Haitian community thanks U.S. troops for new school
By Dialogo August 26, 2010
“We are thanking you a lot for this nice school that you made for us,” read a sign held by a local Haitian boy during a celebration at the Mandrin school site Aug. 22.
The community gathered to celebrate a new school U.S. troops built in Mandrin as a part of New Horizons-Haiti 2010, a nearly four-month humanitarian and civic assistance mission that is providing continued U.S. military help to the earthquake-devastated nation.
Task Force Kout Men is leading the New Horizons-Haiti effort that is providing three new schools, renovations to two other schools and medical care to those in need. New Horizons consists of the National Guard, Reserve, and active Army components, U.S. Navy, and the U.S. Air Force personnel.
The Mandrin school was completed and turned over to the community Aug. 20. Last school year, the students had two tents for classrooms. This school year, the students will have three classrooms, offices, and restrooms.
“The community said we have been great neighbors,” says Lt. Col John-Michael Wells, the task force’s civil affairs officer. “They feel we have respected and mutually supported each other. We provided the community with a new school, medical treatment and jobs. They in turn provided us with labor, interpreters, advice and land they have leased to us.”
The Mandrin community enjoys the U.S. military presence, says Wells. The people want the them to stay.
“The people are so happy we are here they don’t want to see us leave,” says Capt. Wesly Leandre, a civil affairs officer supporting New Horizons.
It is military tradition for units to exchange plaques after working with one another for a long time. It is a Haitian tradition to sing and dance to show thanks.
“The people don’t have much but they wanted to give their thanks the best way they can – through dance and music,” says Leandre.
The children danced and sang while adults played horns and drums. They made signs that said “Long live America!” and “Welcome U.S. Army.”
“The celebration was not a plaque or a medal,” says Leandre. “It was a gift from the heart of the community.”
New Horizons is scheduled to end in late September.