[Province of Brazil – Belo Horizonte] In the industrial city of Contagem and Betim, belonging to Belo Horizonte, capital of the State of Minas Gerais – Brazil, many Haitians arrive weekly. When a Haitian manages to stabilize with home and employment, they immediately save money to send to relatives or friends who are left in Haiti, so that they can also come to Brazil. In this way many communities are forming.
When a Vincentian priest from one of the Parishes saw the reality of these migrants, he contacted the Daughters of Charity of the Provincial House who, in turn, made contact with the Vincentians of these localities. Together they developed action plans to help Haitians gain their space in Brazil. The first step was to get food, furniture and what is needed to start life in another country. The second step was to set up classes for language learning. But communication was difficult, because the Haitians only understood French and Creole. A Vincentian, who by his own efforts learned the languages, instructed them with the help of two Daughters of Charity of the Province of Belo Horizonte. Soon after, they received the reinforcement of another Sister to help them with the Portuguese class.
The classes take place on Mondays in the parish hall of Contagem and on Wednesdays in Betim at the house of a lady who gave up a part of her house so that a class could be organized for them. These classes are practical and start from their reality and need. At the end of each class snacks and donations are offered to help support the family. At the moment, many can already express themselves very clearly in Portuguese and this achievement brought them advantages when looking for a job, in relationships in the work environment and coexistence with Brazilians.
In addition to the classes and basic survival aids, Vincentians, Parish volunteers and we Daughters of Charity help them in the contacts for jobs. However, these jobs are not always in line with one’s profession. This is because they arrive in Brazil without any documentation of their formation, since they need to leave Haiti with only a small piece of luggage due to the travel costs. They are also sent to the ZAMNI Center (Center of the friend in Creole) in order to regularize the documentation necessary to stay in Brazil. As many are carriers of diseases, they are also referred for medical treatment.
Cultural difficulties become an obstacle to the achievement of work, especially for women, since most services are related to cleaning and cooking. Unfortunately, because women are not prepared to take on these roles, they end up losing their jobs or the chance to win others. The challenge now is to set up a project that will enable them to learn this kind of work so that they can earn money to help support the family. Training classes will teach them how to perform household services, as well as to buy the necessary tools to practice hairdressing, as many call themselves hairdressers. At the moment, we are looking for financial aid for this project. We must help them to be protagonists of their own history!
This mission is rewarding. It is wonderful to see the joy in the eyes of every Haitian we meet. We ask God to continue to inspire and enlighten so many volunteers who have emerged throughout the mission so that we can continue to help these migrant brothers and sisters. May He give us equally, strength and daring to never be discouraged by the challenges.
Sr. Jane Carla Gomes de Souza, Sr. Maria Rozaria Silva and Sr. Shirley Santos Silva
Daughters of Charity of the Province of Belo Horizonte – Brazil –
engaged in this service with Haitian migrants.