The Luxury of Opportunities

Since January of this past year, Matt and I have been taking Creole lessons with Mackenson. This is not the Mackenson at the orphanage. It is a very common name here. This is the son of Julihomme who works for Christianville. Mackenson just finished up his last year of High School at the age of 20 which is a huge accomplishment here in Haiti. Statistics say that 16% of people graduate. Over the last few months we have watched as Mackenson studies constantly and works hard to achieve his goals. From the beginning of our time with him, he told us he wants to be a doctor and Matt and I had several conversations about the fact that we thought it was a real possibility for Mackenson because of how smart and driven he is. We found out this past week that no matter how smart and driven you are, here in Haiti it doesn’t matter.

To get into college in Haiti, you must enter a contest with thousands of other Haitians who have recently graduated. You take a test and the better you do, the higher your chances are of winning the contest but there are still no guarantees. We have also been told by several people that these contests are rigged based on who you know and how much money you have. Mackenson, unfortunately has no connections and no money. At the beginning of September, Mackenson entered two contests. One was with a public school and one was with a private school. He had to pay to enter both then take tests for three days each then wait for results. We knew all he was doing was studying because he cancelled creole lessons. Julihomme, his Dad, even told us he had to make him stop studying each night to get some sleep. There was such hope in Mackenson before the contests.

Last week, when we returned to Haiti, Mackenson called and asked if he could come sit down and talk with us. He sat at our table and proceeded to tell he he did not win either contest. All of Mackenson’s hopes of becoming a doctor ended right then and there. Because he is so driven and determined to become something, he had already found a Computer Science college he could immediately be accepted to (because they accept everyone who will pay) and was asking if we could help him send some letters out to raise money to attend this school for the next five years. We asked questions about the school and even looked at the website. It appeared to be a good school that would offer Mackenson job opportunities once he completed it. Because I felt like I had to, I asked Mackenson what he would rather: go to this school, or become a doctor? Without hesitation he answered, become a doctor. At this point in time, Mackenson has no ability to become this because of the lack of opportunity here and I sat across the table from him and knew he knew this. We told him that if he wanted to hold off on school for a year we would help him try to apply for a Visa to the states and look into colleges there. We told him this already knowing of Haitians who are highly intelligent and have applied numerous times only to be rejected because the Haitian government thinks this would be taking all of the smart people out of the country. We offered this to Mackenson and asked him to think it through for one more night knowing the whole time that this was a long shot for him. To sum the situation up, at this point in his life, there is absolutely no way he can become a doctor. He came back to us the following day and said he would like to pursue the computer science school and would we please help him write a letter to raise support for it.

We see many hard things here everyday. Things that are difficult for me to even describe or for you to understand unless you have seen it first hand. This was one of the hardest things I have seen. I watched this smart, driven kid give up hope on the one thing he wanted to be. I grew up in a household where I was constantly told I could be anything I wanted to be and it was true. This is not the case here. Opportunities are few and far between and usually happen when you have connections or money. Haiti makes me thankful for so many things we as Americans are blessed with and this last week I was reminded of the opportunities we have. America is called the “Land of Opportunities” and the more time I spend in Haiti the more true I realize this is. Mackenson started the Computer Science school yesterday in the hopes that he could raise the tuition by October 20. Although this will be a good opportunity for him, it is very hard to watch him give up on his dream.

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