The true meaning of being Haitian goes beyond songs and flags

My father is from Twain, a small farming town in Haiti. He grew up without an education, but he always had big dreams. So 30 years ago he made a decision that altered the life of everyone in my family. Risking his life, he left my pregnant mother in Haiti and smuggled aboard a boat to pursue his American dream. When he finally arrived, he was an uneducated illegal alien who was homeless and lost. He went through many struggles to finally become a citizen and received an education that was long overdue. Now my father is a pastor and a licensed electrician.Although he achieved his dream, my father never forgot his town and the lack of resources it had. He wanted to uplift his community, so he decided to construct a school and church with his own money. Church of God Assembly of Grace School for Children was a two-story school that sat atop a mountain that overlooked the village below. It was a modern resemblance of schools in the U.S. But on Jan. 12, a magnitude 7.0 earthquake hit the island of Haiti destroying the school, church and four years of progress. Recently, my father took a trip to Haiti to survey the damage. He said his hopes for the school are now a pile of broken dreams, but he is thankful that at the time of the earthquake no one was hurt. Since the quake, I constantly think of my father’s persistence. At times, he worked three jobs and willingly gave up countless tax return checks to build and fund the school and church. I remember how excited he was when the school first opened. Everyday, I would hear my father thank god for the blessings of being an American, being able to help the children of his town and being able to raise his children in a place were education was in abundance. But my sibling and I always complained about the things we could not have and we wondered why my father gave money to people he did not know. That is when my parents would remind us that we lived in America. That, alone, gave us a chance to be successful.Later that year, I took my first trip to Haiti. I realized the school and church were treasured in the community and helped many families. That year was when I stopped being selfish and decided to contribute. So, when I turned 16 I started working. I always gave a portion of my check to my dad to help him pay for the school.Being Haitian is not just a title that I wear proudly-it is the summers I spent helping to strengthen a community and the life lessons I learned from the people in Haiti.Singing songs that profess your Haitian culture and wearing the Haitian flag proudly is meaningless, unless you also help Haiti’s cause. It is not enough to just say you are Haitian, but ask yourself, what am I doing to help my country?