Things were a little different the second time Hannah Wheaton visited Haiti.
In her first trip, in 2014, Hannah visited Haiti with a grand but complicated idea for a service project: Her Venturing crew wanted to start a Scout unit at a Haitian orphanage.
Back then it was just an idea, but in Hannah’s return visit last month, she could tell right away that her crew’s hard work had paid off.
When she arrived at the Port-au-Prince airport wearing the red-and-blue Haitian Scout neckerchief, complete strangers greeted her saying “Scout, Scout” (pronounced there like “scoot, scoot”).
Brunel Etienne, International Commissioner of Scouts d’Haïti, was there to greet her, too. When Hannah, her dad and her sister arrived at Maison Fortune Orphanage, more familiar faces awaited.
Now, thanks to this service-minded Venturing crew in Virginia, more than 90 residents at the orphanage in one of the world’s poorest countries are enjoying all that Scouting has to offer.
Service without borders
It all started in October 2014 when Hannah, her sister and her dad (also the crew advisor) met with Haiti’s national and international commissioners about the possibility of establishing a Scouting program at the orphanage.
Crew 824 of Chesapeake, Va., in the Tidewater Council wanted to support the unit as a way to spread Scouting to young people who need it. After all, Scouting has no real borders. Scouts in the U.S. and Scouts in Haiti are members of the World Organization of the Scout Movement.
Last month, Hannah, Southern Region vice president of communications and a recipient of the Venturing Silver Award, saw the results of her crew’s efforts when she attended a Scout meeting at the orphanage.
She practiced her French-speaking skills — and her dance moves, which they call “animation.”
“The meeting was full of more ‘animation,’ which could be a great thing to liven up a [Venturing] crew meeting,” she says. “I was particularly impressed that the Scouting meeting was entirely youth-led.”
The same, only different
After the meeting, Hannah talked to some of the leaders about the similarities and differences between Scouting here and Scouting there.
For one, the Haitian Scouts were confused by how we Americans identify our Scout units.
“They also were confused why we name our groups with numbers,” she says, “because in Haiti, they use names of famous people.”
Hannah’s a member of Crew 824 back home, but the Scout unit at the Haitian orphanage is called Catherine Flon, who in 1803 sewed the first Haitian flag.
The activities are a little different, too. One game was called “Mange Pomme,” in which apples are tied to a string from the ceiling of a tent and participants try to eat it without using their hands.
The game is “more difficult than I thought,” Hannah says.
Another difference: the use of the neckerchief. While the neckerchief is optional in many Scout units in the U.S., in Haiti it’s the primary way to identify Scouts.
But there are plenty of similarities between Haitian and American Scouting. One is service. All Haitian Scouts complete a project to improve their community.
Another is pride in the uniform — but for slightly different reasons.
“For many Scouts at Maison Fortune, [the uniform] is the nicest clothes that they own,” Hannah says. “So they wear it to church.”