Leniere Capricien, Up From Poverty
Hotes Foundation Team Member overcomes poverty and joins the fight against it.
What is it like to fight poverty after surviving poverty? Few know better than Hotes Foundation Team Member Leniere Capricien. Leniere is the daycare team leader at the Lake Azuei Village in Haiti, where the Hotes Foundation has operated full-time programs for over 3 years. In this role, he has helped the residents of the village through many of the extreme hardships they face.
To Leniere, the problems of extreme poverty sometimes seem uncountable. Most days his time extends far beyond the activities with the children and daycare staff. Weekly he is confronted with resolution of chronic disease and infections, social issues such as violence against women, and family distress and parenting. His background, however, gives him a unique perspective that prevents him from being overwhelmed and allows him to solve one issue at a time. Leniere was born in Northern Port-au-Prince, into the same extreme poverty that continues to exist across Haiti. Growing up, Leniere would have to walk long distances to get unfiltered water for the family, health problems were constant, and without a reliable way to make money for the family’s basic needs, Leniere’s parents could not afford education.
When asked about how he overcame his circumstances where others failed, Leniere recalls a revelation he had at the age of 12. “I noticed that every successful person I met had some sort of education,” he says. Recognizing this pattern, Leniere became determined to go to school, but it wasn’t easy. While the Haitian constitution “guarantees” free primary education for all, the reality for the people of Haiti is if you want your child to go to school, you have to pay. “At first I tried to go to school without paying but I kept getting kicked out. So, I started doing whatever job I could to pay for my schooling. I had to fight everyday to go to school. There were many days where I didn’t eat. When I made money I never wasted it, it all went to my schooling.” While helping support his family and attending school, Leniere earned his High School Diploma at the age of 24.
Today, Leniere is 32 years old. With his experience and self-motivation, he has now chosen to help others have a better life. His ability to speak English, penchant for hard work and caring for others was immediately recognized by The Hotes Foundation. This made Leniere a perfect fit for participating in the daycare program. He plays a vital role in the overall success of the daycare and families whose children attend. Not only does the Hotes Foundation Daycare provide children an early start to their education, it also offers weekly medical check-ups, breakfast and lunch, and clean drinking water. Under the care of Leniere and the Hotes Foundation daycare staff, the children are advancing scholastically in a nurturing environment.
Leniere says his background in poverty helps him greatly in his role. “I know this poverty. I know everything about it,” says Leniere, “This makes me work hard. I encourage the children and the residents of Lake Azuei to work hard, too. I teach them not to waste anything the Hotes Foundation provides and to respect each other. I didn’t get these opportunities to get water everyday, to get a meal everyday, to get an early education. I didn’t get that.”
Hotes Foundation employee Michael Feeser, who works with Leniere from the United States, says that Leniere’s attitude and background make him an asset to the team. “Lenny understands what’s going on with the residents as individuals living in poverty, but he’s also disciplined and hard working. So, he is able to differentiate between when the parent is not doing the right thing for themselves or their family and when they are in genuine need of assistance to solve their problems. His hard work makes the daycare very successful in helping the children and their parents live better lives.”
Asked about what he hopes to accomplish for the villagers in the long run, Leniere says, “I hope one day that they can be senators, presidents, and go on to do great things for this country.”
What advice does Leniere give to others? “My message to kids in Haiti is for them to go to school and get an education. Dream of success in life and be an example for other kids. My message to people in a position to help others is that when God blesses you, you need to work that blessing. Helping poor people is always good because it encourages others to do the same.”