By Sarah Jeglum, October 2014 team member
Brezil Ann Rose has loved sewing ever since she was little. As a young, unmarried woman, she started attending a trade school to learn to make dresses, clothes, and other items for her family and to sell. She loved sewing – embroidery in particular – and intended to complete the requirements to graduate trade school.
Before she finished trade school, Brezil married her husband and had the first of her seven kids. Her responsibilities at home did not allow for her to return to classes at the trade school.
“I stopped going to school after I got married and had my first baby,” she said. “I stopped stitching. The kids would get sick and there were problems, and it was difficult to get back to school.”
For the next 31 years, Brezil raised her children and provided for her family, sewing only when she needed to mend or alter clothing. She missed sewing and embroidery, and always wanted to finish the schooling she had started as a young girl.
One day, Brezil was passing through Terre Blanche and a friend told her about the Women’s Trade School, in which the friend was enrolled. Brezil wasted no time getting herself enrolled, and for the first time in almost three decades it looked like she might graduate from a trade school after all.
The Women’s Trade School in Terre Blanche opened in 2002 and has since graduated 48 students. Women who attend the school learn skills including cooking, nutrition, housekeeping, hygiene, sewing, knitting, crochet, manners, and more. An official comes from Port-au-Prince to administer the national exam at the end of the three-year curriculum. Graduates are gifted a sewing machine through Haiti Foundation of Hope.
“I thank God for this school,” said Celestin Mary Macdala, a second year student in the women’s trade school. “After I receive my diploma, things will be better for me. I can stitch for myself and my family.”
Both Brezil and Celestin said that while they plan to sell some of the items they’ll make after graduating and earning their sewing machines, a large reason they attend the trade school is to provide a better life for their families.
“It’s a giving back,” said Celestin. “I feel proud of being able to deliver a good service and help my community. Money is good, but reputation is more valuable. It’s great to know that people will refer you.”
Women attend classes four days each week, some walking up to three hours each day to come to school.
“It’s a sacrifice for them to come here,” said Linda Markee, founder and board member of HFH. “If they really want to come, their families have to help them come.”
According to Linda, the best part of the program is getting to see the women graduate after completing their national exam.
“I’ve been to all the graduations,” Linda said to a group of the Women’s Trade School graduates. “And I see you drive off with those machines on your motorcycles and I pray that the machines help you. It’s great to see how God has blessed you and made your lives better with the school.”
Linda’s sentiment was met with an emphatic “oui!” from the group.
As for Brezil, she is finishing her third year in the Women’s Trade School and is on track to be part of the next graduating class, 31 years after she started.