Monday, October 31, 2011

Madam's Monday- Venite Michaud

Venite Michaud is a madam here at OLTCH in charge of the boys' house. There are 16 boys under her and she is extremely great at caring for them. With her compassionate heart and silly personality, she brightens the lives of everyone here at OLTCH. 
Today, as watched tears stream down her face and listened as she shared her life with me, I became even more passionate about allowing the women's voices to be heard through this blog. 
Rosie Exavier translated Venite's words to English for you and I, and I would not have been able to post this without her help. 
After we finished, Venite hugged me and tearfully told me she could never express how grateful she is for being able to talk about her life. I hope you enjoy her story as much as I do.  Here is her story. 

"Hello to everyone. My name is Michaud Venite. I have 28 years. I want to share my life with you, but one day is not enough for that, so I will share what I can.
I was born in Fonds-des-Negres, Haiti on June 24, 1983. I am one of 9 children in my family, but three died before I was born. Growing up, I lived in a house with my mom, dad, grandmother and 5 siblings (3 brothers and 2 sisters). One day, white people came and said they wanted to help my family. They were from Compassion International and they wanted me to be sponsored by a family in America. They paid for me to go to school and gave me the books I needed, a bible, toys, and money. They taught me about Jesus and took me to church. When I became sponsored by a family in America, they wrote me letters and sent me pictures. I met them a long time ago, but I don't know where they are now. 

I don't remember much about when I was little. Now my Mom works at the hospital. She cleans the hospital and has been there for 24 years. Sometimes I can say I don't have a family, but my Mom takes care of my two daughters. Sometimes the dad of my girls gives us money, but it is not enough to take care of two kids. My mother and two sisters help me take care of the kids while I work and send the money I make to them. My first kid has ten years and her name is Woodline Charlemagne. When she was born she was sick with seizures. That gave her problems with her eyes and she cannot see good. I don't know if she is sick in her head, but she is not like other kids. Men have done bad things to her and I want to put her somewhere safe. When I think about her, I am very sad. I love her so much and I will be happy when Woodline is not sick. My other daughter is Woodjianie and she 6 years. She is a normal girl but she has fever and cough all the time. She likes to do school and she is funny. I love her so much because she is a good kid. When I cry, Woodjianie cries with me because she doesn't want me to be sad. She asks me alot of questions when I am sad. I miss them both and wish I could be with them to take care of them. It is hard to be away from them. 
When I met the dad of my two girls, I knew nothing about love. My mom liked him for me and he said he loved me. I was a young girl. After I had Woodline and Woodjianie he stopped loving me and my family. He told me to go work and he doesn't want to give me money. We didn't have a house, so my mom gave me a house. For now, I need to work to help my kids and my family. 
When I worked at other places I was humiliated because they were bad to me and talked about me. When I was working in Gressier, it was not enough work to provide for my girls. When I was on vacation for a few days, a doctor where I worked called me and told me he could find another place for me to work so I could make more money. Later, Madam Judith from OLTCH called him to see if he knew of a woman who could come work for the orphanage. He gave her my name and phone number. She called me and asked me if I could work for the orphanage. I told her yes, and I have been here ever since. This November makes one year that I have been at OLTCH. 
I love the boys so much, but they are a lot of work because they don't obey. It makes me not want to work with them. Sometimes I want to go home, but then I would not make money. So I don't have a choice but to work here. I am looking for a job that can pay more money, but for now I am here at the orphanage. When I find a job that pays more money, I will take it. I don't want to go sit down and wait for my mom to give me money. I want to work and help my family. Because my mother is really old, it is not good for her to work. But she works now to take care of my kids. She has other children to care for with mine. My sisters and brothers have children and she helps them too. 
I don't like Haiti because we work and we don't make enough money. We work and have nothing. We can't do anything we want to do here, and it is miserable living here. But every day I wake up and I work anyways because I don't have a choice. If I don't work, I don't know what I will do.
I believe in Jesus and everything can be possible with Him. I believe in Jesus and I believe He can change all of this for me, but I don't know when. 
My grandmother cannot do anything now because she is too old. It makes me sad when I think about her. 
If I could do one anything right now, I would go somewhere else. I would take my family with me and I would take care of all of them. 
Pray for me and pray for my family. I am happy I could talk and share my story with so many people. Thank you for reading."

