Photographs by Kerry-Ann Hamilton/HU Communications – Professor Fred Williams teaches students in the sixth grades at Ecole Shalom in Crox Des Bouquets, Haiti. The student on the right with his hand raised is Richard Germain.
Meet Professor Fred Williams and three poignant dates in his life:
February 7, 1946, the day he was born in Haiti’s capital of Port-au-Prince.
May 29, 1969, the day he left Haiti to pursue a better life in the United States
March 17, 2012, today he leaves Haiti after one of his most rewarding trips to his native homeland in more than four decades.
This week, Williams taught the sixth grade grammar French class. The students were tackling the agreement of the past participle and the conditional.
“I observed the class for the first day and thought I could help them,” Williams said.
Everyday for an hour, he lectured in teacher Natalie’s class. It was there Professor Williams met Richcard Germain. Germain, 11, sat attentively in the front row – he would gently nod his head as Professor Williams explained with vivid examples. The shy but smart boy from Croix Des Bouquets, 15 miles west of Port-au-Prince, would smile when he understood. He was the first to raise his hand to answer a question posted to the class.
He has big dreams and Professor Williams encourage him to pursue them. “I want to be a doctor,” Germain said.
“I want to help my mother and sick people.” When Williams asked how Germain would become a doctor, he said, “I work very hard and study.”
Germain’s dedication and drive is something Professor Williams recognizes because education was a top priority for him as a child. He, too, studied hard and was determined to excel. When the young Fred left Haiti at age 23, he was already in University and had experience working at two radio stations. In high school, he taught adults learners how to read and write. It was then that his love for teaching developed.
However when he arrived in the U.S., he enrolled in a lab tech program to get his “foot in the door.” But after one year, he moved to Canada to pursue his dream –teaching. Ultimately, he earned his bachelors, masters and doctoral degrees from the University of Montreal where he studied French, literature, didactics of languages and minored in education.
In 1986, another milestone year, Williams took a job with Voice of America. He was then able to combine his love for teaching and communications. Now, he had the world as his classroom via the airwaves. He worked as a Haitian Creole content broadcaster for 21 years.
Following retirement, Williams joined the Howard University faculty as an adjunct lecturer. Four years ago, he became a fulltime faculty member of Haitian Creole and French in the Department of World Languages and Cultures. Prior to his arrival in Haiti, Professor Williams spent several weeks teaching ASB-Haiti volunteers Haitian Creole 101. He was later asked to join the ASB-Haiti mission.
“I immediately said yes,” Williams said. “It was an opportunity to make a difference in Haiti.”
As he reflects on the trip, the 66-year-old Haitian-American is grateful for the opportunity to serve. He wished Germain and his classmates well and charged them to – “succeed in your dreams.”
Kerry-Ann Hamilton, director of strategic communications and marketing, is traveling with Howard University volunteers on their service mission to Haiti. The blog “Howard Brings Hope to Haiti” chronicles the travels and work of nearly two dozen students, faculty and staff during Alternative Spring Break 2012.