Professor Max Adrien, a French professor at Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota, is giving back to his community by teaching Creole to volunteers traveling to Haiti. When the January 12 earthquake hit Port-au-Prince, Haitian-born Adrien wanted to return to the country to help in relief efforts. However, he realized that without medical expertise or experience with disaster relief, his presence would only slow down aid workers.
As CNN reports, Adrien decided to use his skills as a teacher and his knowledge of his native Creole to help prepare medical professionals for their trips to Haiti. Adrien offers free Creole classes, teaching doctors, nurses, physical therapists, social workers, lawyers, ministers and other relief providers how to better communicate with their Haitian patients.
Adrien says, “I decided to give Haiti what I have, which is teaching. I don’t think I can give Haiti a better gift.” Referring to his native language, he adds, “I’m just giving something that has been given to me.” His students are thrilled to have found someone in Minnesota who not only can speak Creole but is also gifted at teaching it. Most people simply want to learn enough to be able to put people at ease and to establish better communication.
Professor Adrien, who has lived in the United States since he was 20 but whose “heart remains in his home country,” is equally delighted to find so many people willing to learn the language and to help Haiti: “It is so gratifying…to see that there are people out there who want to help. Angels are in the form of people.”
Even if his students only learn a few simple phrases in Creole, Adrien says it will have a profound impact: “If they see an American say ‘How are you today, how are you feeling, what hurts?’… I know the smile that would put on somebody. The appreciation they would get to see an American not only care enough to be there but care enough to learn the language to speak to me in my own tongue and make me understand that I matter … I know the joy that would bring to a Haitian’s heart.”