150 graduates on a path to a better life
By Kristian Partington
Mirebalais, HAITI – Within a 24-hour span, I celebrated the graduation of 150 women from Fonkoze’s Chemen Lavi Miyò program and watched as 150 more took their first tentative steps to a better life outside the constraints of extreme poverty.
On the morning of April 15, the graduates were joined by guests in their finest attire and community members who’ve pledged their support over the course of the past 18 months. Around 50 CLM team members shared the day as well, along with another small group of honoured guests representing the U.S.-based Haitian Timoun Foundation (HTF), which sponsored this particular cohort of women.
If you had stumbled into the setting you’d be forgiven for mistaking it for a wedding as guests filled into the large concrete schoolhouse. Then the graduates marched in, beaming with pride as they sang in beautiful unison of the gratitude they feel for the opportunities they’ve been given. No longer will they fear the rain, they sang, for they have a roof over their head, thanks to CLM. They can continue their lives with their heads held high, for now they have assets like goats and pigs, and skills in small commerce; with these tools they can ensure their children will be fed and have access to education.
The power of the song is lost in my translation – the energy was beyond words. Encouragement and congratulations were offered through a series of speeches, and some of the women shared the story of where they were before CLM.
Simone Joseph was absolutely glowing at the end of the ceremony. “I feel really, really good, because all my children go to school,” were her translated words. “I was living on land that was not mine and now I have my own place because I’m in the program.”
CLM offered her the tools and the skills she needed to thrive, and she didn’t disappoint. With the knowledge and support she gained through CLM, she was able to manage her husband’s meager earnings as labourer on rented land and build a life. She now has a donkey and many chickens and she chose to purchase land instead of a cow. 18-months ago, she had nothing.
Her six children, ranging in age from 2-15 have a future now, and she’ll never go back to the life she knew before.
When asked what she might say to donors connected to HTF or Schlegel Villages, which over the past four years has raised around $140,000 for CLM, her gratitude shimmers. She said quite simply that she hopes people will continue to offer their support for CLM so that other women in rural Haiti who face the crushing weight of poverty can know the feelings she had in that moment.
More to come…