I met Nessa the first morning of our trip. She was 9 years old. The year was 2007 and it was my first trip to Haiti. She appeared out of nowhere, with arms folded in fierce determination. She said “Mwen vle ale lekòl”. “I want to go to school”. We figured she must have scaled the 10-foot gate to get into the convent where we warehoused all the backpacks in Bureau LeClerc.
Like so many children, the poverty in Haiti prohibited Nessa from going to school because schools were not free. Statistics report that 50 percent of Haitian children do not attend school. Approximately 30% of children attending primary school will not make it to third grade and 60% will abandon school before sixth grade. Nessa refused to be another child included in these statistics.
However, as much as we would love to take them all, we had to explain to Nessa that we would not be able to take more children into the Child Sponsorship program. There were too many children already waiting for sponsors. So with sadness and disappointment she scaled back over the gate and left us.
The next day, first thing in the morning, stands Nessa at the door of Bureau LeClerc. I am quite impressed at her ability to scale that gate. She stands with confidence and conviction not typical of a 9-year-old. She tells me “Mwen vle ale lekòl”. “I want to go to school”. We explained to this little girl once again that we could not promise her this quest. Sad and stubbornly, back over the gate she goes.
Yup. The next morning there’s Nessa, arms folded, more tenacious than ever. She tells me again. “Mwen vle ale lekòl”. “I want to go to school”. I see this little girl means business. Having worn us down we told her to return with her mother so we could better understand the family’s situation and if possible add Nessa to the list of children waiting for sponsors.
Back over the gate, she runs home and returns with her mother in less than half an hour. I speak with Nessa with one of our interpreters and learn she lives down the hill, has 2 sisters and a brother, who also do not attend school, and her favorite color is purple. When I asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up her immediate response was “Président”. No surprise there. Nessa was one step closer to achieving her dream of going to school.
What I saw was one of the most passionate of 9 year olds believing in never giving up. I knew she was to be a great student and successful at whatever she put her mind to. So I asked if I could sponsor her and there was "a resounding yes". Nessa was my new idol.
That was 10 years ago and I have been able to see my dear child and friend every year since. Nessa is now 18 and will be attending Secondary school in the fall. She works hard, is an A student and has decided she will be a journalist. Work she believes is a method to get out the word on how Haiti can and will rise above poverty and prosper.
I am very fortunate to be a part of Nessa’s life.