Every so often, we get to meet amazing people. In America, we celebrate the lives of singers, actors, and wealthy entrepreneurs. Maybe they are amazing people, but it’s never been my style to attach to celebrity. I appreciate the good work they do – entertainers make us feel laugh and feel. Politicians can sometimes make positive change, and entrepreneurs can drive innovation. Those people and their words rarely sink into my bones They rarely give me a sense that they are people who change the world by lifting up others as they work to lift themselves. I met such a person today. Her name is Nadege. Her story is not mine to tell, but the impact of her work is churning rapid change and lifting the lives of so many people in Haiti.
One hand to lift yourself, your other hand to help someone else
Nadege sits across from me at the dinner table, politely answering my questions as I fumble through my awkward ignorance of her life. I haven’t been paying attention to anyone but myself prior to this trip, so I completely missed the basic facts about this woman. I’m okay with this, because he story, as told by her, has me captured. Nadege knows her mother for one month before her grandmother takes her in. Like so many children of Haiti, she eventually parts with her beloved grandmother to and becomes a Restavec. I am not familiar with this term, but as she describes the life, my heart sinks. Child slavery where most meet the hands of physical, and emotional abuse. Many are raped. Rarely are they loved. As she shares accounts of her childhood, my heart is somewhat sad, but I am filled with so much love and admiration for this woman’s incredible character. She has determination like no other I have ever met. She pays for her own education starting at grade 3 when she is given $5 to buy something at Carnival. Nadege chooses to invest in soda and resell it at Carnival for twice the price – and an entrepreneur is self-made and her education is paid for. Nadege has been on this incredible journey and she shows now signs of stopping. She has started a home for girls – Restavec girls. She tells me “this is my way of saying NO to Restavec.” It’s her own “me too” movement and she is doing it with the support around her but she is leading the charge by herself. She is a trailblazer. I feel like I can talk to this woman all night about her school ([Menelas Repatriot School](https://www.haitiom.org/cite-soleil/)), education, her life, etc. We debate our age, and she wins because she is a month older than me. We giggle over jokes, we share ideas and visions… she is so smart, brave, and she has this passion about her life and work that inspires me. It’s the flame that I feel flicker in me sometimes, and she just does it every day. She is truly amazing. Nadege is a badass. I don’t know if she knows that, I suspect she may, but she doesn’t have the time or interest to care about it because she is one the the people who are changing the world – no time for that! I am so grateful to have had he opportunity to have met and talked with her. I learned so much more about Haiti and it’s culture. I learned about a new layer of human amazingness – the incredible strength that women have inside of them when the universe gives them just a few tools… they can move mountains, build schools, and change the world.
I have a friend who is changing the world
K5 class B
I am walking away from today with a huge sense of hope for Haiti having met Nadege. I am feeling so excited to have met such an amazing woman – the type of person that you hear about on NPR, who is paving a path for a clueless person like me to follow a path to create positive change. Most of all, I am so grateful to walk away from this mission trip with a friend that shares the same passion for educating children in Haiti. A friend who shares the vision and hope to bring technology into these classrooms to bolster primary, secondary, and collegiate curriculum.
Even more amazing people
As the week is closing out here in Haiti, I did not realize how incredibly special this time was until it was time to say goodbye. Four (various pictures above) women, Renette, Islande, Marie Solange, and Adeline will be getting their own write up. I had to fight back tears saying goodbye to these women. They shared their classrooms with us, opened their hearts to us, and capture the essence of compassion and hard work in their everyday with these kids and their own families. I hope to emulate their amazing qualities as a teacher for my own kids.