I remember learning in the 8th grade that Haiti was the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and that Fonds-Parisien was a poor town, in the poorest country, in the Western Hemisphere. At the time, I was a little embarrassed. Now when I think about it though, among so many other feelings, I feel proud. I am proud of my parents and I am grateful for their journeys.
I was a brat when I was a younger. Don't judge me ... I think even the most humble americanized child will reveal his or her inner brattiness when faced with the daily struggles of living in a 3rd world country. Whenever I visited Haiti, I hated it. I hated the mosquitoes that ate me alive, the non-existent plumbing, the outdoor makeshift communal showers, and the goats that always got a little too close to me for comfort. I was a brat.
As I got older though, I realized that this was the reality for so many people in this world and that many of them would never know of anything different. I also realized that this was my father's reality growing up and that he probably never complained (he's so pleasant). Further, I realized that I am only one generation removed from this lifestyle. This could have easily been my life.
So why isn't it?
Now I know that it's because God has blessed me with the most amazing, hardworking, selfless set of parents that a girl could ever dream of. I think every parent wants to give their child a better life than they had and my parents have done that and more.
My parents' successes did not happen over night. They worked really hard in school and eventually they were able to emigrate to Brooklyn, New York. This is a pivotal part of the story because Brooklyn is where I was born (my birth being arguably the greatest thing that ever happened to their lives ... shhh! Don't tell my sisters). They worked smaller jobs in Brooklyn to get by and this city was able to offer more opportunities than any they left behind in Haiti, but still, it was not without its cons.
The area in Brooklyn where we lived wasn't the safest and it can be really really difficult to raise a family and make a decent living in Brooklyn. That being said, after 8 years of living there, they once again emigrated to Toronto, Canada.
Toronto is where everything finally began to come together for them. They both continued their education, earning Graduate degrees at their respective universities and were able to have really great careers in both healthcare and finance. When I think about the childhood I had, growing up in Toronto, it seems baffling to me that somehow my parents were able to make so much of the cards they were dealt. I had a really great childhood, in a great neighborhood, with a huge yard to play in and I went to really good schools. I had everything I needed in life and most of what I wanted. When I look at the pictures above, beginning from the town where my father grew up and ending with our neighborhood today, it doesn't seem real to me. It's baffling that someone could make so much out of so little.
I have the utmost respect for my parents and their hard work. They've taught me that I really can accomplish anything I set my mind to and their story is a constant reminder that I have no excuses. They've literally done every possible thing to ensure that my sisters and I could have a decent life and they are the biggest inspirations to me. I can't wait for the day when I can finally say to them "you can stop working now, I got you!"