Introduction: Maria

Before I even begin, it must be said. This woman is a phenomenal writer and storyteller.  So I will basically just be quoting her words and directing you back to her beautiful blog :: GOING FORTH. 

Just a bit of background :: Maria Atkinson and I came to know one another through a mutual friend.  I was at the time working for Women at Risk, International based out of neighboring Dominican Republic.  My then roommate tagged me in a post on Facebook, and said, “Isn’t this the city you used to live in in Haiti? Seems like you two would have some interests in common.”

That turned out to be a huge understatement, because as soon as I checked out the post and read about the opening of a new restoration home in Jacmel providing women with a viable route out of human trafficking, the sex trade and sexual abuse– chills ran down my spine.  Even before ever speaking to Maria, I already knew without a doubt: this program– which takes a holistic approach to healing, education, social business, and empowerment– was the fulfillment of a vision that I had prayed for and believed in to become a reality for years and years prior. And I knew immediately without a doubt that my role now was to lean hard into supporting this endeavor in any and every way that I was able.

I was so enthused, but I tried to remain professional during our first call.  That all quickly went out the window as Maria shared with me the journey that compelled her to start Jasper House, and I noted how extremely similar her story was to my own journey that had brought about the same vision. This was no coincidence, and we both knew it.

Following along and being a small part of Maria and Jasper House’s journey through their first year of operation– bearing witness to the work that is being done, the lives that are being changed, and the organic growth of the program– has been one of my great honors.

I have not only been inspired by the successes, but by Maria’s willingness to be real and vulnerable, refusing to sugarcoat the difficulties and barriers that both the program and she personally face in walking through the process of healing and self-empowerment alongside women who have been through trauma. It is not an easy road, and it does no one any favors to pretend that it is.

In this particular post, she has such wise and true words, which will resonate in a particularly raw way for those who are working in cross-cultural environments, but they are also words for people who find themselves at a point in their work where, in pouring out of themselves constantly as a labor of love, they have forgotten themselves:

As much as I love Haiti and Jasper House with every fiber of me being, there’s still a part of me that wants mountains and lakes, and playing fetch with a golden retriever, and a companion by my side. 

As much as a I love the unpredictable and exciting nature that Haiti brings to life, there’s still a part of me that longs for deep conversations over coffee, and walks through parks. 

As much as I crave dives in the Caribbean Sea, fried plantains, fresh coconuts and moto rides, there’s a part of me that desires a little house in a sweet neighborhood that doesn’t have to be protected by a ten-foot concrete wall topped with barbed wire.  

As much as I love speaking Kreyòl, dancing Kompa, and doing life with my Haitians, I miss dating people and making friends with those who understand my culture and upbringing. 

And most of all… I’m realizing that all of this is okay.

You have to read the whole post. It is just brilliant.

If you would like to consider getting more involved with the efforts of Jasper House, or simply want to be encouraged and inspired by the sheer beauty and power in women empowering other women, I encourage you to spends some time poking around on the Jasper House website.

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