A Portrait of Bichnaida

by Kathy Pomeroy - Educate Haiti

Bichnaida was only 4 when we first met her. She is a born leader and the other children eagerly follow her. If they are playing tag, and she wants to play hide and seek, they change the game. Bichnaida is verbal in her native Creole and in French. She delights in teaching Americans new Creole words. The first word she taught us was “grangu,” which means “I am hungry.” It is probably most children’s first word in this community where one meal each day is normal.  In exchange, she wants to learn more words in English. Of course, we taught her how to count and greet others. Many of us call her the “Mayor” of Durissy. Not much escapes her scrutiny.

Her aptitude for school is unbounded. By the end of first grade, she could read and comprehend text in French or Creole. Her math skills include multiplication. Just imagine the wasted potential, if this school had not opened 15 years ago! No one in Durissy was literate before that momentous decision to start a school here in an isolated, rural mountain area. On the first day children carried their own chairs through the jungle to meet for preschool in a vacant home. Now there are three modern buildings housing classrooms for three year olds through grade 13. The children rank in the top 10% on the government test. 

For the presentation on the day that the new preschool was dedicated in 2017, Bichnaida memorized a four minute poem written by her teachers to thank all the benefactors. She held the microphone steady, as she stood in front of 500 attendees, and recited the poem with expression, joy, and no hesitation. Later, she performed three traditional Haitian dances with four classmates. 

She lives in a small dirt-floored hut with her grandmother, assorted aunts and uncles, and their children. Bichnaida took care of her baby brother, Jakenley, while grandma worked. She began at 3 when he was 18 months old. She was diligent in her watchfulness. She never left his side. However, she would trust just one of the volunteers to hold Jakenley while she played jump rope nearby. By the time he was three he was in preschool and she only had duty before and after school.

One day Jakenley left a tiny yellow rag, his comfort item, at the dormitory. Evidently, he could not sleep without it, so, barefoot and in her thin pajamas, Bichnaida ran along the dark goat trail from her home to the dormitory (about 5 blocks) to retrieve the forgotten cloth. As she ran off, she hollered, “He is my responsibility. I had to come.” 

Bichnaida is a bundle of potential. She surprises us with her accomplishments each time we visit her. Currently, she wants to be a doctor, and she may well be the Doogie Howser of Haiti.