Growing Up a Haitian Immigrant in the United States
I was born and raised in a Cap-Haitien, a beautiful city in northern Haiti. In 2005, Haiti was going through a political upheaval. Opposing the government, which functioned more like a dictatorship than a democracy, meant one would undoubtedly face persecution and violence.
My family’s life was threatened. This eventually led us to our migration to the United States. In a matter of months, my family and I packed everything we had and said goodbye to everyone we knew. We came not only seeking refuge but we also knew that moving to the U.S. would lead to unimaginable opportunities. So now here I am, a naïve 12 year old, lost in the land of delicious Publix fried chicken and McDonald’s crispy French fries (my first meals in the U.S., “great choices” you must be thinking, I know)
I did not speak English. I knew very few phrases. “Hi, how are you,” “thank you very much” “I don’t speak English,” and “I love you” were among the few. I learned English by using a dictionary, watching Disney Channel and CNN. I also read tons of books at the library. I had my dictionary with me and translated them word-by-word and that’s how I ended up learning English.
Now that we were safe in the U.S., our visas eventually expired which affected our legal status. My older siblings’ post- secondary education got delayed as a result. I knew that I really wanted go to college. I strongly desired to take advantage the opportunities placed before me. Upon graduating high school, I applied to a number of colleges in Florida but most schools turned me down. The University of Florida was my only yes. I had no idea that this one open door would change the trajectory of my entire life.
Entering college as a freshman, I was at a very difficult place. I needed hope. I needed something to hold on to because the previous years had been challenging to say the least. In my freshman year of high school, my parents’ marriage was put to the test. That probably was the most difficult year for my family. I am thankful now that it all worked out! The latter years of high school proved difficult as well. Broken relationships, low self-esteem, sexual abuse resulted into a broken woman – me. Shame and hidden pain became close acquaintances. I tried to move forward and sought for a fresh start at UF but I could not. Time, I have learned, aids in the process but in actuality does not heal all wounds. Wounds, whether actual or emotional, must be intentionally addressed. And mine needed to be healed and nurtured.
The most transforming thing occurred my first semester at UF. I had an encounter with Jesus. I understand that this might be a weird statement to say and might even make some cringe. At my lowest point, I cried out this very thing exactly “ God, I know that you are real to a certain extent! However, I do not know that for Pascale. I want to personally experience you. If you show yourself to me in a very real way, I will follow you for the rest of my life.” And that He did and so much more! The shame that I carried around for over two years was immediately lifted and replaced with mercy and forgiveness.
Jesus not only healed my wounds but He gave me a whole new identity altogether. The old Pascale is merely a faint memory. My brokenness is replaced with impeccable beauty. The scars that remain from the things I have endured serve as a testament of God’s love and faithfulness.
I firmly believe that my life’s joys and trials are not solely for me. They are to help others overcome. To laugh with someone when they celebrate victories and weep with them when things get rough. When I came to this country, I quickly learned about the “American dream”. I sought out its meaning and what I found did not really suit me. My American dream is simply this: to make a tangible impact on every person that I meet. Whether that means me working from a mansion or a small two-bedroom apartment in a low-income neighborhood, I am fully content: for in Jesus I have gained immeasurable riches.