“It’s like they shattered all my beautiful dreams.”

Jésula fights with faith to salvage her senior year despite gang attacks, school closures, and troubles at home

From her earliest memories, Jésula has dreamed of graduating from Grace Emmanuel School.

“My mom has always encouraged me to work hard in school because it will help me go further,” said Jésula. “She didn’t have the chance to go to school.”

Though the attacks near the school last fall were troubling, her desire to learn outweighed her fears about returning for her senior year when GES opened in January. Her 15 years at GES had already been marked by earthquakes, hurricanes, political riots, and a pandemic. Through it all, Jésula managed to finish at the top of her class nearly every year.

“I’m motivated to excel,” she said, “because I believe that, with God, education is the key that opens the door of success.”

Jèsula in first kindergarten in 2007.
Jèsula, second from left, in third kindergarten in the summer of 2010, after school resumed following the January 12 earthquake. Her class met under a large tent.

School begins, the first time

For 3 uninterrupted months, Jésula’s senior year was all she had hoped it would be.

She loved the respect that reaching the highest level brought her and her friends, the privilege of developing closer relationships with the leaders of the school, and the responsibility of being a role model for younger students, including her brother, Elisnor.

But all of her dreams for her senior year came crashing down when Source Matelas was brutally attacked on April 19.

“I had just finished my exams when the shooting started,” she said. “I left right away, hopping on a tap-tap to go to my house in Cabaret quickly.

“When I arrived at home, I heard more details about what was happening. My mom had been desperately waiting for Elisnor and me. She wanted to come looking for us but she couldn’t because of all the gunfire. We were in a total panic because the rumors were spreading that Cabaret would be attacked, too.”

Difficulties mount

The three of them quickly relocated deeper into the mountains of Cabaret, but after a couple of weeks, made the difficult choice to return to their home near the highway because life was even more challenging away from it.

Jésula’s mom lost her job cleaning government buildings in Cabaret, which have remained closed after the attack.

They hear gunshots near their house every night and live with the constant fear of gangs coming to attack their area, just north of Grace Emmanuel School, which remains under gang control.

“The loss of the school makes me really sad. All of the time I’ve spent in school was so I could see myself graduate,” Jésula said. “I’ve been here since 1st kindergarten. It’s like they shattered all my beautiful dreams.”

Then, a few weeks ago, her mom had a stroke that took away mobility in one hand and severely damaged her speaking ability.

“It’s just very difficult for us.”

Jésula with her mom and brother in 2020, at the start of the school closure for the COVID-19 pandemic.

Clinging to faith

Faith alone sustains Jésula and her family right now. She grew up attending church every Sunday with her mom, making her faith her own in 8th grade.

She often sings a hymn that reminds her that her sufferings on this earth are temporary, that she is only a pilgrim here, and her joy will one day be complete in the arms of Jesus.

Psalm 37 has also become especially encouraging, reminding her “do not fret because of those who do evil” but “trust in the LORD and do good.”

“Life has not been easy,” she said, “but thanks to God, we’ve held on.”

Jésula in 2017 during a celebration at school

School begins, again

At the beginning of June, when she heard that school would reopen at a different location, Jésula’s first response was sadness.

“The new location was too far away for me to afford the trip,” she explained. “But, when I heard the bus would still be running to provide transportation, that made me happy and I felt a great joy.”

She has now been back at Grace Emmanuel School for nearly 3 weeks.

“It makes me very happy,” she said. “Not much has changed. The school still operates the same as before, and almost all of my teachers have returned.”

Jésula with her graduating class in March. About half of the students have returned to the new location.

Holding onto dreams

At the end of next month, Jésula and her classmates will take the 3-day government exam that determines their eligibility to university. She continues to study and hold onto her future dreams, even though the last few months have been about daily survival.

“I’m passionate about health care,” she said. “I would like to become a doctor because I like to take care of people.”

Realistically, she knows that the chances of being able to start medical school after she graduates are slim given her family’s economic means and the turmoil in Haiti right now. She would at least like to try to take a computer class after she finishes at GES.

Remembering her time at GES

“Every year I’ve spent at Grace Emmanuel School has been a beautiful year,” Jésula said, despite all the adversity she has faced.

The relationships she has built with friends and teachers are her greatest memories, as well as the quality of the education she has received.

Jésula is especially grateful to the two sponsors who have supported her through her years at GES, Kay and Ann. (When Kay passed away in 2020, her good friend Ann took over her sponsorship.)

“I don’t have words to thank my sponsors for all they have done for me,” said Jésula. “Without them, this wouldn’t have been possible. But thanks to God, they made a way for me.”

As Jésula continues her struggle toward the finish line at Grace Emmanuel School, she asks for your prayers for school to continue to meet, for her family’s health and safety, and for her future success.

Jésula is a truly remarkable young woman, and it has been a privilege to provide an education for her for 16 years. Well done, Jésula!

Sponsor a student like Jésula

To anyone considering becoming a sponsor, Jésula says, “Do it! You won’t regret it. It is an investment, a contribution to the success of that child.”

Sponsors help cover the costs of providing Grace Emmanuel School for one student, including daily lunches and monthly paychecks for teachers and staff. We need several sponsors.

Wendy Pierre began working for JiHM in 2019 as the sponsorship assistant. She currently serves as a liaison for the students of Grace Emmanuel School and assists with communications. Wendy lives in Minotrie with her mom, brother, and sister.

Maudeline Saint Fleur is the secretary for Grace Emmanuel School. Maudeline began at GES as a kindergarten teacher in 2008, transitioning to secretary in 2014. She is an invaluable member of the GES team, called by God to serve Him in this place. Maudeline lives with her husband and three daughters.

Kristi Bucher has served as Communications Manager for Jesus in Haiti Ministries since 2014. She currently lives in Minnesota with her husband, Nathan, and two kids. Kristi and Nathan lived in Haiti from 2012–2014.