“Dèyè mòn gen mon” — which translates into “Beyond mountains there are mountains” Haitian Proverb
*The story shared below is shared with full permission from all parties involved. Matina was given the opportunity to read and change any parts she didn’t want shared.*
Vibrant, strong, resilient and motivated are all words that can be used to describe the Haitian people. Yet these words also ring true: generationally poor, oppressed, and marginalized.
Zel Haiti’s goal is to focus on empowerment; on the success stories – without minimizing the hurt and pain that these warriors have also faced. Matina’s story is one of incomparable resilience and yet ongoing challenges.
For years, Matina endured an abusive relationship with the father of her oldest daughters. He threatened her and though she wanted to leave, he also was the provider of food for their family. She was trapped in a dangerous and vicious cycle without the means or a path for escape. Ultimately she found the courage to leave him and try and make it on her own. With multiple mouths to feed and no job, her desperation increased. She found herself selling anything she could find: leaves from trees, used clothing, and fruits and vegetables from her small garden. She and her children were barely surviving when one of her daughters became seriously ill. She spent hours in the hospital and as a result, the window of opportunity for earning an income diminished. She eventually heard about a pediatric medical clinic in her town with a reputation for providing inexpensive and excellent care. This clinic was the Chances for Children clinic located in Kenscoff, Haiti. When she took her children there to be examined, not only were they undernourished and struggling to survive, but her fragile 5’4” frame weighed in at less than 100 lbs.
The clinic professionals were alarmed by what they saw and stepped in to intervene in an effort to save the lives of Matina and her children. She was registered and placed in their monthly feeding program which provided rationed Feed My Starving Children food packs. This was helpful, but more needed to be done. The clinic manager contacted our Women’s Empowerment program (Zel Haiti), to inquire about an opportunity for employment. Matina had dropped out of school in the 3rd grade and only recently learned how to write her name. She was entered into a community training program sponsored by the Zel Haiti managers and began learning some very basic sewing skills. In 2016, Matina was hired to be one of our seamstresses. She has worked hard and to this day continues to improve and refine her skills!
Though Matina’s life isn’t challenge-free, her employment with Zel Haiti has provided the means for her to care for her family. In the past 3 years, she has met and married her current husband and together they have welcomed a baby boy into their family! Matina confesses that at times, she still feels discouraged about life in Haiti and the conditions her family lives in. They are currently renting a one room house for the 6 of them while they work on building a house of their own. Matina shared that this job has given her hope. It has given her hope that there will come a day when her family will live a better life. Matina continues to show up for work each day with a positive and confident attitude. She recognizes that this job is her gateway to an improved future for her children.
We like to use the words vibrant, strong, resilient and motivated to describe Matina and the women of Zel Haiti. Each of them have a story of their own, challenges of their own, victories of their own – and they each continue to show up for work with the heart and hope for a better life and future for their families.
You can support this program to continue to allow us to empower more families like Matina's here. Our family sponsorship program allows you to connect with one of our seamstresses and receive quarterly updates from them as well as we encourage you to reciprocate this relationship with them. The Zel Haiti ladies are so grateful for the support and pray for each of you daily!