Gabrielle Fleurisma remembers the duality of life in Haiti.
“There is lots of poverty in the country and if the crops fail, people literally starve to death,” she said. “There is lots of tragedy and life is hard. It seems there is always a hurricane, earthquake, famine, epidemic, or political unrest.”
She remembers 2003-2004 when school was delayed because of political unrest. “Imagine having a time like the pandemic last year but with no Zoom,” she said. “We couldn’t go to school for six months.”
Gabrielle and her siblings grew up in Gonaives in northern Haiti. Her father, Actionel, is the director of Operation Force for Christ Bayonnais Community, a village about 26 miles from town. As part of the operation, about 1,900 students are fed on one of the three campuses.
“Government officials do not put a lot of money back into the infrastructure of Haiti so a 26-mile trip can take over an hour,” Gabrielle said. “A trip to the capital city of Port-au-Prince can take four hours from Bayonnais because of the condition of the roads.”
She also remembers a Haiti of joy and hope. “The people are very happy there because of the strong sense of community. We would walk around the neighborhood, and we knew everyone. It was not unusual to drop by and visit with each other.”
“There is also a strong sense of generosity,” she said. “If you have extra mangos or avocados you share with others.”
“The people are also very religious,” she said. “Everyone spends a lot of time in church and the spiritual life of Haiti is very important. We have hope.”
Gabrielle came the states when she was 19. She was involved in the youth program at First Baptist as a DNow leader and summer camp chaperone.
Her sisters and brother are all in the United States now. She has a master’s degree in economics from UNCC and her other siblings are in school or married. She is working for a Human Resources firm as a benefits specialist.
It has been over two years since her parents have visited the states because of the pandemic. She says they stay in touch with WhatsApp messaging and video conferences.
“Home is home is home,” she said as sadness touched her eyes. “I do miss it, but I don’t miss the instability. Every year we would have to stop school because of a gas shortage, or the teachers were not being paid, or something.”
In 2019, 60% of the money raised at World Hunger Day went to Friends Empowering Haiti, a mission of love and hope for Bayonnais. The money goes a long way – $5 feeds a student for a month. But with so many students, the annual food budget is still close to $100,000. Donations from all over the Charlotte area help educate, feed, and care for the children there. Learn more at https://mailchi.mp/750e5fddd29e/friends-empowering-haiti.
World Hunger Day is set for Saturday, September 25th starting at 7 a.m. A huge yard sale, silent auction, and food vendors will take over the campus and money raised will benefit food ministries like the Friends Empowering Haiti, Angels & Sparrows, Caterpillar Ministries, the Community Breakfast, and Loaves & Fishes. Gently used donations for World Hunger Day start Saturday, Sept. 18 from 10am – 4pm, Sunday, Sept. 19 from 2pm – 5pm and Mon – Thu, Sept. 20 – 23 from 4pm -7pm at the church north parking lot.