Staring from the back seat of my dad’s car, my heart was saddened to see the lack of resources the Haitian people had to deal with. I could see that my uncles were right, but I did not want it to be true.
Maya Elysse, ’22, spent her summer researching her parents’ native Haiti, thanks to a grant from Bridgewater State University’s Adrian Tinsley Program for Undergraduate Research. The political science major and computer science minor studied the dire economic challenges the island nation faces. Her project became more complicated over the summer as the troubles of Haiti and its people have continued, with the July assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, another large earthquake striking in August and the arrival in Texas of thousands of mainly Haitian refugees. Meanwhile, The New York Times has reported the country is ruled by warring gangs.
Growing up immersed in Haitian culture, I was exposed at an early age to the political debates that my uncles had. This encouraged me to become a political science major.
I remember sitting on my dad’s lap surrounded by five of my uncles while they spoke about the ongoing governmental corruption in Haiti. I recall them often saying, “Ayiti pa bon, pa plis,” meaning “Haiti is not good anymore.”
As a child born and raised in Boston, I took trips to visit my mom and dad who were living in Haiti. Even as a young child, I observed Haiti’s poverty. Staring from the back seat of my dad’s car, my heart was saddened to see the lack of resources the Haitian people had to deal with. I could see that my uncles were right, but I did not want it to be true. My dedication to helping Haiti grew each time I visited.
As Haiti struggled with poverty and government corruption, the country was hit by a catastrophic 7.0 magnitude earthquake in 2010. It is estimated that between 250,000 and 370,000 people died in the aftermath. People who survived had to live in tents given to them by international non-governmental organizations (INGOs). More than one million people in Haiti are still — 11 years after the earthquake — living without homes or on the street.
I fell in love with Haiti as a child, and as a person of Haitian descent, I have felt a responsibility and desire to help those who live there to recover. I have often asked, “What is limiting the growth of Haiti?” When Haiti is mentioned, it is always negative.
As a political science major with a concentration in international relations, I hope to learn more about what has gone wrong in Haiti, starting with INGOs. My summer research has resulted in an academic white paper that seeks to help others understand how some of these organizations are not supporting developing countries that have experienced devastation. When I apply to law school next year, I will have an example of the work I have done, work that I am passionate about.
One day I want to work in the United Nations to improve countries like Haiti by using my education and my voice to support people in the world who do not have the resources of those of us lucky enough to live in developed countries.