Our staff in Haiti recently visited Chantale, one of our university students, at her home in Jeremie. She graciously agreed to a recorded interview for us, and she talked about her personal challenges, the value of education, and how she maintains hope amidst the present crisis in Haiti.
September 16, 2022 / Interview with Thrive Ansanm student Chantale by our Director Josh Gray and our Jeremie Coordinator Maillard Magloire [translated from Haitian Creole and French]
Josh: Explain for someone who doesn’t know the difficulties we are confronting in Haiti right now, and also the difficulties we are confronting specifically in Jeremie?
Chantale: Ok, so I can say that the country has entered into a moment that is extremely difficult, especially right now regarding the cost of living. Everything is going up, products are going up at a level that is extraordinary. And also I must say, [it is difficult] for Haiti in general right now because of the problems in Martissant, people can’t travel easily, so the situation has become more difficult in Jeremie. For example, for a vehicle to travel right now, they must pay money, so if you need to bring something to Jeremie prices are increasing. Yeah, for ordinary people down the line, they are paying higher prices.
Maillard: What we call the final consumers.
Chantale: Yeah exactly. They are the ones who are paying. On the whole, in general, it’s a situation that is truly not good, but we hope that this will change in the future. But I must say that the young people have not yet seen it. They have not yet seen change. But we hope for it anyway.
Josh: Yeah, that’s it. And for you? How are you able to manage things during this time? Are you getting food? Are you getting what you need to live? How is this for you?
Chantale: As they often say, our strategy is we live day by day, so as you see, you figure out a way to do what you can, however you can to meet your needs. Every person finds a way.
Josh: Yeah, I understand. But I think this is something that, people in other countries that are more developed don’t necessarily comprehend. Because, as you are explaining, this is how people are forced to live in Haiti. It’s day by day, and it’s not like you have a good salary, you can plan, make a budget, buy a beautiful house, a car. I see that every day you get up and find a way to eat today.
Chantale: Pretty much.
Maillard: It’s like a miracle. Sometimes you have someone who gets up, and they’re hoping that tomorrow they will be able to eat. They’re hoping that if tomorrow they get sick, they’ll be able to go to get care. First, medical care is not easy to find. Secondly, you may not have the means to pay for it even if it is available. It’s really difficult how people are living. It’s as if every day that you get up and live, it’s a miracle.
Josh: Yeah, I see that.
Chantale: And what I can add to what you are saying is that, we as Haitians, we are a people that are resilient, so in spite of the way things are we will keep fighting. We’ll find a way to live.
Josh: Yeah, I see how the Haitian people have so much determination, they have to. But I also know that sometimes you can feel discouraged. Can I ask, where do you find a source of motivation to keep going?
Chantale: I think that it’s faith. It’s faith in the future, and also I am a Christian. My family is a Christian family, so first it’s faith in God, and then faith in the future, that we can have a better future, that things won’t stay like this.
Josh: Yeah, that’s it, so important.
Chantale: And then from an intellectual perspective, we are learning and we always believe that the day will arrive that things won’t this way.
Josh: Yeah, and I’d also like to ask you as a young person in the country, there are a lot of young people who feel like they have no future; they don’t have opportunity. What hope do you have for the country, and for young people such as yourself in the country?
Chantale: Well, they often say that the young people are the future, but I think that it is not only the future that is for young people. It’s the present and the future. So what I can say to light a flame in the young people is learn, study because, if tomorrow Lord willing Haiti should change, we will need professionals, intellectuals. Not just anyone can manage the country. It’s the young people who will step in. But the most important thing is, despite the current situation, we must believe, work hard, and study.
Josh: Great, can you talk about the importance of education in your life because this is the area that we are working in as an organization, Thrive Ansanm, and I see that this is something that is important to you. Explain what importance education has in your life.
