Muriel's Story: "When you fall; life isn’t over. Get up. Press on."
The MCC Haiti blog periodically features a staff highlight in its Face-to-Face series. Muriel Chaperon has been the Peace Program Coordinator with MCC Haiti since 2015. Prior to starting with MCC, she worked with SOFA and Limyè Lavi – two Haitian organizations dedicated to promoting women’s rights and assisting victims of violence. While with SOFA in 2005, Muriel worked on a campaign that helped pass a law in Haiti that finally criminalized rape. Here she shares her personal story:
My name is Muriel Chaperon. I am a single mother of one son. I was born into a family with 5 children - 3 boys and 2 girls. I am the oldest. My dad was a taxi driver. (I say was, because he died last December.) My mother was a seamstress.
When I turned seven my curiosity was peaked about the world around me; I was a happy child. I had all of my needs met. I loved playing with my younger brother who taught me all sorts of games. My brother died in 2009.
Times were hard when my father lost his taxi and my mom became pregnant again, we faced a lot of hardship and had to move into a single-room house. My mom couldn’t work any longer because she had to stay at home with us kids.
My father struggled to pay our school fees, and we became quite poor. Sometimes I went to school without food. But I would tell myself, As long as I can go to school, the rest doesn’t matter. It’s okay if I can’t eat, don’t have toys like the other kids, or a lot of clothes. I can still achieve my dreams.
God gave me courage and strength to press on. For instance, when I reached secondary school in my teenage years, I would regularly meet older men who would offer to “help” me if I went out with them. There were girls at my school that said, “You are so lucky. With your looks you can find a married man to take care of you!” But I refused men’s advances.
While in university, I studied law. God provided an opportunity for me to work for an organization that defends women’s rights, SOFA. I started as an unpaid intern but earned full employee status and benefits. I loved my work, because I got to assist women who had been victims of violence. For a long time I had set this as my goal: to become an advocate for victims of injustice and to defend the poorest in society, because the poorest never get a leg up; they always suffer at the hands of others.
And it was during this time that I met my son’s father. We spent 5 years together. At first he was nothing but kind and thoughtful towards me. When I became pregnant, we moved in together. It was at this time that I discovered what kind of man he really was. It’s like he transformed into a different person. He drank alcohol constantly. He was rarely home. He began hitting me. It got so bad that I felt like I couldn’t go on living.
I cried every day and asked God why He let me fall into this circumstance. I didn’t deserve this.
I believed my son’s father could change, because he kept telling me he was trying hard to change, and I also didn’t want my son to grow up without a father. But he continued mistreating us the same way. Finally, after a year, I realized this could not go on; I would die if it continued. So God gave me the strength to leave that house with my child.
My son and I now live happily together. Because of the trauma we suffered, I haven’t considered dating anyone from 2009 till now. Though now I have healed and I dearly hope that God will provide me a good man that I can build a life with.
It’s God who helped me find a job with MCC in 2015. I feel so lucky to be here, not only because MCC provides me an opportunity to help others like me find justice, but also to work towards the development of my country in the name of Christ – this is a privilege.
I would like to take this opportunity to tell all those who are desperate, who suffer any sort of injustice, to always hold onto hope. As long as you are alive, there is hope. You must persist in order to achieve your dreams. Take my life as an example.
When you fall – life isn’t over. Get up. Press on. The sun is shining up ahead. As long as you are alive – fight.
I still have many plans for my life, and I know that – because I am alive - I will achieve them with strength, courage and God’s help.