Growing up Haitian

Growing up Haitian

By: Toni Morse   |   Posted: March 31, 2003

A paradox unfolds
Yvette Esperat, a shy but ambitious teenager, stands with her sister, Wiesna, and parents, Vilner and Isl讥, outside their home in Yvette's hometown of La Plaine Mapou. When complimented on her new dress, Yvette commented she had designed the pattern and from it, sewn a dress for herself and the women in her family.

At first glance, 16-year-old Yvette may seem like a typical teenage girl. She goes to school. She loves math. She likes to play volleyball. She can sew, too. But few of the things Yvette Esperat enjoys are within reach for the typical Haitian teenager.

In Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, the average family lives on about US$460 per year. There, children live every day with the odds stacked against them.

It's one thing to learn that malnutrition and infant mortality are commonplace. It's quite another to find out that many parents don't even name their children until age two or three, for fear of losing them as babies.

It's one thing to hear that most Haitian children do not attend school. It's another thing to learn that 90 percent of schools in Haiti are private and can cost a family its entire annual income many times over.

Former Compassion-Haiti Director, Edouard Lassegue, now working for the Central America and the Caribbean  area office, says facts of life like these shed new light on Yvette's accomplishments. Her story is just one example of how more than 30,000 children in Haiti are finding hope through Compassion and their sponsors.

Success demands sacrifice
Sponsorship through Compassion makes it possible for Yvette to attend secondary school - an enormous privilege that few Haitian children experience.

Born in the small village of La Plaine Mapou in the southwest part of La Gonⶥ, an island about 15 miles off the Haitian coast, Yvette attends school at Anse-େalets Student Center (HA 312), about two hours away in the port town of Anse-େalets. She lives there with extended family members and visits her own family about three or four times each year.

Yvette does well in school. She especially enjoys math, hopes to study medicine and dreams of someday becoming a nurse. That may sound trite. It may seem simple. But not many Haitian children even know what it means to have a dream. Planning for the future usually means hoping there will be something for their next meal.

Part of the healing process
Many Compassion-assisted children in Haiti want to help their country become a better place to live. Yet for Yvette, the ambition to become a nurse is real and has personal implications. One of eight children, she has watched her father suffer from a chronic illness for several years with virtually no medical assistance. According to Lassegue, medical care is not only expensive, but with only one medical doctor for every 4,500 people in Haiti, it is often difficult to find medical care at all.

Yvette's passion and vision for the future are admirable for a girl of 16. "I am choosing to become a nurse because I love it and because I think I'll be able to help my family. And, I can be a useful volunteer and help my community as well."

Aspirations like these do more than just meet the physical needs of a multitude: they plant within a new generation of young people the desire to dream big dreams and change their world.

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