Keeping the Faith, One Family at a Time
Tara Matthews, CMMB’s Corporate Communications Specialist, recently traveled to Côtes-de-Fer, Haiti to collect stories, videos and photos of the work CMMB is doing in the region. This was Tara’s first visit to the developing world and here she shares the impact of her experience.
“Thank you for the opportunities and blessings that I take for granted. Please find a way, full of grace, to remind me each day to give thanks for my beautiful life.”
No one knows that I’m talking to the Holy Spirit on top of a steep hill, high above the donkey parking lot and the local marketplace in Côtes-de-Fer, Haiti. It’s my first time in the field, my first trip to the developing world, the first time I’ve truly come face to face with crippling poverty. I’m overwhelmed and shocked, but I’m keeping my game face on. I’m working in Haiti as CMMB’s story teller and video producer. I’ve got to keep it together.
Côtes-de-Fer is a tropical paradise with breathtaking ocean views. Any place else, and they’d be worth millions, but this is one of the poorest and most remote communities in Haiti – and the world. Economic opportunities are extremely limited and most people are unemployed. Without access to infrastructure for water, electricity, sanitation or healthcare, the community depends on international NGOs like CMMB to meet basic needs.
We’ve trekked to the top of the hill to visit the home of Madame Jonese Boncoeur. She lives in a house barely bigger than a king sized bed with her husband and six children. They have no water, no electricity, no sanitation. Transporting water in 20 liter containers up the hill takes hours. Jonese’s husband is trying to farm, but Haiti is suffering drought and the family can barely transport enough water up the hill to meet basic needs. Watering the garden is not an option. There’s not enough corn to eat or sell. The plants look withered. Much like Jonese, her husband and their six children, the corn is struggling to survive. Now that Jonese has graduated from the CMMB Mother’s Club, she hopes to join the table top garden program or even receive a goat. She smiles at me, nodding, hopeful. She’s learned a lot about keeping her family healthy from the community healthcare workers who lead the club. She’s looking ahead. I’m looking at her six beautiful children and I’m panicking about their next meal. The enormity of the need here is frightening. Yet everyone I meet smiles. They tell me how important it is that their children go to school. They are thankful for the programs, support and healthcare that CMMB has brought to town. They take life day by day.
The Mother’s Club is an important intervention tool in Côtes-de-Fer. Vulnerable families are identified by community healthcare workers and mothers are invited to join. Over the course of 16 weeks, they learn how to improve their personal health and the health of their children. From the importance of breast feeding and nutrition, to hygiene and healthcare, the women diligently practice question and answer drills and sing songs to help them remember key lessons. Their graduation is a joyful mix of ceremony and talent show as they perform skits to show off what they’ve learned to friends and family who cheer them on.
After receiving her certificate, new graduate Junette Felix’s eyes are shining with pride and happiness. She tells me, “By participating and graduating, I’m setting a good example for my children. If I can do it, they can too.” In many CMMB program countries, including Haiti, women who know how to prevent disease and understand what to do when their children are sick are viewed with more respect in their homes and are greatly valued in their communities. The CMMB staff tells me, “We’re proud of our Mothers’ Club graduates, but more important, these women are proud of themselves.”
Over the course of the week, I visit many families as we travel with our cameras around Côtes-de-Fer, every single one desperately poor. They all struggle. But the Mother’s Club ladies give me hope. Up at the mountain clinic in Gris Gris, Nurse Angela Fornesi explains, “If we can improve the health of even one family here, it will make a difference. Healthy children are more likely to go to school. Educated people can change this community.” After working for more than 20 years with the women and children here, I have to trust her good sense and perspective. Suddenly, Father Fayant, the local priest arrives to say hi to the mothers and babies waiting to see Nurse Angela for their monthly check up. I tell him that I’m a Catholic and ask for a blessing. I think it’s the best souvenir I’ve ever taken home. I know that I will always keep the women and children of Côtes-de-Fer in my thoughts and prayers. I’m trying to keep the faith that one family at a time, health and prosperity will come to the beautiful people of Côtes-de-Fer.
Tara Matthews is freelance creative writer/producer, proud mom of Hadley and Brandt and a very patient gardener.