Demonstrating well baby care
Dantan is a remote village in southern Haiti where Marie grew up, one of 12 children. Her mother was a homemaker, her father a minister. Against all odds, while living and raising a large family in the poorest country in our hemisphere, her parents instilled the importance of family, faith and education. All but the youngest child has completed secondary school or beyond. Marie traveled to Port-au-Prince, a city of 3 million, because it held more opportunity for education and jobs. She attended a vocational school for a secretarial certificate, got a job and continued her schooling to become an auxilliare (nurse’s assistant) to further her professional development and make a higher salary.
One day, her male boss offered her more money if she would be “one of his women”. Marie knew that many of the other female workers agreed to this proposition in order to get more money to feed their families, pay the bills, and survive. She refused. Because of her refusal, she was mistreated, ridiculed, given less money and denied raises. She stood firm, prayed every day she would find a job where she was respected and valued as a woman. She finally graduated as an auxilliare, and set out to find a new job.
While visiting her family in Dantan, she heard about a birthing clinic called Maison de Naissance opening up not far from her parents’ home. Marie applied and requested an interview. During her interview, she demonstrated the qualities MN was looking for: compassionate care for others, technical skills, and a local community member. Marie was hired and helped open MN on October 4, 2004.
This is where Marie entered my life. From its inception, I have been involved in the work of MN since it founding - first volunteering as a nurse and mentor to our Haitian staff, then as the Program Director full time.
Over my 5 years with MN, I had the privilege of observing Marie help mothers and babies make a safe journey from pregnancy to birth and beyond (Haiti has one of the highest pregnancy related mortality rates in the world). She had her first child at MN and carries her own “safe journey” with her in all her work.
In 2012 Marie enrolled in an auxiliary midwife course with Midwives for Haiti, an intensive one year program that required living away from her family. She graduated with honor from the program, and is now part of the midwifery staff at MN, having faithfully served for 10 years.
She treats every mother and baby as loved and valuable in a culture that historically has oppressed women in every way; physically, emotionally, economically and socially. She believes it is her responsibility to take care of the women in her community. She is bringing women hope. Marie is a role model for the women she cares for; one of their own is a living example that through perseverance, hard work, valuing oneself and striving to reach one’s innate potential, a better life is possible. If one of their own can do it, so can they.
The most unlikely people usually do the most extraordinary work in the world, Marie is one. That is what MN is all about, empowering women, one mother at a time.
Cindy Obenhaus, RN, MN Program Director 2004-2010