Julia, 34, lives in the Fonds Bayard refugee camp with her two youngest daughters. Young, energetic, and hopeful, Julia and her children stand out from the crowd.
Julia sits down with us on a typically hot and humid day in Fonds Bayard, where she has been living for about a year. “I moved to Santo Domingo [from Haiti] when I was sixteen because I couldn’t find any work in my country”, she recalled. Necessity drove Julia to immigrate to the Dominican Republic, as many Haitians do, to find income opportunities to support her and her family. She did not have the resources to navigate the system of securing formal work papers, so she paid someone to help her get into the Dominican Republic.
Julia continues, “I knew it was illegal, but I had to find work.”
Once in the Dominican Republic, she started working for a family restaurant and eventually started her own business, opening a fruit stand selling the abundant produce available in the Caribbean. She was on her way to work one day when she was caught by immigration. “They saw that I was Haitian”, she says, “I was arrested and they threw me in the back of the truck. They didn’t give me a chance to get my kids. They made me sit in the truck until it was full of Haitians. They would not leave until they filled it”.
Leaving the Dominican Republic
The vibrance of a previous life is evident in Julia and her daughters. Amongst those who have lived in the camp for up to a decade, they stand out as strong and ready to fight the hardships they face. There is a glimmer of hope in their eyes, the memories of a better life that they have not forgotten yet.
That day, Julia was forced to leave her business, her home, and if it were up to immigration, even her children. “Immigration didn’t let me go back to get my children. I called my sister and she met me at the border with them. They were too young to leave behind.” Her two eldest daughters remain in the Dominican Republic. At that moment, Julia was forced to leave behind her life in the Dominican Republic and try to rebuild a new life in Haiti.
“Immigration didn’t let me take my kids with me. I called my sister and she met me at the border with them. They were too young to leave behind.”
Julia is one of the 35 individuals selected to participate in our three-month work training program at the Fonds Bayard displacement camp. In partnership with MINUSTAH, REBUILD globally has created a workshop training center and work facility. The 35 individuals are being trained to upcycle tires for the production of sandal sole manufacturing for deux mains designs, REBUILD globally’s for-profit partner. For the first in time years, the community of Fonds Bayard is experiencing economic activity and the shift can already be felt . The excitement and hope is seen throughout the community. Children gather around their parents who are working. Workers are taking responsibility and pleasure for having this opportunity to rebuild their lives, rather than remain dependent on charity. Onlookers, adults and children alike, linger with the hopes of getting some work.
“When you have work, you have a life. [The work] makes me really happy. If I sat around and do nothing, how can I send my kids to school? How can I take care of myself?”
The harsh realities of this situation is all around us, but so is hope for what can be. We struggle to make sense of the suffering but we know the solution. Invest in the economic and social well-being of communities, empower individuals through skills training, and provide a pipeline for dignified employment.
It is not easy, but nothing worth doing ever was.
You can support Julia and dozens of others mothers just like her by donating to REBUILD globally’s Refugee Training and Employment Initiative. This post was writen by Isabel Walker, the Communications Manager for REBUILD globally, who recently travelled to Fonds Bayard to capture these stories of resilience and strength.