Charlotte Woman Gives Back to Her Country - Haitian Heritage & Friends of Haiti
Apr 28, 2010 09:24PM
Sabine Guerrier left Haiti to live in New York City when she was a teenager, but her heart has always been with her people. After moving to Charlotte seven years ago she had difficulty integrating into the community and transitioning to life here. “I had to struggle and make do for myself,” says Guerrier, who holds masters degrees in both health and business administration. “I left Charlotte and moved to Haiti in 2008 to give back to my country.”
Guerrier was the general administrator for a health care NGO serving the entire country. The hospitals and clinics cared for people who were HIV positive and TB infected, especially children and pregnant women. She worked with malnourished kids to reduce children mortality and morbidity. “I was helping the destitutes, the vulnerables, the ones that society shies away from and I loved it,” says the married mother of two. “Unfortunately, I had to leave and move back to Charlotte after a year due to security issues.”
Shocked to see that the Haitian community hadn’t made much progress since she left, Guerrier saw an opportunity to help her people, her community, and her country. She started the non-profit organization Haitian Heritage & Friends of Haiti with a mission to improve the quality of life of the Haitian community in Charlotte and beyond. The grassroots group provides advocacy, education, social services, leadership development, and establishes alliances with other organizations in the community.
Guerrier points out that many Haitians have moved here from other parts of the country only to find there was not an entity to welcome them. “Haiti was not known within the Charlotte community,” she says. “It was a foreign term for many Carolinians.” Furthermore, as a Creole and French-speaking immigrant group, Haitians are at a disadvantage since the majority of people here do not speak the language.
Inspired to promote her culture and empower local Haitians, Guerrier wanted to give them a voice. “I know that any life we change here will also impact a community, a village, a ‘Lakou’ in Haiti,” she says. According to Guerrier, the diaspora, or population from Haiti that has migrated abroad, is really the backbone that sustains the impoverished country through financial contributions wired to families and friends.
After the January 12th earthquake, Guerrier led a team of 36 medical/non-medical professionals on a mission relief effort trip to Haiti and brought more than 43,000 pounds of medical supplies and other needed items. She met with the Delegate (equivalent to a Governor), the Director of the Ministry of Health and officials from hospitals, local organizations and churches to assess and prioritize the region’s needs. After medical needs, shelter is second on the list. On June 5th her group will return, taking people who have construction skills. Guerrier would also like to bring educators to begin plans on educating and providing technical skills to the community for long-term sustainability.
Guerrier says she was truly amazed by her fellow Haitians faith, desire to live and resiliency. “After losing everything and not knowing what's next, I couldn’t understand where they found the courage to smile and hope,” she says. “They continue to pray and believe that the Almighty has a plan for them, a better future for tomorrow. They taught me to embrace life as it comes and believe tomorrow will be brighter than today.”
For more information on Haitian Heritage & Friends of Haiti visit www.hhfoh.org.