She was already 8 years old when she left her family to live at an orphanage. Though she had been raised by her dad and mom, times were tough without employment, and there were days of hunger and children without schooling, so when the opportunity arose for she and her sister to be cared for at a new orphanage in town, her mother agreed, and Magalie spent two years under the care of Cap Haitian Children’s home.
Seven years later she would start her employment at another childcare facility. Children of the Promise had moved to Lagossette and along with her mother and sister, and many aunts and cousins, too, Magalie began to build a different life for her future than what she experienced in her own youth.
I first met Magalie when we moved to Haiti in 2012. She was one of the nannies working in our daughter, Rose’s room in the days before we could take Rose to live with us. She was a nanny who played so well with the babies, hoisting them over her shoulder for a game of piggy-bag, giving gentle tosses, and zurberts. Rose loved her! I was still a very new Creole speaker and after stumbling through a basic greeting and trying to ask about how Rose was doing, she responded with, “you can speak English if you want.” Her eyes smiled and I knew right away she could be a friend.
Last year when admissions dropped and lay-offs were necessary, Magalie lost her job. Then she entered an unexpected pregnancy. Her jaw tightened when she told me she was going to have a baby and she wasn’t sure what she was going to do. “Bondye konnen – God knows”.
We talked about healthy pregnancy and birth and healthy babies. We talked about worries, family support, and scared baby’s daddies, too; how life and priorities change with a baby, how she was going to keep this child, how she was going to be a Mom. How there are mistakes and redemption.
In November Nevenson was born, plump and healthy, with silky brown skin, perfect black rings of hair, and all the needs of one who wakes wet or scared or hungry in the night, demanding Mama’s all. Magalie just looked and looked at him with the amazement and pride of a new Mom. She told me even if she had to raise him on her own, she was going to do her best for him, and I believed her.
Raising a baby is not an easy thing in Haiti. There is no running water or toilet or even electricity in Magalie’s house. Sometimes while at home, it is less expensive to do extra laundry than to pay for disposable diapers. While the house is now cinder block instead of stick and mud, and the nag of hunger and malnutrition has moved to someone else’s place, these increments of progress, still leave hardship.
There are mosquitoes that carry diseases that endanger the lives of Haiti’s little ones so all the worries of fever and illness that we have in the Western world are amplified with the knowledge that there may be no Tylenol for the fever that ravages. There is no WebMD or nurse call line to access for pressing fears in the night. There is so little money for a trip to the hospital or the moto ride as you bounce along the dirt road through sugarcane fields, cradling your baby to your chest and praying. These unexpected needs often mean asking, once again, for help from a neighbor or friend; once again trusting that God has placed the resources somewhere within your reach to care for your children, or the grace to accept what comes if He has not…
Magalie started working mornings for our family at the start of the school year last year. While I taught Noah and Elijah school in the morning, Magalie helped with watching the girls, walking Natalie to pre-school, and doing some kitchen prep work.
This year I have not needed as much help at home but Magalie has been able to pick up some part time work subbing for other nannies in the family homes, in the baby house, or when there are sick kids in the hospital. In addition to this, she has been chosen to begin working with a team from the US dedicated to increasing entrepreneurial work in Lagossette. They arrive next week to begin training for a product that Magalie and other family members will be able to make from home and sell to both local tourists and potentially for a foreign market as well. Magalie also hopes to start a small home business, using a small loan to buy bundles of used clothes from the US and reselling them to people in the local community.
There is much reason for hope for the future for Magalie and Nevenson. She is young, but she is willing to work hard to support her family if given a chance to do so. Children of The Promise has been able to play just a small part in her life by providing employment and I hope we are able to do so for many years to come! She is such an asset to our community and I am blessed to call her friend.
Christina Vander Pol, MA, LPCC
Infant Mental Health Coordinator
Children of the Promise
Lagossette, Haiti Nord