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Neelley Hicks

Monique Gaston (third from right) stands with staff and visitors outside the Haiti Artisans for Peace International compound in Mizak, Haiti. From left are: James Lazarre, Eddy Joassaint, Yolande Gabriel, Paul Prevost, Gaston, Jean Claude Gard and Valerie

‘HAPI is a light that shines for me’

A UMNS Commentary
7:00 A.M. ET March 19, 2013 | MIZAK, Haiti

I am Monique Gaston. I am 34 years old, and I have been married for 14 years. My husband's name is Liphete Content, and he is 43. We have two children, a girl named Sarah, age 13 years, and a boy named Anderson, age 10.

Today I am very happy to talk with you about how I lived before I was employed by HAPI.

When I was newly married, I had a teaching job at a private school, but the pay was very unsatisfactory. At this time, my husband was employed at a neighborhood store as a maintenance person. The store also did not provide much income, but we worked together to manage what we received each month. We were able to put the children in school, pay the doctor, and provide food and clothing.

When the kids started growing, I saw they cost more money because the school became more expensive. I had to look for other work to pay my expenses, but I could not find another job. I had to leave my job at the school because the pay was so low that it could not even cover the costs of me leaving my house each day. I spent more than three years looking, but I could not find work. I spent my time giving my children education (home schooling) and I helped other children in the neighborhood in their lessons. Their parents gave me a little money to help me to survive.

In September 2011, HAPI came to visit my neighborhood to make formation for the young people. Thankfully, someone noticed me, and I was chosen to participate in a seminar on project management.

I was hired at HAPI in November 2011. I was like a baby that is breastfeeding: Valerie gave me milk and Paul held my hand while I took my first step. Today, the only name I will remember working for is HAPI. With money I am paid from HAPI, I can run to the doctor if my child is sick. In my teaching job, my voice was always hoarse, and I had a constant stomachache. Since I entered HAPI, I am not sick anymore, only maybe a small cold or fever.

Valerie sent money to pay a teacher to give a course on computers. It was a wonderful program for all the people who are a part of HAPI staff but who could not send reports by email (lacked the knowledge). What made me the saddest is when I received an email that said Valerie will stop the program because the funds were finished. I cried. With this in mind, we took what we had learned to do our work, but it was not yet enough.

We continued with Ash (Global Ministries mission intern) who gave us short, daily lessons until today. His contract with HAPI is now finished. However, I believe we will be able to continue.

Before I came to HAPI, I paid for a computer course. I can say I lost my money. With the program HAPI paid for, I have the courage to say I feel that I know how to use a computer!

In my closing words, HAPI is a light that shines for me wherever I go!

Thanks,
Monique