The fire safety education team arrived on Sunday, the 11th, and began visiting local schools the next morning. By the end of the week, they had visited more than a dozen schools in the Cazale area. With the help of their translator Gilbert, (a RHFH employee) they were able to educate more than 1000 students from ages 4 to 19. Many of the students and school principals remembered the group from their previous visit in October of 2011. The team of three traveled here from Austin, Texas. North Hays County Firefighters Chuck January and Jacob Wade acted out cooking and fire safety lessons with props while Gilbert translated. Steven Rector also assisted with the classes while taking photos and videos to share with partnering churches back home.
Fire is primarily used for cooking in Haiti. Cooking fires are built on the ground using three large rocks, upon which a large cooking pot is placed. Children are often times left unsupervised around cooking fires or they are unaware of the dangers of playing too close to the flames. As a result, they get burned when they trip and fall into the fire or into a large pot of scalding water. Burns also occur when children or adults have accidents with kerosene lamps or when younger children play with matches and mistakenly drop burning material onto themselves or others.
“Fire prevention and education is a huge part of a firefighter’s job in America, and we hope to bring that same life-saving information to the people of Haiti. The number of burn victims admitted into the clinic could be greatly reduced if people here are taught basic fire safety. This year, we brought a bright colorful tarp with instructions in Creole for stop, drop, and roll. It was a great teaching tool and helped us communicate and interact with the kids by practicing the 3 steps on the tarp. We received some strange looks and a lot of laughter as we rolled around on the ground, but once the kids got used to us, we always got some volunteers to help demonstrate,” explained Jacob.
The firefighters also brought bright colored pencils that had been custom ordered with a fire safety message printed down the side in Creole.
“We would hand out the pencils and tell the students to go home and teach their siblings and friends. We hope to perpetuate our message beyond the school classroom, and reach the homes beyond the community.”
The team spent the better part of 2 days traveling the roads beyond Cazale. They taught close to 100 additional students in the mountain community of Monovil, a two hour drive from Cazale. There were 150 more students taught when the team ventured to the community of Germain on the back of motorcycles. 2 bikes. 2 drivers. 3 texans. 1 translator. Do the math. It was a white knuckle ride and they elected to hike back to Cazale. Whenever there was time, they spent it working in the clinic, playing basketball and soccer with the local high school students, swimming in the river with the rescue center kids, and measuring out Medika Mamba for the children on high protein diets.
Determined to teach as many kids as possible, the group continued to teach right down to the last available minute. They visited two remaining schools this morning and hopped in the back of Zach’s truck for the ride into Port Au Prince. By the time they left, they couldn’t walk down the road without having the local kids smile and shout “Kanpe, Couche, Woule!” (Stop, drop, and roll) wherever they went.