Name: Darline C.
Big Goal: Study International Relations and become a Development Agent for Haiti
Big Obstacle: Tuition Fees
What Darline Needs: Tuition support; work experience; access to technology

Darline is in her final year of studies at College Classique d’Haiti, located in Port-au-Prince, where she lives with her parents and two sisters.

In a country where people already struggle with very limited means, the loss of an income can be financially devastating. That’s exactly the situation 19-year-old Darline’s family is in: her father, a driver, was severely injured in a car accident and can no longer work. In North America, most of us can rely on disability benefits after an accident to augment the family income and help make ends meet. Haiti has no such relief programs.

Darline’s mother is a trained pastry chef, a vocation that can bring considerable income in some cultures. But who buys fancy pastries when there is barely enough money to put food on the table? So, with no market for her skills nor a job that allows her to ply her trade, she works long hours keeping house for others at low wage rates in order to support her family.

This situation makes affording education, the path out of poverty, unattainable for this family.

So, what does that really look like? Haiti’s legal minimum wage is currently $4.00/day, but with unemployment statistics of 60% and low literacy levels, many people earn much less than that, working for whatever they can get to support their families. Plus, with university fees in the country running between $2,000 – $3,000 per annum, the cost of education is beyond the means of many families.

For Darline, a part-time job would enable her to gain work experience while saving for her education. Yet getting a job is just not that easy. One of the economic tragedies of high unemployment is the reality of the employers’ market. With not enough jobs to go around, employers have their pick of employees and many skilled people work for low pay. This makes attaining a job even harder for young students, graduating with hope and passion for a brighter future but no tangible work experience. It’s a “Catch 22” situation: no work experience = no job = no work experience, and so the struggle is perpetuated.

A Vision for the Future

While most North American young women are focused on their future career, current fashions and music, and perhaps whom they might be dating, Darline’s thoughts are spent on more visionary topics. At such a tender age, she can already see what is needed in her world: the things that people need to survive, that a community needs in order to grow, and what a country needs to rebuild.

From a very early age, Darline has envisioned herself as a development agent for Haiti. Fiercely passionate about her country’s culture, her goal is to study international relations abroad, then return to Haiti to help artists earn a living from their art. Says Darline, “Haiti has many wonderful artists, but no one here has the money to buy their work, so they can’t earn a living. With technology, we can share these talents with people around the world and artists can make money and have hope again.” Darline’s vision is of a Haiti where artists can support their families with their work, creating business and educational opportunities.

As part of her quest, Darline is currently studying foreign languages online so that she can communicate with people in other countries, but access to technology is a challenge so her progress is slow.

From Darline’s perspective, success is only real when it can be shared – otherwise it is worthless. “In Haiti there is so much misery and young people are willing to do anything to survive. That’s not living. I want to bring more meaning to people’s lives by helping them to earn a living from their skills,” says Darline.

by Aileen Provan