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My Experience With a Private Christian School in Haiti

Growing up, I went to a small private Christian school run by American missionaries in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. I constantly wanted to (and still do) grow in my faith, but it was hard to in an environment that screamed toxic Christianity and White-Savior Complex. Those who’ve witnessed this know exactly what I’m talking about. My faith is something so important to me and I’ve had to learn to separate my experience of getting hurt by Christians and the church, from God. So many people have trauma and have been hurt by people who claim to be Christ-like, that they leave Christianity completely. This is true for people from different religious backgrounds as well, who leave religion completely because they also have been hurt by institutions that promote religious guilt.

At my former school in Haiti, I was always the one calling people out on their hatred and ignorance, even teachers. To them, a 14-year-old girl who calls people out on their BS = a Jezebel. Next thing you know, I’m failing almost every class my freshman year of high school. I eventually stopped trying academically, because the adults who were supposed to guide me, had convinced me that I was not good enough. I wouldn’t even try on major tests or papers. The worst part is this followed me for a long time in high school.

As if the previously mentioned wasn’t enough, I remember there was one student in my year who liked me, but get this, also did not? When he made his romantic intentions clear, I declined because I was not interested in him romantically. His degrading remarks about my appearance and anything I had to do or say became a daily routine, since his ego got hurt. Group chats would be created to share parodies of videos of me. High-school freshman me was not having it, so I went to the principal to talk about what was going on. What I didn’t know was that after his last suspension for an incident unrelated to me, he’d been warned that if he caused more trouble, he would be expelled. Once I found out that my situation was the tipping point, I felt so guilty. It was never my intention for him to leave school. Later, students and teachers made me feel like I had to face consequences for standing up for myself. Eventually he reached out and genuinely apologized and I forgave him. It takes a lot for people to hold themselves accountable, so I appreciate it, because not everyone in that environment reflected on their behaviors and sought to apologize.

Despite these experiences, not everyone was representative of toxic Christianity and I did get to meet people that showed me what actual love of Christ looks like, and I still keep in touch with them. It’s taken great effort to heal, and I still am healing. For any person of faith reading this, that has experienced something similar, learn and grow in your faith without being influenced by other people’s harmful perception of it.

Vanessa Martinez is a Political Science major at Rollins College, and is the Junior Editor of HerCampus Rollins. She is passionate about poetry and traveling, and plans on becoming a human rights lawyer.
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