Coming Home to Kabay
Remis Pierre, 23, lives in the house where he grew up in the farming community of Kabay. It’s only 8 a.m. when we visit, but the sound of a soccer game can already be heard from a radio inside the house: the World Cup has just started. Pierre supports Brazil, as do both my MCC colleague and my motorcycle taxi driver, who are also sitting with us. The two countries have a long history together. Everyone in Haiti knows someone who has gone to Brazil—or the Dominican Republic, or Chile, or Haiti’s capital city, Port-au-Prince—to find work and send a little money back to their families.
Seeking a living elsewhere
Pierre himself left Kabay, in Haiti’s Artibonite department, for the Dominican Republic in 2014. At that time, life in Kabay was a constant struggle. The community is remote, without electricity, drinkable water, hospitals or schools. Like many mountainous areas in Haiti, it had been largely deforested, leaving it vulnerable to erosion and landslides – a bad storm could wash away an entire crop in one evening. Free-ranging goats would make their way into gardens and eat vulnerable seedlings. And without easy access to clean water or latrines, water-borne diseases like cholera were a dangerous reality.
Faced with these struggles, Pierre made the same choice as many friends and family members in Kabay before him: he dropped out of school and traveled to find a work in the neighboring Dominican Republic. Haitian workers frequently find themselves at a disadvantage in the Dominican labor market, as they often lack formal documentation and identification papers, making them vulnerable to exploitation and deportation. Theft, exploitation and discrimination against Haitians also are reported commonly.
“Life was not good,” he says. Eventually, it all became too much, and Pierre decided to return home to Haiti.