Sophia is Determined to Achieve Her Dream

Undeterred by Haiti's unpredictable
weather, Sophia is educating her
community about disaster preparedness.

Sophia*, 17, is the eldest of three children and lives in Haiti. Since the age of six, she’s traveled 9 miles by bus to get to school, but nature hasn’t always made it easy.

“When I was 12, I started experiencing the hardships of when nature unleashes its power. After Haiti was hit by four major hurricanes—Ana, Ike, Fay, and Gustav—in 2008, I remember how strongly it affected the country,” recalls Sophia.

This year, the river near Sophia’s community flooded, hampering the teenager’s journey to school. When it’s hurricane season, the situation is even worse, as the water heads downstream from the mountains, creating severe flooding where Sophia lives.

Due to an inadequate drainage system and a lack of good preventive measures, hundreds of houses and roads are often destroyed.

“The residents of my district were particularly surprised by the onslaught of Rivière Grise this year, as the floods caused serious losses to agriculture and road infrastructure. Cattle were washed away, along with plantations of corn and peas, while other cultures were ravaged,” she says.

"But this isn’t the first time nature’s unpredictable ways has affected this Caribbean island," she remembers.

"Almost the same situation occurred last October, when Hurricane Sandy passed through my area of residence in Haiti,” she explains. “Many houses were filled with trash and mud. They were significantly damaged and the water was polluted. I was afraid of another outbreak of the cholera epidemic in my neighborhood," she says.

Learning from the Past

Incidents such as these have spurred Sophia on to help her community and raise awareness about how to respond when faced with a disaster. When the earthquake destroyed Haiti on January 12, 2010, Sophia did not hesitate to help its victims through the Youth for Community Development Organization, in which she is president.

Sophia provided psycho-social support and trained over 100 girls living in camps about how to protect themselves from violence. Following several training modules sponsored by Plan, Sophia decided to replicate them for the members of the organization. Before the occurrence of a tropical storm, Sophia made it a point to educate her community about the dangers of cholera and best practices to avoid contraction.

Through Sophia’s humanitarian work, she has also witnessed the extreme gender stereotypes that exist in Haitian society. This has inspired Sophia to follow her dream to become a lawyer, so that she can defend children, especially girls—and, no matter what nature throws in her path, she is dedicated to completing secondary school and going to college.

“I know I’m going to succeed. I’m not afraid about what will happen tomorrow or in the coming year. I believe in myself and in all girls who, like me, think they can make a difference in Haiti and allow children and youth to live in a society where their rights are fully respected,” she says.

*Editor's Note: Sophia's name has been changed to protect her identity.