Meet Daniel and Figaro

December 21, 2022

Just a couple of weeks ago, I was sitting in the home of Daniel, one of the two newest students in our university program. Huddled on their tiny porch, I sat across from his father. A carpenter by trade, he had big strong hands and a kind, dignified expression. His mother stood leaning against the wall, anxiously making sure that we were seated and comfortable. They live in a tiny home, the concrete is bare because they can’t afford to paint. They have very little in the way of material resources, but the love in their home is palpable.

I observed the sparkle in these parents’ eyes, as they looked upon their son with pride, full of hope for his future. They were beaming as they told me about how intelligent he is. He recently scored in the top 5 among a large list of prospective freshmen taking entrance exams for Our Lady of Perpetual Help, which is one of the top nursing schools in Jeremie. Yet, they winced as they recounted how they had feared that he would miss this opportunity for a lack of financial means. His mother, a seamstress by trade, couldn’t hold back the tears, as she recounted how she had sold her sewing machine to pay for school for Daniel and his two younger brothers. It must have been a difficult decision, and perhaps not a smart one, considering this was her livelihood, yet this is the plight of those who live in poverty. She wasn’t getting any work, so she sold an asset. How can you plan for tomorrow when you need to survive today?

However, she smiled through the tears as she told us about how she had been praying to God that they would find a way to send Daniel to college. Thrive Ansanm was the answer to her prayers she said. I wish every single person who has ever donated to Thrive Ansanm could look into the eyes of a mother like her talking about her hope for her son’s future. I’m certain any lingering doubts about the impact of your donations would be gone. 

Daniel with his mother and father

Now that I am a father, especially as the father of a Haitian boy, I understand their feelings in a deeper way. I can’t imagine what it must be like to love your child with everything you have while knowing that you lack the means to set them up for the thriving future that you desire for them. 

Figaro and her aunt

Figaro lives in Jeremie with her aunt and uncle. She was born in Port-au-Prince, but her parents couldn’t afford to adequately care for her, so when she was very little, they sent her to live with relatives in Abricots which is a small, rural community north of Jeremie. However, when she started school, her teachers recognized that she was especially gifted, so they advised her family to send her to a larger school in Jeremie. That’s when she came to live with her aunt and uncle, and she’s been with them ever since. 

Her aunt, a school teacher, beamed with pride as she talked about Figaro. She explained that she never had biological children, but she viewed Figaro as her daughter, and Figaro told me the very first time I met her that she feels the same way. She sees her aunt as her mother. Highly intelligent, she like Daniel, scored among the top students in the entrance exams for Our Lady of Perpetual Help, and they tell me that she was always one of the top students at her school. 

The first time I met her, after chatting with her for several minutes in Haitian Creole, I asked her if she spoke some English, and I was surprised when she responded in perfect English. Even though she just graduated from high school, she is already a teacher at the best English school in Jeremie. 

After she graduated from high school this spring, her relatives decided to pitch in to pay for her first year of college, not wanting her intellectual ability to be wasted. They were well-intentioned, but when it came down to it most of them couldn’t actually afford to help, and she was back to square one. So she and her family were also praying for a miracle, and now through the generosity of Thrive Ansanm donors, she will be starting college next month!

When we select new students, we have 3 main criteria: need, intelligence, and motivation. Most everyone in Haiti is in need, but we don’t have the resources to help everyone, so we seek students who are talented and motivated. Both Daniel and Figaro clearly meet these criteria, and we are excited to welcome them into our program. 

Now that they are supported through Thrive Ansanm, all of their tuition, books, and school supplies will be covered, and they will also receive a monthly stipend to help with the cost of lunches and transportation. They will have access to computers and internet at our resource center, and they will each be matched with local mentors who are established medical professionals. They already had the intelligence and motivation to succeed, but now they have the support that they need, and we can’t wait to see what the future has in store for them!

by Josh Gray

Josh is the director of Thrive Ansanm, and he lives in Haiti with his wife Bethany and their son Koa. Josh and Bethany moved to Haiti full-time in 2019, and they started Thrive Ansanm the following year.

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