By Kara King (Program Director) & Florine St. Eloi (Haiti, Class of 2015)
About a month ago, we were at a leadership workshop as a group. The task at hand was to bring a worry or concern to the group in order to receive feedback, to hear questions, and to perhaps find new ways to approach a problem. As each shared, the group interacted and provided feedback to each other.
When it was Florine’s turn to share, I watched her struggle to give words to her concerns. As she did, she honored herself and the group by being deeply honest about what she was facing. She painted for us a picture of her mother’s current living situation: dangerous, unhealthy, and desperate. Her description reminded me of what we called in teaching “first hour needs”. How could I expect her to focus on leadership training when constant on her mind is that her mom is living in a violent neighborhood, breathing in fumes from the burning garbage of the city dump, and unable to stay dry in any storm? No, these are “first hour” needs that must be heard if Florine is to be able to grow and develop into the strong woman and servant leader that God has created her to be.
And yet, we live in a complex and unjust world. NPH cannot buy everyone a house. We don’t have the resources, nor is that our stated mission.
As we sat there with our sister, Florine, I felt grief and despair and anger. I feel proud of the group for staying with her in her worry, for praying with her, hugging her, and not offering ridiculous and empty words like “it will be okay”. No, these are young adults who know all too well that is not always true. Their ability to accompany her in her grief is beautiful.
It was Nelson who eventually spoke into that space wondering aloud: ‘can’t we do something?’. None of us really knew what we could do, we didn’t know in that moment that if we worked together we would be able to help Florine and her family of origin. But the group committed to try to do something – even knowing it might not work out.
And do something, they did. As I write this, they have raised more than enough money for Florine’s mom and siblings to move into a safe and healthy home and pay the rent for one year. It is a life changing gift and came about because six young people, who grew up in our NPH homes refused to ignore a sister in trouble.
When we teach our children at NPH to serve others, when we give them the opportunity to see how much they have to offer the world, we instill in them the idea that they are not victims but rather people who have much to offer their communities. We empower them to be creative problem-solvers. And they learn that in combining their efforts, they can make good happen. They are living out our mission and vision, and it is a delight to witness.
I asked Florine to reflect on what the experience was like for her, and this is what she said:
“What would have happened if Kara did not ask us about what was bothering us? This movie night turned into a successful event. Yes, that is what it means to me. Nelson, Luisa, Samy, Magda, Lucre and Kara’s participation to help my family and I was quite a powerful story. From them, I learned how it is important to work as a team. Of course they are part of my life because of NPH, but now it becomes stonger.
Do not hesitate when it comes to help others; that is also another lesson that I learned from this group after all the struggles that we have been through. I did not have any solutions, but they found out what needed to be done.
Isn’t that the “unconditional love” that Father Wasson has left to us? There’s no other name for it. They acted as leaders, friends, brothers, and sisters. The supporters also made it possible. Thank you so much for coming and supporting, thanks a lot for those who could not make it but helped in different ways.
Words cannot express how grateful I am…thank you for everything that you all did for my family and I. Thank you for helping to find a place where my family can live normally, somewhere they can call “home”! Good memories stay forever, and this movie night was one of the best that I ever had. Thank you to all of you who made it possible, I will never forget it. From the bottom of my heart, thank you, gracias and may God always bless and protect you!”