A letter from… The Dominican Republic
Karina Cuba Corimaita reports from the Dominican Republic
When I visited the Dajabón region – which lies on the Dominican Republic’s border with Haiti – everyone I met had a personal story to tell; but one woman’s story made the greatest impact on me: Elena Tusen (pictured). Elena, 42, arrived in the Dominican Republic as an illegal migrant from Haiti. Her childhood was very difficult; she was abused and marginalised, and was constantly running away. When Elena met Osiri, the man who is now her husband, she thought life would get better. Sadly, in Osiri’s frustration at not being able to put bread on the table for his wife and seven children, he turned to alcohol and was violent. Unable to support the family alone, Elena found work on the fields, where she was paid in food – the leftovers from harvest. Leftovers were not enough to feed her children properly, and so Elena lost three of her children to starvation.
Haitian migrants like Elena are among the most vulnerable people in the region. Dominican women keep their distance from Haitians, and so Elena was shy and fearful when she attended the food security training project I worked with, which trains both Dominican and Haitian women in sustainable food production. After a while, Elena started to see the results of the training: She now has a vegetable garden and is keeping chickens; she has become the community’s “champion farmer”, teaching others the techniques I once taught her. Feeling more knowledgeable and sure of herself, Elena told me that she was empowered to confront other problems in her life…
This is an extract from the March 2015 edition of Reform.