This past week was quite sobering for most of us who hail from the United States. Any time tragedy strikes, it's always a brutal reminder that the world can be such a dark, evil and ugly place.
In Haiti, those reminders are far too frequent and consistent. With fragile governments systems, poor healthcare, lack of economic stability and less than ideal infrastructure, there can be rude awakenings almost daily that hail a chorus pieced together by injustice and the pains of poverty.
Yet, there are other moments, testimonies and stories that sing a different song. These are the stories of victory and triumph. The ones that remind us that there is still so much good left in this world worth fighting for.
Last year I met a woman named Veronica*. She was a single, widowed mother of three in her thirties. Her family had always looked to her as a source of stability and income, but, the death of her husband took an incredible toll and provided for an insurmountable weight to lay heavy upon her shoulders.
She had always worked in the market as a "machann," a woman of commerce, but with the ever increasing needs of her family, more drastic action had to be taken. She had heard that markets were more lucrative across the border in the Dominican Republic. Veronica began spending time and money traveling to the DR in an attempt to make a living for her family.
Soon, the weight of her families needs were beginning to cave in on her.
It wasn't enough.
Veronica began to grow desperate, and heard that women on the beaches of Sosua were making more than a living wage.
Out of desperation and the sheer urgency to provide food, clothing, schooling and shelter for her children, Veronica found herself becoming tangled within the web of prostitution.
Over the next few years, Veronica would often go nine and ten months without seeing her children. She would only go out and work to make the money needed to support her family. Disgusted by the lifestyle, she refused to call it by its true name. She never recognized herself as a prostitute or took that on as a part of her identity. She would pray at night that God would somehow make a way for her to leave this life and one day return to her children.
Veronica began to attend a local church, and found some community members who offered her help when they could to keep her from going out on the street. She dedicated her life to God and knew that this was not the life she was supposed to live.
Her prayers did not go unanswered.
A Canadian woman, who had been working as a journalist in the Sosua area reporting on the realities of prostitution and sex-trafficking in the Dominican Republic befriended Veronica. She listened to her story, and set out to try her hardest to help this woman leave the bonds of prostitution and return to her children once and for all. She connected Veronica to a group of missionaries who did outreach on the beaches specifically to women involved in prostitution.
It was then, through the channels of grace and divine intervention, that Veronica was connected to Jasper House Haiti.
In late September 2015, she crossed the border once and for all and traveled back to Haiti where her life would receive a chance to begin again.
For the next three months, Veronica lived in our home. Attended bible study, worked on her reading, writing and french, and began to learn to make jewelry.
However, Veronica wanted nothing more than to return to her family and children for christmastime.
Along with the amazing generosity of some incredible individuals, Jasper House Haiti was able to award Veronica with a small micro-loan to begin buying and selling in the markets of her home in Cap-Haitiën, northeast, Haiti.
On December 22nd, 2015, Veronica was reunited with her three beautiful children.
Just the other day, almost exactly six months later, I received a message from her with the following words:
"Good afternoon Maria. I say thank you for everything you have done for me because God has sent me on a road that has changed my life. Today I say thank you because I feel I have changed completely. I want you to know that I am getting married next month, and I am very happy."
Hearing these words brought me to tears. Darkness abounds, but where there is darkness, there is also a powerful force of light that extinguishes the darkest corners of the world.
This is why Jasper House Haiti exists.
We exist to help mothers leave the street and return to their families with dignity and pride.
We exist to provide a safe, loving environment for women who have endured unthinkable tragedy to be restored and have the chance begin again.
We exist to offer education and empowerment to give women the power to take control of their lives and destinies.
So, while there will always be darkness looming about it, we will be fighting to extinguish that darkness with ever fiber of light we have been given.
We will continue to work to see that more women in Haiti have the opportunity to know that they are loved, valued and cherished and have a purpose and a destiny.
Right now, we currently are in need of $5000.00 to renew the annual lease of the downstairs portion of our home to continue operating.
Will you join us in this fight?
*Names have been changed for the protection and privacy of the mentioned individuals and their families.
Written by Jasper House Haiti Founder/CEO, Maria Atkinson
To read more of her writing and to learn more about her story, visit her blog, Going Forth.