On a cold December night, a group of people gathered in a small classroom at the University of Iowa's College of Public Health to learn more about Haitian Creole, the primary language spoken in Haiti.
Teaching the class was Dr. Jeff Dawson, who is preparing for his 8th humanitarian trip to Haiti this spring.
"I was aware of a number of people who have interest in Haiti, both those who have been or who will go in the future. Even though most short-term visitors to Haiti hire interpreters, I know they often have a desire to learn some of the language to communicate with the people directly. Because of this, I started to organize free introductory workshops in the language, with emphasis in medical and public health outreach activities," explains Dr. Dawson. While both French and Creole are official languages in Haiti, most people speak Creole on a daily basis.
Dawson learned to speak Haitian Creole as a Mormon missionary in 1983-84. Subsequent humanitarian trips included holding medical outreach clinics; lecturing at a medical school; and providing training in nutrition, physical therapy, first aid, and disease prevention to orphanage staff and parents of children with disabilities. "The most rewarding aspect of these trips is reconnecting with people you've taught and seeing that they've been able to retain and use the things you taught them. For example, one of our medical interpreters from Haiti learned a lot about first aid as he was interpreting, and he was then able to use that information when an earthquake struck Haiti in 2010," he explains.
Looking to the future, Dawson comments: "Many of the successful endeavors in Haiti are cooperative efforts of many organizations: government, charities, churches, and schools. I'm hoping that this class will facilitate such important networking activities."
The next Creole workshop is tentatively scheduled for February 2017. For more information, contact Dr. Dawson directly: email@example.com.