Gedelene is twenty years old and lives in Wharf Jeremy in Cité Soleil with her husband, Jeff, and their three year old daughter, Shyveechka. Gedelene was born in Dame Marie, Haiti, but when she was just a baby, she and her mother moved to Cité Soleil in order to escape her abusive father. Her mother sold charcoal in order to pay for her daughter to begin attending school at age 5.
In 2004, a gangster named Pepe terrorized Wharf Jeremy killing many people, so Gedelene went back to live in Dame Marie with her father because her neighborhood was too dangerous. When Gedelene returned to Wharf Jeremy two years later, she met her husband Jeff. She became pregnant at age 16, and her mother was so upset that she cut her off financially. Gedelene was forced to drop out of school and find a place to live with Jeff.
Gedelene and Jeff look for jobs every day. Occasionally Jeff finds brief manual labor jobs, though he hasn’t found one in 4 months. Gedelene primarily looks for jobs washing clothes and cleaning, but she has been unsuccessful. When I asked Gedelene how they manage to survive without any money, she said that they rely on God. There is a school in Cité Soleil called St. Luc that sometimes gives out rice and beans. Jeff is friends with the headmaster of the school, so sometimes they receive extra food. She shares it with her neighbors and friends, many of whom, she explains, are worse off than she is. Some days, though, she and her family just go hungry.
Gedelene, who is one of my top students, wishes to help her country but feels that she cannot because she did not finish school. When I ask her if she has any hope that she will one day find the means to go back to school, she says not unless someone helps her financially. Gedelene and Jeff cannot afford to send their daughter to school (children begin school at age 3 in Haiti), so they try to teach her on their own. Gedelene is determined to teach Shyveechka how to read and write because, she says, “Education is freedom.”
Written by Clare Harwood
Clare Harwood is a teacher for We Advance. She has taught in the New York City public school system for 5 years and received a Master’s in English Education at Columbia University Teachers College. For more information check out her blog City of the Sun.