Ladies and Gentlemen all around the room, I cannot find the words to describe how amazed and blessed I feel to be here, sharing with you, my story with HELP. So I thank Conor Bohan, Garry Delice and all you HELP supporters for giving me this golden opportunity.
I have come from very far, both in distance and in life, to be in front of you today. I grew up in Labiche a beautiful but remote community in Haiti’s south-east – where people have been living their day-to-day life in the same way for a very long time – without roads, electricity, running water, and, until recently, without phones.
I am the second of eight children. Neither of my parents ever went to school. My father is a farmer and my mother used to travel nine hours to the capital to buy oil and spices that she sold in the local marketplace.
At the end of primary school I finished first in the region on a national exam. But the closest high school was 2 hours walk and my parents did not have money to offer me even a bicycle. So I walked. And I kept my place at the top of the class, even if I did not know what I was working towards. But God did. God knew that HELP was on its way and I had to perform very well to benefit from this opportunity.
When I finished high school I couldn’t dream of attending university. Port-au-Prince is two days walk. Too far of a commute… even for me. So I taught high school, for fifty cents an hour – barely enough for my daily bread.
Two years later, I heard about HELP when Gary Delice, the HELP Director, visited my school to talk about the program. Since then I have experienced another way of life. When I left Labiche to go to Port-au-Prince, we were concerned, because my family didn’t have anything to give me and we really didn’t know how I was going to survive. But we didn’t know about the stipend that HELP gave me, and the student housing where I got the chance to make not only new friends but new family members.
We also didn’t know that the scholarship would be a great opportunity for my community. In high school, some friends and I started a musical group called New Star. Thanks to what I learned at HELP, New Star has developed into a local youth organization which organizes an annual competition to encourage academic excellence. New Star has a feeding program for the elderly and most vulnerable in Labiche, that is, people who sometimes have to go without food for several days. For our last distribution in May we served 229 people and we have secured donations for the next 12 months.
This is just the beginning of the process of change I intend to lead in my community.
Last year I graduated with a degree in industrial engineering and thanks to HELP’s career services department, I got an internship with the Heineken brewery in Port-au-Prince, where I was soon hired as a maintenance engineer and promoted after less than six months. My salary of twenty four thousand dollars a year is a little bit more than the fifty cents an hour I earned in my previous job.
Guys, after the almighty God, I am what I am today because of you. Because of you, now I am able to be a change maker, a leader, a reference in my community.
I thank you for taking money from your pocket, your business, your bank account to give HELP students the chance to live a better life and to change our country.
Thank you for giving us the skills to make a living and also to make a difference.
May God, my father, bless you and protect you every day.