Empowered Nurses, Expanded Care
Nurse Bénicie (2nd from left and not the same Bénicie whose story is below) has done amazing things in the village of Barbe, Haiti. When the Covid-19 pandemic first began she advocated for support for the small clinic and dispensary where she is the head nurse. They needed supplies and PPE to protect themselves. The cost of medicines was rising and care for pregnant women was especially dire. The clinic needed more space to receive and treat patients. And they had to find some way of educating their rural community about the coronavirus – and how to prevent it.
As a partner, Rayjon came alongside Bénicie and her team. We submitted a grant request to our friends at PWRDF, who fast-tracked the funding into motion. You may remember reading our earlier update about the outcomes of this specific project: newly constructed patient rooms, two new gynaecology exam tables, essential medications made available. And perhaps best of all, Nurse Bénicie and her team used a flatbed truck outfitted with loudspeakers to reach some of the most remote communities with reliable information about how to slow the spread of Covid-19.
Well guess what? The ripple effect continues. The collective impact of that early 2020 project goes on. As Bénicie’s leadership grew and the community saw the enhanced care and growth of their little clinic, other partners also saw the progress and valued their work even more. Bénicie kept advocating, and UNICEF agreed to donate a new solar system to provide a constant source of electricity to the clinic! With a little extra support from Rayjon (to cover the cost of hiring a local technician to install the panels), the clinic now has 24/7 power!
This little video gives a short tour of the new system and the Barbe clinic. 🙂 Wow!
Andre, Cap Haitien, Haiti
Andre was born in Port-de-Paix, Haiti, but moved to Florida at the age of 7 where he attended school. He has a big family with a total of 9 sisters and 2 brothers.
After high school he studied Business Administration/Communication at an American Community College in Bradenton, Florida and Psychology/Theology in Cap-Haitian seminary. He speaks English, Creole, Spanish and French.
Andre returned to Haiti permanently in 2007. Rayjon first met Andre in 2009, when he was hired to translate for groups visiting the former Sacred Heart Centre in Cap Haitian. From day one, he impressed everyone with his charisma and amazing ability to build relationships.
In 2011 Andre was hired to be the new director at the Rayjon supported Sacred Heart Nutrition Centre, starting on the long path of leading the Centre to become an independent Haitian organization, under Haitian leadership. Today it is called the Centre for Nutrition and Education for Women and Children (C-NEW-C) and serves marginalized families from all over Cap Haitian.
In 2012 Andre’s role grew again, and he became Field Director, responsible for oversight and management of all Rayjon-supported project activities in Haiti (in the two main zones of Cap Haitian and St. Marc). And what a journey that has been!
Perhaps the skill Andre is best known for is his talent for relationship building—which translates into strong partnerships, team building, and conflict resolution. He’s a natural mediator and bridge builder. All project activities that Rayjon supports have benefitted in some form from a healthy partnership Andre has forged with another organization, friend, or community leader.
Outside of work, Andre helps mentor aspiring young leaders, participates in community clean-ups, and is an activist for women and children’s rights. He is a member of the Board of Directors for Konbit Sante, a strong organization supporting public health care in Cap Haitien. Learn more about Andre and his role with Rayjon on the Our Team page, or watch a short video of Andre as he shares about current challenges and the future in Haiti here.
“It just feels good to know that I am not only giving back to my community but also to know that I am investing in the next generation of Haitian leaders and young people coming up.”
Bénicie’s story is amazing. She is a 55 a year-old farmer and entrepreneur. She has one daughter, but has also adopted a foster child in need. Her husband lives in the Dominican Republic, and only occasionally sends money.
Bénicie graduated from Adult Literacy classes, and has been a part of the Microcredit Program since 2004. She is president of the women’s association in her rural village, which organizes training for female entrepreneurs in partnership with Rayjon. Following a training about business development, she got a loan start a business selling fried foods. She has had several business ventures, but this one is her most profitable. She says that the skills she acquired in the trainings have given her capacity to earn more. With her profits she has saved enough money to be able to rent land and also do agriculture. Today she is able to feed and care for her family independently.
Bénicie has become an advisor for the women’s association, and encourages other young women to use business to overcome difficult living conditions in Haiti. Along with some of her neighbours she participates in a “group of mutual solidarity,” pooling their money to support other adults in need to set up small businesses.
