Fédéna: “I Didn’t Know What Christmas Was”

Fédéna grew up in Haiti’s Cité Soleil living in impoverished conditions. After the 2010 earthquake, she arrived at NPFS. Since then, she has benefit of an education, a home, and professional care. Today, she thrives.
December 14, 2020 - Haiti

Fédéna enjoys school and loves to read.

“Pčre Noël didn’t visit us there.”

These are the words of Fédéna, a 15-year-old from Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti. She has seven siblings, all brought up in a small one-room home. Now living with the NPH Haiti family, she remembers back to when she grew up in a neighborhood whose names means “Sunny City” in English, yet this description is a great contrast to the realities of living in Cité Soleil.

“We were living in terrible conditions,” says Fédéna, whose name has been changed to protect her privacy.

She was abandoned by her father when she was two-years-old and her two older siblings left home because their mother had means of caring for them. Each day her mother walked the streets with a big bucket of mauby juice, made from the bark of the mauby tree mixed with ginger and cane syrup, that she sold for five to 10 gourdes a cup (approximately four to nine U.S. cents). She would return home at night, but if she hadn’t sold the juice, her mother would feed the remaining amount to her children who would go to bed without a meal.

Fédéna describes Cité Soleil is a war zone. Daily they would hear gunshots as rival gangs fought for territory. Her mother’s home, like most homes in the neighborhood, was covered in corrugated steel that leaked whenever it rained and soiled the bed sheets. “I was very young, but I still remember feeling so much pressure. We were scared for my mother’s life every time she left the house to bring home money. At any moment the gangs could start fighting. They don’t care about children or adults.”

According to the International Red Cross, there are between 200,000 to 300,000 people living in Cité Soleil, approximately 29,000 residents per square mile, the majority being young unemployed youth. The district has infamous international reputation as well, labelled one of the poorest and most dangerous areas in the Western Hemisphere and one of the biggest shanty towns in the Northern Hemisphere, with virtually no sewers and a poorly maintained open canal that serves as a sewage system.

When asked if she has any good memories of Cite-Soliel, Fédéna sadly replies, “No. Not even one day went by when bad things didn’t happen, such as rape, robberies, violence by gangs and bandits. I saw it every day. That was my life.” Fédéna is the fifth oldest of her siblings. She worries for the remaining members of the family who still live there, one of whom is her mother, as well as two siblings who have since become involved in what Fédéna labels ‘bad things,’ but she still hopes they will change their ways.

Tragedy struck in 2010 when an earthquake rocked Haiti, destroyed much of Cité Soleil, and left Fédéna living in a tent city for a short period. At this time, she became part of the Father Wasson Angels of Light (FWAL) program, set up by Nos Petits Frčres et Sśurs (NPFS) to support children who had lost their parents in the earthquake. Due to her poor living conditions, Fédéna was considered a special case and accepted into the program. Five years later, after the FWAL home was discontinued, she was transferred to the main St. Helene home with the other children, where she currently resides.

Today, Fédéna is happy. She is in sixth grade and enjoys school. She insists, however, that she is lucky: only a tiny minority have the opportunity to leave Cite-Soliel. With the benefit of hindsight, she realizes her mother couldn’t take care of her and being part of the NPFS family is the best thing that could have happened to her. “I don’t know what would have come of me, otherwise.”

Christmas didn’t mean anything to Fédéna back then; it was simply another day of survival, not knowing if they would eat that day, let alone receive a gift. “There was no celebration, no care, no presents, and no festivities in the neighborhood.”

Through living at NPFS, Fédéna knows she now has an abundance of opportunities, especially compared to her life outside. She also appreciates that her basic needs are met, such as food, education, and the care of a new family. She remembers her first Christmas in NPFS, “It was something I had never experienced before, with all kinds of gifts, wonderful food, parties, competitions, and plenty of activities.”

Fédéna accepts that Christmas this year will be a different affair due to the COVID-19 pandemic, although she is determined to make sure her NPFS family enjoys the festive season. She feeds her passion for singing by participating in the Christmas song competition, which begins in early December. Each home practices a song that they rehearse together three times a week for two weeks. Then the rounds of competition begin leading up to the finale on 25 December, with the first-place home winning a flat screen television; second-place, a DVD player; and third place, a radio.

“Of course, our home always wins. We have the best singers!” claims Fédéna, half-jokingly, half letting on to her competitive spirit.

“This year will be different. I liked when people from other countries used to come and celebrate Christmas with us; we helped them prepare pizza!

“I would like to thank the sponsors and my godparents for everything they do for me, and for considering me as a member of their family. I never thought I would have the opportunities I have today, especially when I think of my brothers and sisters who continue to live with nothing.

“And I thank my caregivers who leave their own children for weeks to take care of us. They treat us like their own kids, always advising and helping us to change and grow. With NPH, I have an education, food, clothes, a Christmas, and I am so grateful for this.

“I hope to continue my education in 2021, and maybe next Christmas I can spend it with my mother and siblings and celebrate the season like they never have before. I want to teach them what I have learned, thanks to NPH.”

Are you able to support children like Fédéna this Christmas? Please donate to NPH Haiti by visiting nph.org. Make a difference.

Denso Gay   
Communication Officer

You may be only one person in the world, but you may be all the world to one child.
—Fr. William Wasson




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