I am really not sure if I will be able to get through this posts without tears streaming down my face. As many of you know, I have the privilege to be part of an amazing non-profit called Reach Out LaFond. Their mission is to provide education right in the children’s own community. Thus allowing them to have a hope for their future while being able to stay at home with their family.
In 2015 was my first trip there after years of being called to service in the country. With all the ways in which God wanted me to be there, I declined them all with fear on the mind, self-doubt and being unsure. Walking into a massage for the first time, the woman working on me started to talk about her trips to Haiti and I just knew I had to go with her. Without asking too many questions, I trusted her to take me for the first time to Haiti to do God’s work. From there this woman not only become a role model of trusting God’s plan and being fearful but she became a sincere friend.
Over the years I watched the women in the LaFond, Haiti village I visited every year. I watched their strength and in 2017, I had the opportunity to go and interview the multiple women over there.
This is a new series on Self Love Beauty called ‘The Strong Women of Haiti’. These women have taught me so much that I cannot wait to share with each of you.
“When you give everything and expect nothing in return, only then will you be in a position to gain anything. When you love loving, you give because giving is getting. Giving is a gift unto itself, and when you realize this you understand that you can’t network if you can’t love.”
The quote above describes my whole experience with Adila Atilis.
Adila’s the definition of someone who gives all she has even when she has nothing.
I was in my third day in Haiti. We got up, had breakfast and headed for the long walk to interview some strong women. home. The walk was an hour long. A hour of straight up and down. It rained the night before so not only was the brick and red dirt wet, but the mix of humidity was very warm. We made it to this woman’s house, in pure sweat. And when I saw pure sweat, its the can’t wipe sweat off your face because none of your clothes have a dry spot.
As I approached her home, I was invited into her porch for the interview. The smile on this woman’s faced was beautiful. She was so excited to invite me in and pulled up chairs for myself, the translator and her.
Adila is a single mother of seven children. She raises them all on her own after her husband left to move to Petit-Goave, a city about three hours from the village. Adila touched my life the minute we started this interview. Her strength to raise seven children after her husband left her is outstanding. She provides for her family by utilizing her garden to feed them and if the garden produces enough, she is able to sell this produce at the market for money for her family for other items she needs. The garden is made up of plantains [literally my favorite], yams and pumpkins mainly.
As you can imagine, tending to seven kids, cooking for them and making sure they have clean clothes is already a full time job, so tending to a garden is another job in itself.
Before I share more I want to put a few things into perspective. First, cooking in Haiti vs American is different. You don’t just microwave something quickly, heck making coffee can be more than an hour job depending on your experience [Nope K-Cups don’t exist there]. They don’t all have refrigerators either so everything is prepared fresh. They don’t have a grocery store to be pre packaged meals or cut of fruit/veggies. They do all this on their own, every meal. Secondly, their gardens aren’t on flat land and sometimes not even in their backyard. Adila’s garden is on a steep hill and is about a 15 minute walk from her home. Again, she could go to the market and buy it all like most Americans do, but she doesn’t have the money so she puts the work in everyday to tend to it to feed her family.
Have you ever struggled with money to take care of your family? Some of us but some of us haven’t. Adila struggles for the essentials at most times because most of the food from her garden goes to her children and not to sell at the market. With this struggle, the LaFond village comes together to help her when she sees it. The men around her help with payments until she finds enough money to pay them back. They also help her fix things so she has additional hands.
A 5:00am wake up call to care for her kids. She gets up early to prepare their breakfast and get them ready for school. Sound familiar to our lives? After she gets them ready her children walk themselves to school everyday. It’s the same walk I did to her house…one hour up and down a mountain to school and the same track back. After her kids leave for school, she cleans up the house and heads to the garden to pull weeds, take care of the garden and any ready food she brings home to prepare for her family. If there is laundry to be done, she loads the laundry into a basket, puts it onto of her head and head to the river which is 20 minutes away. When she gets home from a days work, you can find her cooking dinner for her family and preparing for the next day.
Adila is strong. She is built strong but in so many ways. She can physically carry a lot as she travels the mountains but strong to take care of seven children.
I asked Adila what she believes strong means? She shared strength comes from being able to do activity to take care of your family and yourself and being weak is being unable to provide.
To her it is that simple.
As the interview continue, we got more comfortable with each other. She was stunning. Have you ever met someone who just is pure beautiful by the way they talk, smile, how proud they are? This woman was just so proud of so much.
However, nothing in life is always 100% perfect. Some of the hardest things we go through people do not understand.
As the comfort level got better, I asked her ‘What is a challenge in her life?’
Instant tears came to her eyes. I sat there a little confused because it was instant and my translator felt a little uncomfortable repeating to me everything she said. She looked at me with tears running down her face when she shared that the hardest challenge is when she is unable to provide for her family, again something she sees as a weakness. She shared that sometimes the family goes without food because they do not have enough because the harvest is too small.
Taking care of her family brings her so much pride just as it would to anyone. I mean imagine not being able to provide for them?
After a longer chat, we were able connect more. But the feeling of emotion in my throat was strong from holding back tears myself.
After about an hour of spending time together, it was time for my team and I to leave. As I was about to leave she asked the translator something and they looked at me.
He turned to tell me what she said with a rather curious facial expression and said ‘she wants to know if you and your friends would like something to eat?’
Rather confused as we just talked about how she didn’t have food for her family I gave a polite ‘no but thank you’ response. The translator then looked at me and said I should take the food because in their culture it is rude not.
Thats when tears started streaming down face when I said yes to her. She just smiled and handed out oranges for everyone and a pumpkin for us to take back with us. My thoughts went back to the conversation I just had with her. She barely had food to feed her family but was willing to give strangers food as a thankful gift for celebrating? Imagine if each of us did what she did…gave a little even when we didn’t have much to give. I sat there speechless for a few minutes.
After we enjoyed these snacks, we were preparing to leave for our next interview, I handed the pumpkin to one of our volunteers but Atilis insisted on carrying it herself. She carried the pumpkin for me all the way to my next interviewed, waited for that interview to be over and then carried the pumpkin up a steep mountain to show me her garden [remember how I said it was a hill…well try a mountain!]. I wish I could show you her face, it lit up the minute she started pointing to her garden. You know the face of pride? That was exactly what her face looked like, beaming ear to ear. After we check out her garden we still had about 30 minutes left of our trip. Many of us were tired at that point so the trip back took a little longer. We were all prepared with water and tennis shoes but had difficulties. Adila and the guy walking us around the town both waited patiently as we needed breaks. She carried that pumpkin on her head, with no shoes and a dress. I was in awe in her pose as it was humid, slippery and it had been a long day. When we reached our location of stay, we hugged goodbye.
That night I laid in bed with tears streaming down my eyes again with so many things running through my mind. How could someone with so little be willing to still give to me? Why doesn’t everyone do it? Why did she not even think twice when we think before we give?
I prayed that night for the strength to give like she did.
Everyday I carry her kindness with me. I think about the way she touched my life and what truly matters in life.
No matter what you are going through know it matters. It matters a lot. But it also should push you to give to others because someone else is going through something to.
Be strong. Be kind. And know that kindness and small gestures are something people remember forever.
If you would like to learn about Reach Out LaFond visit their website to be involved or donate at reachoutlafond.org.