“Work is love made visible”. Kahlil Gibran
Would most people think it is a big step down from being a college professor and dean to teaching illiterate women how to write their names? Probably, but Steven Werlin, the professor in question, isn’t among them.
In 1996, Werlin, who was a faculty member and later dean at Shimer College, took his first trip to Haiti to visit a friend who was working there. It was a trip he had wanted to take for years, but living there wasn’t in his plans then. He just wanted to check it out. Professor Werlin was so drawn to the country that in January 2005 he took a break from teaching and returned for a longer stay. That time he wandered around Haiti working with a number of programs until he discovered Fonkoze.
It is a microcredit organization that goes beyond lending money because it recognized that the poorest potential borrowers first needed classes in basic literacy and simplified business skills. And that realization led to the development of
In To Fool the Rain, the wonderful book he has written about his case manager experiences with Fonkoze, Werlin shares the stories of some of the students in their literacy program, stories that illustrate in gut-wrenching detail what it means to be the poorest of the poor in the poorest country in the Americas. He explained that over 38% of rural Haitians live on less than $1.25 per day, and then there are those who live on less than $1.00 per day, as well as those who have no regular income at all. He learned quickly how to assess each family for signs that they are eating poorly, among them the sight of idle, listless children, who are too hungry to play.
Steven visited every woman in his section of the program on a weekly basis. That is where he learned the Haitian proverb, “They can fool the sun, but they can’t fool the rain.” It refers to roofs made from the thick, fibrous pods of palm trees. After a couple months of alternate sun and rain exposure they start to crack and ultimately leak so seriously that mothers move their children from spot to spot in an effort to keep them dry. If they have a bed, they might stick the children under it or take them outside to sleep under the partial shelter of a mango tree or its exposed roots that can be drier than the muddy floors of their shacks.
Werlin didn’t carry an umbrella when he visited the CLM women he worked with. If there was no dry spot, he sat in the rain and got wet with them. The work he did was as Kahil Gibran described, “love made visible.”
What work would challenge you to step away from a secure positon to follow your interests, to follow your dreams?
Blessings on your efforts to do work that makes love visible,