In the early 90's many Haitian children found themselves in tent cities on Guatanamo Bay without their parents. Many of these kids eventually found their way to relatives within the United States, and some just managed to get the United States, one of these children was Graziella Dutreuille.
I came to know her through Nortel Networks' affiliation with the local high schools, providing part-time employment to students, having hired her for my own department. Sadly, I witnessed first hand the affects of bigotry based solely on one's perceived lack of proficiency with the English language. Initially from a manager who came from the mid-west, who himself was adopted at an early age. Lastly, from a manager whose own family escaped to the United States when the Shah of Iran was run out of the country.
Graziella, a very wise, intelligent, talented individual who had to fight for survival even at Nortel, a company rife with multiple nationalities. A young lady so determined to make her way in the United States, that she lied about her age for the sole purpose of getting a high school diploma from the US, with dreams of obtaining a college diploma in International Relations.
I was taken aback when I learned that she was considerably older than the age she went by and perceived to be. However, as she confessed to me, she knew that those under the age of 18 had the greatest chances of surviving in the United States. She never asked for hand outs, only assistance. I need a bed, I need a small refrigerator, does anyone have an old sofa they want to get rid of. Who hasn't heard this from any college aged-student?
From my internet searches I believe Graziella is in still in the Dallas metroplex, however, I know the majority of her family remained behind in Haiti, a habitually poverty stricken nation, but I'm saddened that I'm not finding actual links that lead me to think that she has succeeded to the degree that she had hoped. So with that, I'm sharing an essay she gave me written on a typewriter on Feb. 14, 1999.
I hope you all take a moment to reflect upon her experience.
"The mind is its own self can make a heaven of hell and a hell of heaven".
This quote is a good example that states that life is what one makes of it. We can feed our thoughts into believing life is a wonderful place-heaven or a dreadful depressing Place-hell. My attitude of life reflects just this. At the age of 14, I left my country (Haiti) in a boat to come to America. However, my journey was not easy as I spent eight months in a military camp at Guatanamo Bay Cuba; it was my vision of hell, but my mind empowered me to believe there was a heaven on earth and this hope made the future a journey to success.
I for example, am a very strong young woman who is ambitious and will strive to make things in life happen for me. We face many obstacles on the way which discourage us but to visualize the light at the end of the tunnel and to make our time on earth a beautiful existence, we can try to create our own heaven on earth.
My dream of heaven did come true. America was everything I dreamed it to be, but one things was a problem. I did not speak the language. I had to learn a new language, which was very difficult for me. Some people thought I was stupid; few seemed to pay attention to me. I lived a life having no family here to count on and hoped that it would soon be over. I tried hard to get through life by doing the best. Each day of my life I dreamt of living without loneliness. Sometimes things happen in life and there is nothing you can do to change it, you have to stand up and make it better for yourself. It can be hell but remember to turn it into heaven!
I lost most of everything that a person could possibly dream of in life but it did not kill me and I do not feel sorry for what has happened. This makes the mind and soul stronger. I take the rest of what I have left and I try harder. I dream of becoming somebody and that's one of the reasons I left my country. At this time America was the only solution to my dream.
In order to find the way to success and create my own heaven, I have to know where I stand and where I want to be, this makes me see clearly and I stay positive about life. In school I began to dream, to dream like an American, after all, I am living with the American dream. It is hard to hope for something when you do not see a way of getting it but you have to have faith and pride that it will happen.
Heaven to me is happiness and contentment. I aspire to have the opportunity to attend college, have a good job, and create a happy home and family. I know I will be in "heaven" soon here on earth and it is because I train my mind to make that choice.
Written by Graziella Dutreuille
There are many ways, we as Americans can help, but first and foremost, is to not judge others by appearance or speech. Instead, take only a moment to get to know even the slightest bit about the the person in our midst. You never know, it may be another child that has came to our country without any benefit of family to catch them when they may fall.