BY CANDACE RIVERA
The Town of Ramapo held their first annual Haitian Heritage Night, Wednesday night at the Ramapo Town Hall. Guests enjoyed Haitian food, music, and poetry. The festivities also included speeches from two young Haitian natives now living in Rockland County.
Lotechine Brevil, an eighth grader at Pomona Middle School, spoke about the day the 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit in 2010. “It was a Thursday afternoon around 4:30 p.m. I was at home with my mom, two sisters, and cousin,” said Brevil. “I felt the house was moving, and I couldn’t understand what was going on. At that moment I was scared because my dad went out and there was no way of communication.”
A month after the earthquake struck, Brevil’s parents sent her to New York to pursue her education. She enrolled in the seventh grade at Pomona Middle School. Brevil strived to be a good student and stay out of trouble but “I felt like I was in my own world because I couldn’t understand the language very well.” Today, Brevil has fully adjusted to the English language and is getting ready to enter high school. She dreams of one day becoming an Architect.
“Words can’t even define how I felt having to leave people who I have known 13 years of my life,” said Jasmine Jacques, a Port au Prince native. Jacques, 16, is now a junior at Ramapo High School. “This was a step I had to take if I wanted a better future for myself and be able to go back to my home country and fulfill my dreams.”
Jacques enrolled in Ramapo High School in January of 2010. Knowing no one in her new school, Jacques balanced adjusting to a foreign culture, while trying to become fluent in English. Some of her classmates bullied her, calling her names like FOB, standing for fresh off the boat. “Those negative comments have not stopped me from achieving my aim which was to make my family proud,” said Jacques.
Jaques is now able to hold fluent conversations in English and dreams of being a Pharmacist. “They give us hope that the future will be brighter than the present,” said Councilman Daniel Friedman.
Guests were also treated to numerous performances. The Spring Valley High Dance Troupe performed a Haitian Dance routine. Marc Mathelier played three classical Haitian songs on his guitar. Marie Love performed two poems, one in English and one in Creole.
Vice Consul Wilner Kebreau spoke afterwards, providing information on the progress in Haiti. Kebreau said that the Haitian government has been working hard to relocate residents living in tents. There are about 1,000 more people that are waiting to be relocated.
Kebreau said that children now have the opportunity to achieve their education, and attend college. Over 1 million children are going to school for the first time, with more schools being built. Students also receive free transportation.
The Vice Consul also said that Haiti’s economy is improving with the addition of thousands of full time jobs, likely investments from foreign countries, and a new airport. “Haiti is open for business,” said Kebreau.