March 6, 2013

Haitian group celebrates 20 years of helping women

Haitian Women of Miami hosts its annual fundraiser to support programs like family counseling.

Nanelle Jean-Pierre did not know who to turn to when her 13-year old started to rebel.

The teen refused to go to school, came home at all hours and provoked fights.

“I didn’t speak English very well,” Jean-Pierre said. “I didn’t know where I could go for help. I used to cry, it was so hard.”

Jean-Pierre, who is originally from Haiti, was referred to Fanm Ayisyen Nan Miyami (Haitian Women of Miami), a nonprofit group that offers family intervention and empowerment classes.

By that point, the Florida Department of Children and Families was involved. Jean-Pierre said she faced jail time for trying to discipline her daughter.

Her daughter did a brief stint in DCF custody.

For many Haitian immigrants, the cultural differences over what constitute abuse is shocking, said Marleine Bastien, executive director of FANM.

“It’s not only Haitian parents, but other immigrants we serve as well. Oftentimes they feel they are disciplining their children by beating them with a belt,” said Bastien. “We help the parents understand the laws of this country and how they work, what is permitted and what is not permitted.’’

Through FANM’s family program Jean-Pierre and her daughter enrolled in counseling. They learned how to communicate with each other and how to better manage their anger.

“The reason I can speak to you today as a successful mother is because of the program. My troubled 13-year old, she is now 22 and she’s in college,” said Jean-Pierre, who has remained active in FANM.

FANM is well known for its efforts in immigration activism, but the nonprofit runs a variety of programming for kids and adults: literacy and computer training, youth afterschool and summer programs, economic development and citizenship services.

Thursday the organization will host its 20th anniversary fundraiser. All proceeds will support the nonprofit’s programs.

“FANM is a valuable resource for Nanelle and for many other families in this community,” Bastien said.

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