I love these people.

Every morning when I wake up, I awake to one huge family. A family consisting of many women and children. I used to tell people the orphanage had about 48 kids on average and 14 or so nannies. I would go into detail about how Haitian women are in charge of specific children and I would tell how they live in separate bunk houses. In my heart that was the perfect way to describe it.
During these past few weeks, however, that description of the orphanage no longer aligns with my heart for this place. It didn't happen overnight and I really can't say exactly when this "movement" began, but this place is a house full of members of my family. Each child plays a significant role and every madam is valued.
I want to take time now to share about the madams and I will do that by giving examples of our lives together.
-The morning I woke up to a series of symptoms of the mumps virus, they were the first ones ready to care for me. We cried together because of the pain, and we laughed together as a distraction. A few days later when one of the madams woke up with the same symptoms, I returned the favor.
-We teach one another English and Creole/French and like to make fun of each other when we confuse vocabulary. For example: I asked a lady here in labor (a whole different story of its own and I will hopefully post about that soon) if she wanted candy. "Ou vle bibon?" is what I asked her. When I heard everyone burst into laughter I suddenly realized I had asked her if she wanted a bottle, not candy. Even the woman in labor got a good laugh out of it. Now, we like to ask each other Ou vle bibon? Another example: Venite told me, in Creole, that she wants to speak SO much English! After that, she proceeded to speak English very quickly. Here is what she said: I love how are we come here sir! It made absolutely no sense and we all rolled on the floor laughing about it.
-We share about our families and we tear up with each other when we miss them.
-We make crazy faces at one another for fun, but even more so when the children act crazy (which is most of the time).
-We talk about how crazy men are and we laugh about how crazy girls are too.
-We call each other on the phone just to say hello when one of us is off campus.
-We cheer each other on when we do something awesome, and sometimes when things around here get stressful we dance the worries away.
-When emergencies arise, you should see our team work.
-We read the bible together and try to talk about it with broken English and Creole.
-We pray for each other and encourage each other when we are down.

These women have become my sisters. While no one could ever replace my family back home, I am so blessed to have a family here in Haiti.
I share some of my life with you through this blog and I want to share some of these women's lives with you as well. I will do that with my new blog series called "Madam's Monday." Mondays will now be dedicated to sharing their stories with you as a way of letting their voices be heard. Each Monday a new madam will be featured- pictures of them along with their story. Tonight will be the first posting of a madam here named Venite! I am excited about this new adventure with them and with you. May God bless you and keep you.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

If Only

If only I could bare my heart and soul to you, reader- whoever you may be.
If I could simply find the guts to begin typing the very questions and truths making their way in and around my veins this day and every day. If only I were that transparent.
I used to be transparent. My best friend always referred to me as the open book, always ready to share anything and everything about myself. She was right. I loved sharing. Loved it.
That was my purpose in creating this blog- to share and journal my life and everything about it in Haiti. My thoughts and experiences so that others could be encouraged. Motivated. Somehow inspired.
Somewhere between the creation of this blog, seeing injured and even dead bodies on the side of these Haitian roads, holding orphans with little or nothing to their names, being infected with the mumps, living in the midst of hopelessness and poverty in every direction, and making plans to be home for the holidays complete with gourmet meals and family/friend time, I want to do anything but post on here. I can't seem to digest anything the Lord has been teaching me, at least not enough to share it with you. The last 23 years of my life are awkwardly colliding with my present life and it has literally brought me to a place where I seem to be incapable of discussing or making any sense of it for anyone else to understand.
The day to day lessons I am learning are for me and only me. No one else is in this season of my life and it is a calling God has given ME to carry out and walk with Him.
All of the dreams I had are up in the air and if someone were to ask me what I wanted to do with my life, I could not give an answer even if my very life depended on it. Marriage? Children? Traveling? Teacher of the Year? Grad school? Adoption? Foster care? Open an orphanage? I don't have a clue what I want. I can't see as far as tomorrow or identify any desire or emotion in me.
If only I could find it in me to type everything up to share it with you. Be transparent. The open book that I am.
One day I will again be able to post and even be extremely specific about all God is doing and showing.
But, not today. Today I blindly walk into tomorrow. And I am okay with that, for He holds my today and tomorrow.