LAKE WORTH — Uncertain about the fate of family and friends in Haiti after a massive earthquake hit in January, Dr. Aurora Francois needed comfort. As a way of coping with grief, and a way to find healing, Francois started to write.
She wrote poetry that was inspirational, lyrics from the soul that embody a sense of hope that a new Haiti would emerge. In all she composed 13 poems and melodies in 12 days after the earthquake.
The final result is a book of poems and a companion CD, entitled, a Beloved Daughter of Haiti, a tribute to the country and its people. A portion of the proceeds will benefit organizations involved in the relief effort, she said.
The theme of the book and CD is “Hope inspires in any language,” Francois said. The messages in the music and poetry would help bring healing to her native land.
Samples of three of the CD tracks can be heard on Francois’ website: We Shall Rise Again, The Optimist Child and A Special Prayer for Helping Hands.
Francois is the first Haitian-American principal in Palm Beach County, which, she said, was an asset in relating to the 300 children of Haitian descent – a third of the student population of her school, Barton Elementary, 1700 Barton Rd., Lake Worth.
The transition was especially difficult for the 19 earthquake survivors who enrolled at Barton Elementary after homes and schools in Haiti were destroyed by the earthquake.
“I’m worried about flashbacks,” she said. “The children still need emotional support. The Palm Beach County School District has done a tremendous job providing psychologists for the students that speak Creole [only or mostly].”
The children were part of the inspiration for writing the book and recording the CD.
“A student indirectly inspired one poem, The Optimist Child,” she said. “I saw the hope in her eyes.”
“We all have an Optimist Child within ourselves,” the poem reads.
“As we face challenging days, our greatest escape lies in vivifying the happy momentum that we experienced as children.”
Francois, 43, moved to the United States from Haiti at 18, hoping for an education and to pursue her dreams or a better life. She earned an undergraduate degree in Social Work from Florida Atlantic University, became a teacher and eventually received a doctorate degree in leadership from Lynn University.
She considers herself a citizen of both the U.S. and Haiti.
The key to her success is discipline, which helped her achieve her goals, she said.
Although she has no formal music training, she rendered her poems into melodies for the CD.
The cover of her book and CD featuring the Francois as a 15-year-old wearing a simple dress and sporting ponytails holds significant meaning.
“It reminds me of a wonderful childhood. It is the utmost reflective piece,” she said. “It reminds me of the beauty of Haiti.”
Seeing that photograph may encourage young people to stay strong and renew hope for them.
Some proceeds from sale of the book and CD, which costs $19.95, will benefit Missionary Flights International, a non-profit aviation company serving in Haiti, the Dominican Republic and the Bahamas.
Company president Richard Snook said Francois has already donated $1,300 from book sales and that amount will be added to a fund to build homes for the many Haitians living in the streets, he said.
“Housing is a major concern. We’re building small houses, trying to get thousands out of their tents,” Snook said. “A work team is going down in September.”
For several months directly following the earthquake, Missionary Flights International transported 1.5 million pounds of supplies to Haiti, Snook said.
Francois said she will continue to support that company and other organizations helping to rebuild the country.
She is looking for sponsors to make the book available to every child in Haiti.
• For more information about a Beloved Daughter of Haiti, log on to www.aurorafrancois.com. To contact Missionary Flights International,
call 772-462-2395 or e-mail MFI@missionaryflights.org.