Where are you from?
Utah, basically born and raised with a quick stint in Alabama.
What’s your background?
I attended Utah Valley University in Orem, Utah and majored in Anthropology, Philosophy, and Peace and Justice Studies.
What motivated you to become a Fonkoze intern?
During a trip to Haiti in 2012 with a group of students from my university, we spent a day with Fonkoze.Chemen Lavi Miyo (CLM) Regional Directors Steven Werlin and Emile Mesidor took us to visit with CLM members at various stages in the program. We met with women who had just started the program and women who had recently graduated.
Seeing the physical, mental, and emotional differences between these women was amazing. The first two women that we met with avoided eye contact, were very shy, and seemed embarrassed to talk about their past. The next woman, who had just graduated, was confident, outspoken, and proud to tell the story of her life before and after CLM. I was hooked.
What surprised you most when you first arrived?
How easily the CLM team became my family. When I arrived in Haiti, I had no background in Kreyòl or French, and moved into the house with people I had never met before, aside from Steve. I immediately connected with CLM Director Gauthier Dieudonne on the drive to Mibalè. We both have very diverse backgrounds and he quickly became my Haitian Papa. I was immediately accepted by the entire CLM staff and soon after considered them my family.
What’s your most memorable story from living in the CLM house?
One memorable night, Ismith and Roger were helping me with my Kreyòl. I had only been there for a couple of weeks and they would point to things and teach me the Kreyòl names. When we ran out of things in the yard, they moved on to other words. They were trying to get me to say avyon or airplane. It was so random and their explanation of “it moves forward but cannot move backwards” just wasn’t clicking for me. Roger finally got up and mimicked a plane taking off and flying, including sound effects, that’s when I got it! They were always so proud when I caught on, but this time they were basically jumping up and down. It was adorable and still makes me laugh when I think about it.
What has been the most challenging part of your experience?
The emotional challenges that I encountered. A good example was my experience with primary interviews, which are the first meetings with women during the selection process. It was very difficult to see the living conditions and hear the stories of these women and their families. Up until this point I had only seen the progression, empowerment, and transformation of our women. After speaking with Gauthier and Hebert, I realized that this was the power of the program. We are able to help these women change their lives and the lives of their children. There were days that were draining and stressful, but every day in CLM is life-altering for the women that we help, and the emotional stress is nothing in the scheme of things.
What has been your favorite part of the experience?
First, for the graduation in Boukan Kare, Solita, Josiane, Sandra and I fixed hair and make-up for the 98 women who were graduating. These women had worked so hard to get to this point and were already strong, courageous, and beautiful. We just helped give them a little something extra as they celebrated their accomplishments and journey out of poverty.
Second would have to be working in the field as a case manager. There were a few weeks that Hebert and I took over for some of our case managers. One day were working in Martiniere’s zone when Hebert said something about me taking over, which I took as a joke. The next day I began working as a case manager with Hebert’s help and loved it. After a couple of visits, Hebert felt confident enough to leave me to work on my own. It was great to get to know the women better and to feel like I was a real part of their journey with CLM.
If you could sum up the CLM program in one sentence, what would it be?
CLM speaks for itself: Chemen Lavi Miyò, path to a better life.
What’s next for you after this?
A short break and then I’m off to grad school. I will be working towards a Masters in Development Practice at Trinity College and University College Dublin in September.
How will this experience impact you moving forward?
It has changed everything for me. It has shaped my focus for grad school, including my master’s thesis, which will revolve around the broader impact of the CLM program in the communities it has worked in and continues to work in. I will be coming back for another 5 months to collect data and I can’t wait! The CLM program, and my CLM family have also altered my plans for my future; they made Haiti home for me. When I finish my masters I will be back in Haiti to build a life and permanent roots. And again, I can’t wait!