Tuesday, October 18, 2005
Manouche Douze is one of UNIF’s four students from Mirebalais, in Haiti’s Central Plateau area. Her home is in a small town named Gran Boucan, where she lives with her mother and father, both farmers, and her 5 younger siblings. During her classical studies, Manouche was the treasurer of her church’s Director’s Committee, and she speaks of religion as an important part of the UNIF experience. Though the students of UNIF, which does not have an official religious affiliation, come from different religious backgrounds, they all participate in Fondwa’s spiritual life. For Manouche, who stays in a UNIF residence with the other 9 female students, “religion is an important component of learning how to live with each other.”
The residents of Gran Boucan have a number of challenges to confront together as well. Manouche describes the area as greatly lacking in infrastructure, schools, and health care. Simple necessities such as latrines and potable water remain all too elusive. “Still,” she says, “it’s where I come from, and I want to participate in its development.” Toward that end, Manouche brought together 40 members of her community in 2004 to found APGN, the Peasant Association of Gran Boucan. Founding the organization is just one step in her efforts to improve the conditions of her hometown that will continue after she receives her degree in Agronomy from UNIF.
Manouche appreciates the professional skills she is learning at UNIF, with practical work and studying in 4 languages complementing her normal course of study. As to where she will put those skills into use, she says “I come from a rural area, and I can’t ignore that in Haiti, peasants are the most unrepresented people. It shouldn’t be like that.” She thinks that having a university in the mountains is a positive way of changing the relationship between peasant farmers and college graduates. “As we interact with the residents of Fondwa, students come to have a new vision of their work, and the peasants see that there are people who are concerned about rural issues.” It is evident that Manouche knows where she comes from and where she would like to go: “I’m a child of peasants, and it’s my mission to work with them.” With a full scholarship from Fonkoze Director Anne Hastings, Manouche will be able to pursue her mission with the help of an UNIF education.