Peterson, Port-au-Prince, Haiti
Peterson, 29, first became connected with Rayjon in 2016 when he was studying Law and Social work at the Université D’Etat D’Haiti. He volunteered his services as an intern at the Gilbert Clinic, hoping to use his knowledge to contribute to improved health services in Haiti.
Peterson drew us in with his big smile and bigger heart. In his short time at the clinic he did so much: designing and conducting a survey to better understand the needs and assets of the community, creating a patient database, proposing changes at the clinic to improve patient services, investigating local water sources, and more.
In 2017 he penned a thesis he penned a thesis concerning the struggle against international terrorism—a legal and humanitarian necessity, to earn his Bachelor’s degree in law. An avid reader of world literature, politics and the humanities, he has continued his studies in Diplomacy and International Cooperation, and is currently completing research for his PhD, focusing on Haitian-American cooperation in regard to border control and interior security (of Haiti).
Peterson is active in his church, participating in many special events for youth. He speaks Haitian Kreyòl, French and English. He also teaches. One of the photos here shows him delivering a seminar in the use of numeric resources at the University of Gonaïves, Haiti.
Peterson has gone on to bigger and better things, and we couldn’t be happier for him. After completing his Master’s in Diplomacy and International Cooperation he accepted a position with the Direction of Political Affairs in Haiti, where is working on establishing new relationships between Haiti and countries in the Middle East. Peterson uses his incredible intellect and deep human compassion to build bridges, foster dialogue and strengthen the nation.
Most recently he penned an editorial published in Haiti’s most prestigious newspaper, LeNouvelliste, urging preservation of beloved Haitian Christmas carols as an integral and beautiful part of Haitian music and culture, and a potential source of comfort, strength, and joy through dark times.
Peterson remains connected with Rayjon, from providing reliable intel on current events in Haiti, to giving Rayjon’s Executive Director excellent book recommendations.
Peterson, we celebrate you.
“I remain convinced that in these difficult times in our country, the spirit of Christmas can help us look each other straight in the eye with a brotherly gaze to resolve our differences without coming to blows…[they can] help soothe if not calm or hopefully one day resolve, our daily conflicts that hurt us all.”
Yvanne is a 35-year old merchant with three children. She is an active member of the women’s association in her village, which encouraged her to start a business. Stories like hers demonstrate the success of the microcredit program. Yvanne received (and successfully repaid) four microcredit loans from Rayjon since 2005 before becoming the self-sufficient entrepreneur she is today. She began by selling flowers and decorative ornaments purchased in the capital for resale in her community. She says this was just “a test which prepared her for a clothes business” today. Yvanne received training that provided her with maturity and knowledge to grow her business.
Today she earns a healthy profit and no longer needs loans. With her earnings she purchases and breeds goats and ducks. Her neighbors help feed and care for the animals, and they share the baby goats. During the current political crisis, she also works alongside her husband in agriculture because the risk of losing money in the marketplace is high. When the children need shoes, uniforms and funds for school tuition they discuss together and can find something in the garden to sell to meet those needs. Most of their food in grown in their own garden.
Yvanne, along with some of her neighbours also participates in a “group of mutual solidarity,” pooling their money to support other adults in need to set up small businesses. She is grateful for the training and loans she received and encourages Rayjon to continue contributing to stories like hers through community development initiatives.
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.
Denise, 36, was first hired as a bookkeeper at the Centre for Nutrition and Education for Women and Children in Cap Haitian, but has diligently demonstrated her strengths in management and administration. Today she manages the Centre, coordinating all programs in addition to keeping a watchful eye on the accounting.
Denise was born in Cap Haitian to a large Catholic family (5 brothers, 2 sisters). She completed her post-secondary education in management and psychopedagogy, giving her additional tools to better understand and work with children and youth in an educational setting.
She runs a tight ship, but a compassionate one– always finding ways of stretching limited resources to have the most impact. It is Denise that receives families from the “Red Zone”—those individuals facing extreme circumstances and poverty—and does what she can for each one, always advocating for the most vulnerable.
Denise says she likes all aspects of her job, because it is her motivation. She says, “The biggest thing that I do for my community is speak to the young people and motivate them to help them feel good about themselves…My dream for my community is to see everyone in my community to be able to feed themselves without any problems.”
When asked about her dreams for her country, Denise refers to a very common Haitian term, “putting heads together (tèt ansanm).” It’s a Haitian way of speaking about cooperation, working together to see a goal achieved. Her dream is, “To see all Haitians put their heads together in order to develop our country.”
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.