank us. He said, ‘This well is really a gift for us. It will change our lives.’ That conversation only lasted a minute. But it really touched my heart.”
On his 10th trip to Haiti, he recalls, “At the time, Haiti Outreach inaugurated a well in Pignon. With my students, we painted the walls of the well together before taking part in the inauguration ceremony, and we visited several sites that Haiti Outreach wanted to show us. This is what I particularly like about Haiti Outreach: all the steps they take to help a community have access to drinking water. Because it is not enough just to make drinking water accessible; the community must also be empowered and trained so that it can keep their well [in good condition]. Another aspect I like in the work of Haiti Outreach is that the organization wants to welcome groups in Haiti to share the work they are doing in the country in order to change people’s minds about Haiti. Lastly, I like the fact that we are not just spectators when we come to Haiti; we work together in harmony with the community.”
This is why, he adds, “I find it fair to present to American friends the hidden side of this country which is still poorly presented to them, and also to rekindle the pride in the hearts of fellow Haitians living in the United States. Whenever I have the opportunity to come to Haiti, I come with the goal of finding out about another side of Haiti. I also like to meet Haitians, because I want them to tell me about their country. I firmly believe that Haiti is not made of misery and violence. There are other facets of the country that deserve the attention of others.”