Chantale: Good, for me to talk about the importance of education, I’ll borrow from what Nelson Mandela said. Nelson Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful weapon that you can use to change the world.” So education is extremely important, not only the education that you receive in school, but the education that you receive in your home and in your family as well. So, no matter what a person would like to be tomorrow, no matter what role they will play, they must get an education. They must receive their basic education and the formal education that you get in school. So I can say that regardless of where I am at today, and where I want to be, it’s through all of my studies. They all converge to get me to where I am today and where I will be because I want to go further, so education is extremely important in every sense.
Josh: Ok so next, talk about how the program is helping you because I know that you have completed two years of college already, and you explained to me already that you are in the computer science program, and this is a 5-year program, So it seems that you were struggling to continue paying the fees. Talk about the reasons that it has been difficult for you to pay for school and how the support of Thrive Ansanm is helping you continue [your education].
Chantale: Ok, so as you were saying, well first, it’s not computer science but actually computer engineering. It is a 5-year program, and I’m getting ready to start the third year. So as I was saying, the situation is extremely difficult. I am a young person, and you can say that I am an orphan. I lost my mother and father, and then I am here with my aunt, but she has so many other responsibilities. So to get support, it’s not like you have a family that can cover you so to find help to pay for school is extremely difficult. Meanwhile, tuition is going up, so I think that Thrive Ansanm has created this initiative to address this situation, to enable young people who are going to need assistance to move forward. So we can break the cycle. So that we can not only learn a profession but help other people as well. Because I think that, when you receive help, in the future you too will be able to help other people.
Josh: Yeah, there you go. Ok, so another question, a question that is more personal. What do you think is the biggest obstacle you have confronted in your life?
Chantale: Well, I can say losing my parents very early. As I was telling you, I can say my dad died when I was 8 years old, and my mother died when I was nine. So when you don’t have your two parents, the two branches supporting you, that’s always going to be difficult. So I can’t say that this was the biggest obstacle.
Josh: Yeah, that’s extremely difficult because when you’re a child it’s your parents who are supposed to take care of you, but then this happens, and they can’t anymore. However, now I see that you are living with your aunt. You have other family, and I think that your story, the way you describe the experiences in our life, it shows the importance of family, and it also demonstrates how people in Haiti, people are always taking care of each other. If you didn’t do that, people wouldn’t survive in this country. Is this not true?
Chantale: Pretty much. So often you will see a child loses their parents, and it’s another person, it’s another mother in the family who becomes another parent for you, who becomes a second mother. And for her [my aunt], she doesn’t have a husband, so she is forced to play both roles.
Josh: Yeah, for sure, and I think that this also demonstrates something that is positive in the country because I see that there are people that are always saying Haiti has too many problems. Haiti won’t ever change. There are people who say, in English we would say Haiti is a “lost cause.”
Chantale: You lose.
Josh: This means, yeah you lose. But let me ask, do you still have hope for Haiti?
Chantale: Ah, yes. Yes, we have hope still. Even if it’s small, it’s weak, but there is hope.
Josh: Yeah, but let’s talk about, talk about the value of the country of Haiti and the people of Haiti because I know there is so much of value in Haiti. There are many good people but that’s not what you read in the news.
Chantale: Well, the problem I can say that Haiti has, is that the images that you see are of the negative things, but I think that we have many good things too, and we can put those things to use. For instance, we have many good minds, that unfortunately, we don’t utilize. Sometimes they say Haiti doesn’t utilize professionals anymore. This is a huge problem. They glorify this who are no good, and then they gather up and get rid of people that can actually be of service to the country. So that’s how it is, but I think there are many people who are capable. There are many people who can be useful to the country, and then we are a people who, as I was saying, are very resilient, who are very strong, who have much courage. Even as we are talking about value, we always talk about our independence, all of those things. But I think there are many things that we can do so that we can take the country out of this situation. We have so much of value that can still be saved.
Josh: Yeah, I agree. Ok, final question, what are the goals that you have for your future personally?
Chantale: My objectives, so yeah I am just a student, but it’s to do what I can for my country, to be a part of changing the country, to use my expertise for this country. I don’t need to have a powerful position, but I want to have a role in my community, just like the work that you are doing, through humanitarian actions that can help those who are the weakest, who are in need. And then to value that which is good, value young people, and in this way, I will move forward.