Jost Continues Haiti Tradition Despite Earthquake

September 16, 2010

By: Melissa McGuire

What do you do in the middle of July? Do you soak up the rays during a beautiful summer day? Do you stay busy working a summer job? Well, if you're Dr. John Jost, you know you'll be spending July in Haiti.

Jost, the director of choral activities and professor of music at Bradley University, has been going to Haiti every July for the last 40 years to teach an annual summer music camp.

The program has impacted thousands of aspiring musicians. The program consists mostly of high school students. Several Haitian students teach at universities in the United States. Many of the musicians are also music teachers in Haiti, which provides a livelihood as they pursue their art.

The massive earthquake that hit Haiti last January made Jost's latest visit to the Caribbean nation a unique challenge. Jost said the natural disaster left many instruments crushed and all the facilities destroyed. The music school consists of the top two stories of a four-story building. Thankfully, not many students were in the room when the building collapsed.

A temporary shed built during reconstruction served as the venue for this year's camp. Jost said the unity that resulted from the earthquake changed Haitians' attitudes toward life.

"So many of the people have so little that survival is something to be grateful for," said Jost with a solemn voice.

Jost said every year has presented difficulties to overcome.

"One summer I went down and the day after I got there, they closed the airport," said Jost. "So, we would have the music camp one day, and the next day there would be gunfire all around town.  Transportation would be on strike, so no one would come. We would just practice and play games. Then, the next day everything was quiet, and the kids would come. For a long time that is how people lived. They would say, 'Well I don't hear anything out there, so I guess it's okay to go outside today'."

Jost said Haitians are very grateful and have a positive outlook on life despite all their hardships. They treat him like family because he has been there for so many summers. Jost's dedication to the country helps the Haitians overcome difficulties.

"The idea of being committed to something over a period of time makes a difference," said Jost.

Jost's dedication and compassion for the country is evident when speaking to him. He is changing the lives of young Haitian children and making a difference in the country of Haiti.