This is Jacques. He is a guard working at our house here in Port-au-Prince. When I first arrived at the house from the airport I was greeted by Jacques with his killer beard and his huge smile. And every day that he works since, he continues to flash his smile and greet us all with a handshake.
Over these past 4 months, I have gotten to know Jacques. When he is not working with us, he is teaching underprivileged children from his neighbourhood. For the past ten years, he and a group of friends have been teaching kids between the ages of 5-16 whose parents cannot afford school. He got his teaching certificate and teaches them math, French, Creole, history and even takes them out for gym class. He tries to provide them with some clothing and even uses his own money to buy each child at least one meal a day. He loves what he does, and speaks about the kids with pride and true joy. He works nights with MSF and leaves the morning excited to teach the kids. One Thursday I noticed he was going to off the entire weekend and asked if he had any plans. His face lit up saying he was just going to play with his two young daughters and hang out with his wife.
The first weekend I got here I planted some herbs and veggies in pots as a hobby and to expand our culinary options. In the evenings when I would walk out with a jug of water for my plants, I would occasionally notice that the plants were already wet. Strange… until one evening I saw Jacques watering them. He explained that his father was a cultivator and that Jacques grew up gardening and learning about different plants. He went on to tell me about the different plants here in our garden. Most recently he approached me looking quite concerned about what was to become of the plants once we leave the house. It was one of the only times I saw him without his signature smile and laid back persona.
I couldn’t believe it. Here was a man that dedicates his life to others and doing good, who was going to lose his job in a month’s time and, he was worried about our plants?
It hasn’t been easy saying goodbye to a percentage of the staff at the end of each month. What are you supposed to say to someone who’s supporting their entire family with their salary and it’s their last day of work?
It hasn’t been easy saying goodbye to a percentage of the staff at the end of each month.
Kimberly (left), head of transfers, Brigitte (centre) and Yves-Marc (right), a driver for MSF, during the last transfer for CRUO.
What are you supposed to say to someone who’s supporting their entire family with their salary and it’s their last day of work? Who, over the past years with MSF, has been receiving school funds for their children and health insurance for their family from MSF and does not know when they will find another job. In a country with an unemployment at 14% and a poverty rate of 58%, especially as an ‘unskilled’ worker, finding a good paying job is not easy. The last 2 weeks of July was a daily emotional turmoil. Having to shake the hands or give goodbye kisses to the guards, cleaners, cooks, hospital porters, drivers, handy men, laundry women and more who will be faced with the challenge of finding employment.
Each of these people having stories like Jacques and are thanking MSF for their experience. They have all been genuinely grateful and thankful for their years spent at CRUO hospital. I am slightly comforted by the fact that these individuals are leaving with many new skills, severance packages and plans and dreams to use this severance package for their future development. MSF has spent years developing the local staff, offering training and development opportunities both nationally and internationally. We are leaving behind a very skilled workforce. Having MSF experience on your CV has a lot of weight. So I am saying goodbye, with my fingers and toes crossed, that as this door closes another will open for them.
In my four years working for MSF, I have met many people like Jacques. Nationals who go above and beyond for their people and who genuinely love working for MSF for the simple fact that they feel like they are also contributing to the MSF movement. They have always left a mark on my heart. Jacques helps make this temporary house my home. And that’s one of the many reasons why he deserves to be honoured in this very simple way.
Mesi anpil Jacques and everyone I have had the privilege to work with at CRUO.