On October 29th we had a listening session for the Haitian community. About one hundred seniors filled the small chapel at the Greater Boston Nazarene Compassionate Center on River Street. The session began with Pastor Zephir asking everyone to pray and to share their thoughts in order for us to know the concerns of this community. Ruth Georges, the Mattapan liaison from the Office of Neighborhood Services facilitated the session with Hayley Gleason from UMass Boston Gerontology Institute.
State Senator Linda Dorcena-Forry and Councilors Flaherty and McCarthy were there as well.
Initially people were shy and reserved to speak. However, when a woman spoke, on the verge of tears, about being harassed in her apartment and wanting to go home to Haiti, this opened the way for others to talk about their fears and concerns. One of the things that kept surfacing was the need for employment. According to Ruth, about 70% of people in attendance said they needed and wanted to work.
A handsome couple in their late sixties described their frustrations and sadness. They left Haiti about 10 years ago and went to live with a son in Pennsylvania. There was not much of a Haitian community there and they came to live with another son in Boston. The husband had a job at a factory in Pennsylvania but since coming here to Boston has not been able to work. His wife said she was very depressed and did not feel a sense of purpose.
We have our Age-Friendly survey in Haitian-Creole, but many seniors cannot read or write. Ruth, Nadine Dorcena from the Haitian Multi-Service Center along with Pastor Zephir’s volunteers from the church patiently translated to small groups and one on one to get them completed. The session stretched to nearly 4 hours.