Monday, December 6, 2010

Proof of Courage by Fatimata Sira Diop

       "I was lost and didn't know what to do. I couldn't reach my family for two weeks after the earthquake." those are the words of Remenson Tenor, a twenty-three year old SEED program student here.
SEED (Scholarship for Education and Economic development) is a two-year technical training program by USAID. The scholarship gives the opportunity to economically disadvantaged students from Haiti, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Honduras to come study in the United States of America for two years.  That time here is all expenses paid, and after the two years are over the students return home to help their community. 
          Tenor was born and raised in Jeal-Rabel, Haiti. After his graduation from high school, he moved to Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti for college. Unfortunately, soon after he arrived, Tenor had to stop school and move back to his hometown due to a lack of money. Once home, he volunteered at his church and also at a radio station.
          When a friend told him about the scholarship, "If they are looking for a leader" said Tenor, "I will be selected," And so he was right.  Tenor was one of twenty-five Haitian Students selected between more than five-hundred others.
          Tenor has been in the United States for sixteen months now, and he is majoring in Quality Control. When he first came he didn't speak English at all and said it helped him a lot to live with a host family. "I was supposed to stay there for nine months, but they couldn't find me an apartment so I ended up staying for ten," he said. It took him six months to add English to the three other languages (Creole, French and Spanish) that he already speaks. He said that 
listening was the hardest part of his learning process, but listening to music and watching television made it a little easier. Now he is living in an apartment with three other SEED Program students.
          One of the biggest adjustment he had to make was with the food, "I couldn't eat anything, the cooking is so different," said Tenor. He still doesn’t like it, but he eventually got used to it.
The weather, is what he is still struggling with, being from a tropical country, Tenor never had to deal with the cold weather.  "While I was freezing, people kept telling me it is not even cold yet," he said, "I was asking myself what am I doing in this place?"
However, what made him almost give up and go back home was the earthquake that hit Haiti earlier this year. “Thank God the damage was just material in my family, but I lost a lot of friends," he explained.  
The University where he went collapsed killing a lot of his childhood friends and classmates.  "I think sometime that maybe if I was in Haiti I would have been dead now," he said.  Before the earthquake Tenor and his family talked once or twice a month, but now he calls them every week.
          "I am thankful to God for taking me here so I can help when I go back," Tenor said explaining his future plans.  Tenor has a lot of projects to help his community once he gets there. He learned computer skills, so he can teach it to children because as he said, "there is a lot of computers at the schools, but nobody to teach the kids how to use it". 

Tenor said he has no interest what so ever on getting involved in politics. When asked about Wyclef Jean running for president he said that he thinks Wyclef Jean could have been a good president but if helping Haiti is what he wants, he doesn't need to be president to do that. “If you are a soldier, stay on the field and fight," he said.
     "We all know Haiti needs help and I would do anything I can to do my part but my priority is to spend time with my family first," said Tenor.

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