Berline 34 years old
In the four years, I traveled to Haiti, I remember Berline because her house sits at the top of a tall hill and every day as I would pass while walking to the orphanage, she would stand up and wave to me and smile. She has such a genuine smile and soul and it took two years before I actually met her face to face. As soon as we met, she hugged me and wouldn’t let go.
Berline was raised by a father and mother who had a steady relationship throughout her whole childhood. Her mom taught her how to cook and do laundry and ever since she was 6 years old, she has been a professional at it. Berline’s father has recently passed away and so her mother now lives at her house with her and is able to be involved with her life and her children. Berline does not have a job but she grows corn and watermelon in her garden in which she sells at the market every Tuesday.
Berline has four children and she could not even put into words how much she loves them. “My favorite thing about being a mom is when my children include me in their games, it always makes me feel as though I am their age again. Sometimes we run around and play make-believe games, making houses between the laundry hanging on the clothesline, other times we sit and we talk and joke together”. Berline and her daughter have the same exact wide and bright smile that you can see from a mile away. I have known her youngest daughter for 4 years now. My friends and I called her “the market girl with the beautiful smile”, but now we know her as Berlin’s daughter, Lovenaika. Berline had mentioned that she sometimes cannot provide her children with the right nutrients and when that happens, kids in Haiti often deal with their hair turning a light shade of red which indicates malnourishment. Berline loves to sit and braid her children’s hair but for a few months, she has not been able to braid her youngest son’s hair because it is malnourished and painful. He is the one sitting on her lap in the photo.
Berline has been known for making extremely good mamba on flatbread. Mamba is made out of peanuts in which she grows herself. She cooks the peanuts in oil and grinds them down to a smooth paste and sometimes she adds some sugar when she has some. Following her interview, she made us each some mamba on bread as a ‘thank you’ gift for sitting and talking with her. “You are my friends and I want you to taste something I am very proud of”.
Berline talked for a while about her discomfort with the way Haitian women cannot find jobs. “It is easier for men to work because there are more jobs readily available for them, but very few men return home to help their wives and children financially which is why I wish I made enough money to cook dinner each night”.
Throughout the many interviews I experienced during my time in Haiti, Berline was the first woman who was able to say that she dreamed big dreams for her life. “I dream often. I dream to find an objective in my life. I dream of being able to travel and figure out more about the world”. Berline said that she will always stay in Ti Palmiste. She loves the people around her, she loves the motos, she loves the market day and she loves how hospitable everyone is. “When one of my people needs help, I help them. When I need help, they help me”. Berline says that she is thankful for her friends because they make her laugh and once a year they all take their children to the beach to play in the water and sand. “We listen to music and have a good time enjoying each other’s company, and taking in all that our country is to us. My life has never been lonely, it always seems as though there is someone who wants to be around me and enjoy my company”.
Berline sees so much good in the world. Despite the impoverished place she lives. Some afternoons on my walk to the orphanage she would run down the rocky path from the hill, where her house was, just to hold my hand and walk with me up the steepest part of the road. To me, that is a great depiction of who is is as a person.