It is two years now since the founding of Zanmi Zanmi, also known as Forever Friends, a program that connects the residents of Maison Bon Samaritain (Good Samaritan House) and the elementary students at Lekòl Jezi Mari (Jesus-Mary School). Both are ministries of the Religious of Jesus and Mary, with whom we collaborate in our ministries here in Gros Morne, Haiti.
Maison Bon Samaritain currently houses 21 residents who are often older, have medical needs and cannot receive the right kind of support from family members. The students are often from families that cannot afford to send their kids to alternative and more expensive schools in town. With Zanmi Zanmi, the two groups are brought together so that the residents, who feel their lives have begun to lose meaning, can interact with and be rejuvenated, while the students, who often do not have grandparents, can learn about respect toward the elderly and receive advise.
Each resident is paired with two students, meaning there are twice as many students as there are residents. The students invited to the program are those who do well academically, as a sort of reward. With the students divided into two groups, each month will see one group visiting the residents and interacting with each other through songs, stories, jokes and a snack, while the other group will make drawings and send those along to exchange with drawings that the residents made. The two groups will then switch the next month.
I am a facilitator for Zanmi Zanmi. Collaborating with the teachers, I help prepare the residents to receive the students on their visits and engage them in preparing drawings or other creative activities for the exchange. I have come to know each of the residents and staff at Maison Bon Samaritain well and work hard to encourage a positive outlook on life.