Jonathan Jean-Baptiste came to Massachusetts from his native Haiti in the wake of last month's devastating earthquake, leaving his parents and brother to stay with his aunt.
Apponequet Regional High School student Jonathan Jean-Baptiste was amazed by a recent snowstorm, and none too happy with the frigid temperatures that accompanied it.
Winter storms should be second nature to most Apponequet kids, but Jean-Baptiste is different. He came to Massachusetts from his native Haiti in the wake of last month's devastating earthquake, leaving his parents and brother to stay with his aunt in the Assonet neighborhood.
Adjustments have been necessary. At night, Jean-Baptiste sleeps with the lights on, and he struggles with the loneliness of being separated from his immediate family in Port-au-Prince. But the 15-year-old has been "resilient," says his aunt, Ingrid Lochard.
Jean-Baptiste has been staying with Lochard for more than a month. In that short time, he began learning English at Apponequet, all while adjusting to a new country and a bitter New England climate.
Jean-Baptiste and Lochard are not sure when or if the teen will return to his native country. For now, he is getting used to American life.
Haskins said Jean-Baptiste was placed in her chorus class because Principal Gary Lincoln felt her students would take the sophomore under their wing.
The principal was right, Haskins said, and Jean-Baptiste grows more comfortable with his surroundings each day.
“The kids just love him,” Lincoln said.
Chorus students and the entire school have rallied behind him. Meanwhile, Jean-Baptiste has shown visible signs of adjustment.
Haskins said Jean-Baptiste spoke his first words in English — “turn the page” — in class last week.
Haskins said Jean-Baptiste is taking French, which is helping him learn English by hearing the translations. She said Jean-Baptiste flashes a smile every time he walks into class and his face “lights up when someone speaks French to him."
Lochard said Jean-Baptiste speaks with his mother twice a week. His mother, Rose, calls when a telephone is available. Her cell phone was lost in the earthquake.
“He is adjusting. And having gone through the trauma, it is amazing how resilient he is,” Lochard said.
Rose Jean-Baptiste brought Jonathan to the American embassy in Haiti after the quake.
Officials arranged for Jonathan — who was born in America — to go live with Lochard and her family. Prior to that, the Jean-Baptiste family was living in neighboring yards and scrounging for food and water. Rose’s other son, Jean, is still living with her under a tent.
Lochard, who was born in Haiti and visits at least twice per year, said she hopes people in America continue to donate to the country. She said some Americans seem to think the tragedy is over, and fail to recognize that many Haitians are in desperate need of help.
The Herald News