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Zanmi Mwen

For the past month a handyman course was being held in Jubilee and taught by an american man (Jeff Rankin)  Thirteen hopeful young men and women attended the course and their ages ranged anywhere from 15 years old to mid/late 20’s.  The course was free to attend and those who graduated at the top of the class had a chance to apply for a full time maintenance position at the school in Jubilee.  After a few weeks of “natural selection” the class was downsized to a manageable capacity, as those who were only willing to sit comfortably off to the side while others were taking apart toilets and receptacles were politely asked to not return.  The class was running very smoothly until the last week when Jeff came down with several concerning medical symptoms.  I was asked to teach/oversee the last few days of the course which didn’t seem too daunting of a task- until I showed up and realized that the translator decided he was going to take the rest of the week off.  Much of the remainder of the course consisted of me pointing to things, scratching my head, and watching the students scratch their head at my choppy creole.  It was during that week that one student in particular impressed me the most.  She was a Jubilee girl, born and raised.  She was stronger, smarter, and tougher than all of the men in the class and proud of it.  I would often watch as she was slowly pushed to the back of the group of students when there was a hands on project like putting a sink together or repairing a toilet.  She would stand patiently and watch the macho men speed through the task and they would argue amongst each other about pieces being upside down, in the wrong order, or missing a step completely.  When it came to a point when none of the men could figure out what step was missed or what was installed backwards and upside down, the girl from Jubilee would quietly push her way to the front of the group and calmly, but assertively, take over and restore order to the chaos effortlessly with a small smirk on her face.  Needless to say- I was impressed.

The course came to an end and I dug deep in my brain to muster enough creole to say “thank you for helping us, See you later”  The class reciprocated gratitude and walked off.  I pulled the girl from Jubilee aside and told her she was a good worker and asked her if she would like to help me the following week with projects around the school.  I could visibly see her excitement as I acknowledged her good ethic and she was even more excited to have an opportunity to continue to learn.

By this time you’re probably thinking- “annnnnnd does this “girl from Jubilee” have a name?!?”

Everyone- Meet my friend Marie

MarieMarie has been helping me for the past two weeks around the school in Jubilee.  After her first day we talked about how much money she would like to make per day, she was so grateful to be learning more about plumbing that she asked not to be paid- to her the education was more important than any amount of money.  We insisted on paying her anyway.  Everyday Marie meets me at the school.  She shows up 10 minutes before she is supposed to and she always arrives with a smile despite the anger and jealousy she receives  from the other men in the class that didn’t measure up to the bar that she raised.  And the judgement she gets from the other men and women in the community that have fallen into the trap of gender disparity- people who strongly believe that women are designed to be submissive, fetch water, and have babies.  She remains confident and loyal despite remarks by countless naive children who ask “is that a boy or a girl?” because she chooses to wear pants instead of a skirt while doing a job that women aren’t suppose to be doing.

It is a powerful thing to see such determination.


A picture worth 1000 words. Katie (a teacher at the school) using Marie as an example to the children that women can do anything that they want to do.


Elevated over the village of Jubilee

Elevated over the village of Jubilee




6 thoughts on “Zanmi Mwen

  1. hahahaha Ok, I’m laughing out loud at the picture of my kids and I just starring up at Marie in awe. Pretty much sums up my day 🙂 love this post!

  2. Good for you on teaching the class and good for you for chosing a woman who was better skilled than a guy.

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