In Her Own Words: A Letter From LIFT-DC Parent Ismane
My name is Ismane and I am from Port-au-Prince, Haiti. I am the proud mother of four beautiful children: Edwina, 25; Kanzley, 23; Jessica, 18; and Ahri, 6. Being a mother to my children has been the greatest honor of my life. My children are smart, kind, loving, and my family wants what all families want – a fair chance at better future. And thanks to LIFT, we now have one.
I moved to D.C. from Virginia five years ago with my children in search of opportunity – especially for my daughter with special needs, as Washington D.C. schools are better equipped to work with children who need more support. Much like my parents did when they immigrated from Haiti to the U.S., I came to this city knowing that a better life for my family was possible.
When I arrived in D.C., my family and I moved in with a friend, but my goal was to be independent and find us a home of our own. So, I started visiting different service organizations in search of help. Not only help in finding a permanent home but help in finding a better job so that we could afford to live safely and comfortably.
What sets LIFT apart from other organizations is just how much love they show you. From the minute I walked in, I knew this place was special. I just wish I had found it sooner!
Up until then, it felt like every social service center and organization I visited was a roadblock after roadblock. I felt like many of the people I spoke with judged me for being a single mother, and thought I was just looking for a handout. I was just another number to so many people. And many of these organizations think that all you need is a quick fix to solve your problems. They will give you a box of food, or a coat and shoes. But I wasn’t looking for a band-aid. I needed a solution.
When I came to LIFT’s office for my first meeting, I was expecting to get some help on my resume and be out of there. Like I mentioned, when I go somewhere for help, people do not generally care to hear my story or learn more about who I am and what I want to achieve – they just want to do their job and move on to the next person.
To my surprise, one of the first things my LIFT coach asked me was what my dreams were. I thought I was just there to fix my resume!
From that very first moment, I was treated like family. My baby was given a place to play while the staff offered me coffee and treated me warmly. Trust me when I tell you that this is not what parents experience elsewhere when they go for help.
When I met with my coach, I shared that my dream was to finish college so that I could set a good example for my kids. How could I tell them to stay in school if I didn’t stay in school myself? So that same day, we started by working on my resume, and that night I went home and was able to apply to several jobs. Soon after, I received a call from my coach telling me, that thanks to the generosity of a LIFT supporter, a scholarship opportunity to Trinity-Washington University was available. He felt that, based on our conversation, I was a good candidate. I could hardly believe what I was hearing. We got to work on my application.
Shortly after, I heard back from a job and about two months later, I was hired. But my living arrangement had fallen apart. I no longer had the option of staying with my friend. My kids and I had been moving from one hotel room to another, searching and searching for a permanent place to stay with no luck. Even though I now had a job, I could not afford an apartment. So, we moved into a homeless shelter, where we spent the next two years while I worked full-time and went to school.
I thank God every day for LIFT. Finding this organization changed the course of my family’s future for good. But the road here was not easy.
During my time with LIFT, I overcame homelessness; my daughter was in and out of the hospital; my son had 3 surgeries in one year. But I knew that I had to be strong for my family and for myself too. I overcame the obstacles, and with LIFT’s help, I made my dream of going back to school a reality. I am proud to share with you that last May I graduated with my Bachelor of Arts in Health Services from Trinity-Washington University.
With my degree, I want to pay it forward. I want to help other women like me in my community to teach and support them in the ways that LIFT did for me.
What I have gained from my experience with LIFT has made all the hard times worth it. Having a coach to collaborate with and keep me accountable gave me the time and the motivation to focus on my long-term goals, master time management, and complete my education.
We have a song in Haiti that goes like this: “Si ou banm yon poisson map manje yon jou, min si ou montre-m peche map manje chak jou.” Which is similar to a saying I’ve heard here that goes: “Give a man a fish, and you’ll feed him for a day. Teach him to fish, and you’ve fed him for a lifetime.”
That is what LIFT has done for me. LIFT has taught me how to fish so that I can eat every day.
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