In a nation ravaged by poverty and disaster, Jaime Kuhnle, an Anderson University alumna and teacher in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, possesses a warm, helping heart that is obvious to all who come into contact with her. “My mission here is…to show God’s love to everyone I come in contact with,” said Kuhnle. Her education at Anderson University, where the university-sponsored overseas trips and constant collaboration with advisors and professors, prepared her well for that mission and the trials she would face in Haiti.
After high school, Kuhnle knew without a doubt that AU was school for her. The Zionsville, Ind., native was familiar with the university and its values because both her mother and older brother attended AU. The 2009 graduate decided to pursue a degree in elementary education and credited the hands-on attention and support of her advisor and professors as being “extremely beneficial” to her success. [Photo on left: Jaime Kuhnle with two students enjoying a book during Read-a-thon Week.]
Kuhnle also said the emphasis on classroom time through student teaching was a valuable experience. Personal initiative, resourcefulness and great preparation lessened the difficulty of the daunting task. “You learn from putting a technique into practice and then assessing how to make it better,” Kuhnle said. “Being in a classroom is by far the best preparation for an aspiring teacher.”
Perhaps more beneficial to her personal development, however, were the three Tri-S trips Kuhnle took, travelling once to the Dominican Republic and twice to Guatemala. “The trips helped prepare me for being overseas and gave me a small taste of the beauty and trials that would go along with living in a third world country,” Kuhnle said.
The January 2010 earthquake in Haiti again forced Kuhnle’s eyes to open and see beyond her personal “bubble.” For hours in the early morning following the quake, Kuhnle labored helping a nearby grocery store that had collapsed, and she witnessed attempts to retrieve survivors from beneath the rubble. After she gave all the energy she could, she returned to a soccer field near her home and attempted to rest. As she was laying there she heard Creole voices singing “On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand.”
“The faith exhibited in a time of crisis was touching and inspiring,” Kuhnle remembered. Such faith and inspiration fueled Kuhnle’s efforts on another day to volunteer at a local clinic. Upon arrival she was designated to take charge of wound care. “Did I have wound care experience?” Kuhnle asked herself already knowing the answer. “Well I have put on a few Band-Aids throughout my years…I guess I was qualified.” That day in the clinic tested Kuhnle with unyielding and pained Haitian cries of “Jezi, Jezi, Jezi!!” which translates to “Jesus,” and destruction of all imaginable facets encompassing the entire island nation.
While the destruction, political uncertainty and impoverished conditions are inescapable in Haiti, Kuhnle finds solace for herself in her apartment located on the campus of the school where she teaches third grade. Quisqueya Christian School is a private, U.S.-accredited school located in Port-au-Prince and it provides all the essentials Kuhnle needs.
“I feel blessed to have the school taking care of electricity, water and the daily nuisances of getting things to happen here in Haiti,” Kuhnle said. In the event of a water truck neglecting to come or a generator breaking, Kuhnle says that you just have to say a “sudden goodbye to showers and power for a few days.” [Photo on right: Students in Jaime Kuhnle's class enjoying Read-a-thon Week.]
Some people spend their entire lifetime searching for their calling, but Kuhnle feels like she is lucky to have already found hers. To Haiti and the city of Port-au-Prince, Kuhnle will never be mistaken for being just a third-grade teacher, she is so much more. She is a blessing. She is educating and molding young Haitian minds. She is making her small part of the island nation a much better place.
— Kyle Beckman is a senior from Auburn, Ind., double-majoring in communication arts and business-information systems and minoring in political science. Beckman is an associate with Fifth Street Communications™, writing on behalf of Anderson University Office of University Communications.
Anderson University is a private Christian university of 2,600 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson continues to be recognized as a top Christian college: in 2010, U.S. News and World Report ranked Anderson University among the best colleges and universities in the Midwest for the seventh consecutive year. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 65 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, education, music, nursing and theology.