(Note: Bénicie also has a beautiful singing voice. You can hear her sing, “Women are Like Reeds,” an anthem about the strength and resilience of Haitian women below)
Titita, Dominican Republic
Titita lives in the marginalized neighbourhood of Barrio 41, Consuelo, DR. She operates a colmado—the Dominican equivalent of a corner store—in the front of her home. She is using a microloan provided by Rayjon to grow her business. She has named the store “Dios Vivo” (Living God). She says God gave her the store and its name.
Her store is located directly across from the Rayjon-supported preschool and sells a variety of packaged food items and household goods. Titita’s house was damaged during Hurricane Matthew in 2017. Extra income will go a long way to helping her maintain her household.
With Rayjon’s help, Titita is able to access additional capacity-building classes that will help her gain skills as an entrepreneur. She is also a proud member of the local women’s group, and looks forward to seeing positive changes in her community this year.
We look forward to hearing those stories!
Celiana & Jhonny, Dominican Republic
Documentation is a huge barrier for families in the neighbourhood of Barrio 41, where Rayjon supports a preschool/nutrition centre and programs for women. Many of these families are of Haitian decent, though they have lived in the DR for generations. Their stories are difficult: they face daily discrimination and without proper documentation don’t have access to basic human rights like health care and education.
Rayjon is working in partnership with ASCALA, an organization headed by Brazilian nuns in Consuelo. ASCALA’s highly qualified legal team and have been working diligently to assist families from some of the most impoverished communities who struggle to gain the documents they need to legally live, work, and access vital services.
Celiana, who is the cook at the preschool in Barrio 41, and her brother Jhonny, are two of the more difficult cases being worked on. Celiana was widowed three years ago, leaving her to raise four children on her own. The small stipend she receives for cooking at the preschool is her only means of support. For Celiana to get her paperwork, her mother (Haitian) must first be assisted. This is especially important to Celiana because she does not have legal documentation for her four children. Her eldest is at the top of her class in high school, but won’t be able to apply to university without the paperwork. With each stage of paperwork costing between $200 and $300 USD, the dream of legal status would be impossible without the help provided through the pilot documentation project.
Celiana’s contributions to the preschool go beyond providing delicious and nutritious meals. You’ll also find her scooping up the nearest child with a scraped knee, runny nose, or need for some comfort. This is her neighbourhood and she watches out for all the little ones.
Jhonny is an active volunteer at the Centre, where his two young sons attend preschool. His identification was annulled when it was discovered that it contained false information. A Dominican friend of the family, trying to help, had agreed to declare that she was the mother when Jhonny was born, in the hopes that he could become a Dominican citizen. Now it will be very difficult for Jhonny to reapply for documentation, as his credibility is in question because of this false declaration. ASCALA is first trying to help his biolgoical mother get her documentation. It is not certain if Jhonny will eventually be successful, but we will do what we can to help! Blood tests will be required to confirm the true maternity. Additionally, if Celiana’s file is successful it may add some credibility to Jhonny’s case.
Jhonny has lots of talents, but his dream is to open his own bakery.
34-year old Alene is the head (and only) nurse at the Centre for Nutrition & Education for Women & Children (CNEWC) in Cap Haitien, Haiti where she was born and raised. She has 1 sister and 1 brother.
It is Alene that receives frightened parents when they arrive at the Centre seeking care for their malnourished child. It is Alene that carefully weighs and assesses each child, making sure to screen for other health concerns. It is Alene that sets each child on a path to recovery, administers the Medika Mamba nutritional supplement and any necessary medications, and carefully monitors their progress along the way. And it is Alene that provides education and training to each parent or caregiver, making sure that they understand how to prevent malnutrition, prepare healthy meals, and spot danger signs in their children before they progress.
Outside of work Alene cares for her community, often called upon to assist a sick neighbour at all hours of the day or night. This she does voluntarily.
She says, “I like to take care of people, seeing people in good health is what I like… I love God and all that lives on earth, I love to help everyone.” Her goals is to help as many people as she can, to see the good health of all Haitians.
We celebrate you, Alene! Mèsi anpil!
We envision a world in which all people have an equal opportunity to thrive.
We reject all forms of racism and injustice that stand in the way.