In March, I sat in 100-degree heat in a school cafeteria in the town of Bas Andre, a small mountainous village outside of Poteau, Haiti. It was just past noon and I sat sandwiched and sweating between around 200 kids from kindergarten to sixth grade. The school did not have the luxury of air conditioning, and it just so happened to be one of the driest (and hottest) parts of the year.
As I think back on my experiences in grade school, I can imagine what it would have been like under these same circumstances: pure chaos and frustration. When it’s hot, time for lunch and there are no fans or cool air, patience is put to the test. I’ll admit, on that day in March, I was frustrated by the heat and felt ready to leave. But something kept me there: the level of pure kindness shown between the students, teachers and even the principal. The students at the Jeff Philippe Gurrier School, who receive three Rise Against Hunger meals per week from our impact partner, Hearts and Hands for Haiti, were remarkable to me.
On World Kindness Day, celebrated each year on November 13, I’d like to share just how easy it is to be kind through the eyes of what I observed during lunchtime in Haiti. I know some of these items listed might seem like small acts, but under the circumstances, they spoke volumes.
- The majority of the students in the room had not yet eaten that day, yet they remained patient and polite.
- Although some kids in the room had not eaten even their first meal of the day, they showed an overwhelming desire to share. I saw students scoop extra helpings of food onto their friend’s plates.
- I was treated like a guest. Each child I sat with offered me a portion of their serving.
- The cooks were all volunteers! Women from the town volunteer their time each day to prepare Rise Against Hunger meals for the students. This is an unpaid position, yet they always have someone show up.
- The principal of the school did not turn students away if they did not have the means to pay tuition. He shared that if a family could not afford to send their child to school, he would work with them to ensure that the child could still attend.
It’s so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day, but then I stop and think: What small act can I do to show the people around me I care? Each time, I draw inspiration from the overwhelming kindness I saw and received at the Jeff Philippe Gurrier School.