This is the very first article of a category of entries that I want to include in my blog in the future: Tell me your story. These articles don’t only aim at bringing individuals of the LPC community closer to you as my readers, but to inspire people all around the world with their stories about struggles and dreams. We UWC students live together for two years with people from the most various backgrounds, who come here with the most exciting and moving experiences. Far too often we forget about this incredible opportunity, as we see all of the friends we made at UWC indeed rather as friends, than as “sources of inspiration”. However the stories hidden around this campus are not only encouraging and powerful, they can teach us a lot about international and intercultural understanding, idealism, personal example and challenge. I want to share these stories with you because I believe that not only we UWC students but the whole world can be motivated and indeed inspired by them.
Gaelle, 16, is from Port-Au-Prince, the capital of Haiti. She is one of the very first two students from Haiti that are able to attend a United World College. Since September she now lives and studies together with young people from all around the world at the Li Po Chun United World College of Hong Kong. I have talked to Gaelle about her dreams and goals – and how they were influenced by the earthquake in 2010. This is her story.
In the beginning it was very hard for me to come here to Hong Kong. As far as I remember, around thirty people from Haiti applied for the United World Colleges. We had to sit an examination on chemistry, biology and other subjects, and we were interviewed as part of the admission process.
Two people got scholarships in the end; a boy, who is now in the Lester B. Pearson UWC in Canada, and me. In the first weeks, I had problems in LPC. I missed my family, I wanted to go back and I struggled with the English language. Now I am fine. I have realized that I am here for a reason, for something important that is worth more than anything else. You must know, in my country, in Haiti, it is hard to realize your own dreams. As it happened to some of my family members; sometimes people finish school but they still can’t go to university. You have to fight with a durable mind and an even stronger will, and still it is not certain if you will succeed in the end. This year, with this scholarship, everything has changed for me.
I’m here in LPC, in Hong Kong, and I am very proud of what I have achieved. With that I don’t mean simply being at a United World College. I am proud because I have the opportunity to do something today, tomorrow, that so many people back at home would like to do, but can’t. I will have the chance to go to the UK, or the US, to study at university. Hundreds at home are trying to get only a single visa to the US. They want to travel there and then secretly hide, so that they don’t have to come back to Haiti. But it is very difficult to be granted a visa to the US.
You must know, Haiti is very poor. Education is a big issue. I think, around 40% of all children don’t go to school. Seven-year-olds eat, sleep and live in the streets. They have no family, no home. Especially after the earthquake, things have worsened. I witnessed it happening, back in January 2010. I sat in my house, studying biology for school. Suddenly I heard something. At first, I thought it was a car in front of my house. But soon I became afraid; wondering, what car could make such noise. The floor started to tremble. My room was on the second floor, and the basement underneath simply crashed. I fell. I thought my life was over. But I did not get hurt. I survived. It was like a miracle. Yet, when I crawled out, everything around me had broken into chaos. I saw so many people bleeding, everybody was crying. It was a disaster. You feel like life is over, there is nothing to do anymore. You are not dead, but you don’t feel alive either. I was walking up and down the streets, stepping on dead people, tripping over their bodies. So many had died, so many were injured. I know someone who lived in a house together with nine others. He was the only one who survived. There are so many stories like this. I lost my best friend. We were in the same school. It was on a Tuesday, the earthquake, and she had been mad at me because I had said something wrong in class. In the afternoon, right before the earthquake, I called her. I apologized, and she said it was okay, we would talk the next day. At 4:53 her house collapsed and she died, together with one of her brothers.
My family was lucky. My mother broke only her arm. My aunt was close to death but she made it. The day after the earthquake we went to Mirebalais, where some of our family lived. We did not have a car, but our relatives drove all the way to Port-Au-Prince. They couldn’t call us, they did not know if we were still alive, but they came nevertheless to look for us. We stayed not far from where our house had been, so we found each other and they took us away. So many dead, so many injured … My sister was at school, when the school building fell apart. She was alright. But so many others were not. Everything in Port-Au-Prince stopped. In the night, nobody slept. Everybody was scared. We didn’t know what would happen next. Everything was destroyed. For three hours after the earthquake, we could not see anything. The dust was stuck in the air, thick and heavy. All we could do was wait till it had settled. Then I looked at the destruction, I could not believe it. Chaos was everywhere, people crying, screaming. Men had lost their wives, women their husbands, parents their children and children their parents. It was the worst thing that happened in my life, the worst day of my life.
Today, there is still so much left of this disaster. But I won’t cry, after all it is two years ago. I just go ahead. It will never be like it was before the earthquake. Haiti, my country, might never rise again. You must know, only two years after the earthquake, we are still in the same state as back then: people without houses sleep in the street and in tents, with no place to stay. It is hard for my country, very hard indeed. But I have to follow my own path. God has a plan for me, so I have to go on.
My biggest dream is becoming a doctor. For me, being a doctor is like being a savior. You don’t give life, but you try to save lives. Before the earthquake I wanted to become an engineer, like my older brother. But after the earthquake I said “No, I want to be a doctor”. So many people died, because there were and are still not enough hospitals. For me, being a doctor is something wonderful, something powerful. You have the opportunity to change something. When I’m a doctor I’ll go back, back to Haiti, my country. My first action will be to build a hospital, no, five hospitals in Port-Au-Prince. I will go to the other cities as well, and build hospitals. Of course, it will be hard: I can’t work in all the hospitals at the same time! But there will be other doctors, because so many children in Haiti share this dream of mine, especially after the earthquake. We will have many doctors. We need them.
When I go back, I also want to open an orphanage. That is my second dream, right after becoming a doctor. There are so many children without a home, without a family. I want to help them. Being here in LPC is the biggest gift that God could have given me in this moment, after the earthquake. And it’s not only because of the academic opportunities. I am so excited to learn all about other countries! I am very proud to be here. My parents are very proud as well. I think for them it’s one of their biggest achievements, to see their youngest daughter here in Hong Kong, at a United World College. I’ll go back to Haiti in winter and summer, for the holidays, to see my family. I will tell them about LPC. I will tell them about everything I experienced here. I will tell them that I found a second family. And I will tell them that I can bring change.