Meet Micheline: A Year End Letter from CHP Director Wynn Walent
Meet Micheline. She’s second from the right in the photo above, the youngest of our girls’ empowerment mentors. Micheline attended St. Paul’s School from Pre-K to 8th grade, transferred to the local high school in Petit Trou de Nippes, and returned to St. Paul’s last year as a mentor and teachers’ assistant. She lives 100 yards or so from the school, where she shares a two-room, dirt-floor, thatched-roof home with her mother and four siblings.
Below is a photo of Micheline and her uncle, Jean Fritz. Long-time friends of CHP will remember that Jean Fritz, in addition to being a talented carpenter and artisan, plays a key role in St. Paul’s founding story. The short version of that story goes like this: When Father Lafontant, CHP’s co-founder, first came upon the town of Petit Trou de Nippes, he met Jean Fritz, then a young man on a bicycle. The two spoke and quickly became friends, with Jean Fritz selling Father Lafontant on the many virtues of his hometown of Petit Trou. Jean Fritz helped Father Lafontant make contact with local leaders in the area, and the rest as they say, is history.
There’s another part of Jean Fritz’s story, a part which came a few years later, that you likely haven’t heard. In 1992 Jean Fritz boarded a small, rickety boat and took to choppy seas towards Miami in search of a better life.
The ship didn’t make it, and Jean Fritz and his fellow passengers spent four months in detention in Cuba before being returned to Haiti. On my last trip to Haiti I visited with Jean Fritz and Micheline and we spoke about the past, present, and future of Petit Trou. Jean Fritz expressed the following:
“Petit Trou is beautiful, it’s home, it’s family. I never tried to leave because I wanted to. I left because I felt I had no choice but to try for a real life, a better life.”
As I listened to Jean Fritz I glanced over at Micheline, who watched him with love and compassion. I could sense her trying to imagine what it would be like to feel so utterly optionless that she would climb aboard a boat and take her chances. Over the past 18 months I’ve gotten to know Micheline through her thoughtful, poised, and compelling responses to my efforts to learn more about her community through conversation and dialogue. She is not only intelligent, she is wise beyond her years, and she gives me great hope for the future of Petit Trou and of Haiti more broadly.
CHP’s goal is to grow and invest in local leaders; to supply resources and create opportunity so that Petit Trou becomes a place to raise a healthy family. We play a humble but impactful role in creating a Petit Trou that is strong from the inside out. Through years of community-based work, our primary commitment continues to be to the children and families of St. Paul’s School. As you may have read in previous updates, the leadership at St. Paul’s recently managed a difficult situation, this due to the potentially dangerous vulnerability of the school structure. Our 322 children are still in school and on campus, but they no longer use the main school building.
Over the next nine months we will build a new structure for Kindergarten to 6th Grade, complete a retrofit and reinforcement plan for the existing school building, and transition to solar power for the campus.
We are committed to moving forward with this essential campus development while also continuing our important investments in girls’ empowerment, agriculture, and community health, these being vital components of a community that can grow with our students once they graduate. This is only possible with your generous support.
As the end of the year approaches, we ask that you consider a year-end gift that will allow us to continue to invest in the talents, dreams, and vision of our friends in Haiti, while also providing a safe setting for the youngest of our children to grow and learn in.
I recently sat with Micheline outside her home and shared the news that she would be CHP’s newest university scholarship student. Her voice cracked and she thanked our supporters in Colorado. She focused not on what the scholarship would do for her personally, but what it would do for her community, with her as an instrument for progress.
Thank you for investing in Micheline and for believing in the future of St. Paul’s, of Petit Trou, and of Haiti. We look forward to keeping you posted on the great things to come in 2019.
Warmly and with gratitude,