“Compassion is a gift to be shared. Freely we have received, so freely
let us give.”
Haiti’s rural poor – 85% of the nation’s population migrate from the countryside in large numbers to join the cities. As is typical of migration, people leave for a better life. They come without knowing anyone and without a place to stay. Therefore with limited options, they swell and crowd the shantytowns. As a result of this, they sleep in the streets or build a lean-to shelter using rotten corrugated metal sheets and pieces of cardboard. Subsequently, all towns in Haiti contain these shantytowns. These congested living spaces are incredibly unhealthy and unsanitary neighborhoods. One of the shantytowns is named Petite Place Cazeau. It has a population of about 10,000 people.
It is there that Marenn Parenn pou Haiti was created and had been slowly developing since January 1990. The catalysts behind Marenn Parenn are two Haitian professionals who grew up in their country, left, and have returned to help alleviate the poverty that has become endemic. They identified Petite Place Cazeau as a neighborhood needing desperate help. The shantytowns include many underprivileged children. Consequently, a large number are orphans. Most don’t go to school, and sadly many don’t even have a meal a day.
However, the two pioneers proposed that if they could help mothers start small vending businesses. The children would benefit from food and the opportunity to attend two small neighborhood schools for impoverished children. The experience was a success. They were able to register children into two schools. Some of the students were very bright and had tremendous success over other children with a more economical means.
Some mothers needed more than just financial support. As word of this effort spread, it grew beyond the volunteer, self-funded capacity of the two pioneers. They then invited a close friend living in the U.S. and her network of colleagues and church members to help by sponsoring or becoming Marenn or Parenn to individual children. Respectively, Marenn Parenn has blossomed into a nonprofit organization whose mission is to impact the young people and their families of Petite Place Cazeau.
While one small nonprofit organization cannot hope to address all of Haiti’s challenges, we believe our focus on a contained community. Petite Place Cazeau, a Population of 10,000, will enable us to see real change in just five years. We have one fundamental belief that education is the key to what ails these families. If we can assist at least one family member in graduating from school, they can give back and help others within the community.
My name is Luvio Martino, and I am 24 years old. My brother Medlin and I were accepted into the Marenn-Parenn’s program in 2002 when I was five years old. We lived with our father in a hut on an empty piece of land at Petite Place Cazeau during that time.
Our father did not have the means to feed us or send us to school. MAPA provided our daily meals and provided school fees and materials for me right at the onset of the sponsorship. Medlin used to accompany me to school every day for the first two years because no one was available to take care of him during the day.
The principal of the school, a Christian lady, babysat him while I was in class. My father was very sick and died in 2004. At that point, my brother and I found placement by MAPA’s Project Director with another MAPA-sponsored family in the neighborhood. The organization continued to provide for us through our sponsors.
I feel blessed to have been sponsored through MAPA’s program. With all the help, I could then finish Secondary School and learn a trade in installing ceramic tiles. I am currently living an independent life, managing my own business of selling soda and performing random jobs of ceramic tiles installation.
I’ve been able to also take care of my brother Medlin who lives with me. Medlin is currently completing his last year of Secondary School. He has been getting help from his MAPA sponsors, who became his official godmother and godfather, and stayed connected with us on an individual basis after our phasing out from the sponsorship program.
We are very grateful to Marenn-Parenn. As orphans at a young age, we would have never made it to where we are without the help and nurturing from the MAPA sponsors and leadership. There are young people in the community of Petite Place Cazeau who are struggling to make it in their adulthood, although they had both parents taking care of them.