Friday, April 19, 2013

Why ElevateHer International??

See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction…Now choose life, so that you and your children may live…Deut 30: 15; 19b

I was born in Gonaives, Haiti; a small city, just a few miles from the Gulf of Gonave.  In that city I received my very first course on Entrepreneurship.  Not by Donald Trump or some other successful CEO, and not by some NGO promising to develop the leaders of tomorrow. My first course on Entrepreneurship was from non-other than the women that lived in the city, whom, might I mention, carried no formal education.  The women in that city were who stimulated the economy.  They would wake up very early in the morning for their water run at a nearby well, pump or river.  They made sure all of their children were well dressed in their uniforms and then off to school not forgetting to put something in their belly to hold them up throughout the day.  They washed the dishes and cleaned around their “house” and they were off to run their businesses.  By that time it’s only around 7:30 or 8 in the morning. 

It’s funny but I can’t remember the men’s presence in the town. Over the years I’ve thought of many reasons why men were somewhat absent in our town. And one of the reasons for the men’s lack of presence in countries like Haiti is due to the lack of resources, jobs and famine. The men leave in the hopes of a better life and opportunities for their families. In some other countries, it’s war that drives the men out of town. My dad was one of the men that left in the early 70s searching for work and a better life for our family. And the women are left behind to fend for themselves.   

Because of ‘being left behind’, the women were forced to play roles that traditionally would not have been handed to them.  These women advanced to be business women with the ability to “successfully” sell their products and use their profits to send their children to school and for food. I remember one of our entrepreneurial neighbors; her specialty was brewing medicinal tea. She would brew a concoction of leaves because she knew in that city her audience relied heavily on natural cures. There were insufficient doctors and hospitals to respond to illnesses.  She had a captivating audience. She brewed her tea and every day she’d walk up and down the streets promoting hot tea that can cure all kinds of maladies.  I loved it. Not the tea though, yuck!  To this day, I can recite her little “jingle” as she walked up and down the streets promoting her tea: “retire gaz sou lestomak nou maten-an, lave lestomak nou maten-an” “take the gas out your stomach this morning, cleanse out your stomach this morning”. 

My favorite entrepreneur was the peanut butter merchant who made peanut butter from scratch. She would start off by roasting the peanuts with habanero peppers and later grind them to a heavenly buttery peanutty taste I only associate to Haiti. Anyone who knows me knows of my love for Haitian peanut butter, I spent a lot of time near this woman’s home as I learned her technique. But don’t ask me to make you Haitian peanut butter; I only love to eat it. 

These were some of the influential women entrepreneurs in my circle when I grew up. 

But these women entrepreneurs walked around carrying heavy burdens from what’s been done to them.  Many of the women in town weren't just alone because their husbands left for a better life; many of them were alone because their husbands rejected them and did not see their worth.  You could almost single out the women who had gone through a tremendous amount of pain and suffering.  Some of them were mean, bitter and distrusting of everyone around them.  Everything was a big “secret”.  They hid from others and never learned who they truly were.  They would start scuffles for no reason at all. They would gossip because it made their lives feel a little bit more superior to the other.  Sad to say, I had many of these women in my family.  Sad to say, these women aren’t specific to only Haiti. I’ve been to Africa and India and I was shocked that these women were there too.  And as civilized as America is; these women are here too. In fact I was becoming one of these women; pain and suffering started turning me into that mean, bitter old woman with no love to give; until I read something that changed my path:

See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction…Now choose life, so that you and your children may live… Deut 30: 15; 19b

This verse has forever changed my perspective on how to live life in the midst of pain and suffering. Moses told the Israelite community who was about to cross the Jordan River into a life of more pain and suffering to “choose life”. I screamed at the Bible: “choose life?? Are you kidding me Moses??” This verse stopped me dead in my road of self-destruction and put me in the middle of the fork in the road and asked: “Dieula, what are you going to choose? The choice is yours, life or death?” So I chose life not only for myself but for my family, my children and now I aim to encourage other women to do the same. The reality is we can still have life in spite of pain and suffering.  Yes, I can only imagine what’s been done to you.  I hear your stories every day from women from all over the world; there’s rape, betrayal, infidelity, rejection, neglect and more.  I hear your pain but you can still live a productive life even when chaos has entered your world. 

So Why ElevateHer International??

ElevateHer International is committed to helping women choose life so that they can be all that God has purposed for their lives.  ElevateHer International recognizes the strength and power of women and we aim to empower women to utilize those gifts and talents fully and uninhibitedly.  

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Boys Empowering Women

Let’s face it; it is much easier to have men empower women when they are taught the value of a woman as a child.  I am the proud mother of three young men; I have done nothing to deserve them.  If anything, I've made many bad decisions that should have resulted into them being different from the kind, loving, compassionate and justice driven boys that they are.  The one thing I've done right, however, is to be myself around my boys; fully woman.  Around my boys I am strong, weak, loud, decisive, indecisive, leader, loving, angry, sad, wrong, apologetic, pastor, preacher, entrepreneur, teacher, house manager and just their mom.  I never had to hold myself back or pretend to be someone I was not in fear that being too feminine would not teach them how to be strong boys/men. 

For woman’s month, my boys had an assignment in school: to write a letter about their mom.  Below are their letters, I was so proud that my boys can recognize and appreciate my value.  I believe they are on their way to standing up for women and empowering them. 

Grab your tissues…

Dear Mom,

You are the best woman in the world to me and I love you.  I love how you take care of me every day even when it gets kind of crazy at the house.  I love how you stick up for us.  I love how you put up with our dog in the family.  I love how you take care of me and my brothers when we are sick.  I love the ways you help me with my homework even when I can be a pain.  I’m sorry that you had to go through all that pain with me and Devin in your stomach.  I love the way you make those fresh pancakes and French toast for me every morning.  I love how you are so beautiful every day from morning to night.  When you wake up you are a great person inside and out.  I love how when sometimes I leave my stuff at home and you are at work, you still bring it for me.  Mom I love you in every way inside and out.

Letter #2

Dear Mom,

You are so kind to me and I love how you’re so strong when it comes to doing your job.  I know how strong you are when it comes to your dad when he died.  I am glad you are my mom because if you were never my mom I would not be going to school or I would not be able to meet my friends or play soccer with my friends.  If we never had you we would have never been so kind.  You are the one that makes me smile.  You are the one and only mom.  I love you.  You do so many chores around the house.  You have to deal with the dog and us boys.  You also teach us how to be nice. You know that joke you always make when you say “I brought you into this world I can take you out”, I love when you say that because it’s funny and you always say it.