Haiti was my first trip with Esther so I was still figuring things out. Esther insisted I tape interviews, and I’m glad she did. I interviewed Leonie through a translator outside the Heartline sewing center in Port-au-Prince.
Leonie is beautiful, quiet and shy. At just 19 years old, she has the body of a young girl, but she’s noticeably very pregnant. She lived with her family in Ti Riviere, a village in the Haitian countryside, until her father married her off to a family friend. Her husband left her to go find work in the Dominican Republic, and when she didn’t hear from him, she went to Port-au-Prince on her own. She was pregnant and alone in a country that suffers the worst maternal mortality rates in the Western hemisphere.
When she was two months pregnant, she moved in to Heartline’s Harbor House, a home for mothers that have no other place to go. Heartline provides Leonie with nutritious meals, prenatal classes and tutoring. She also has the option of learning sewing skills at Heartline’s artisan training program and she would like to learn English.
Leonie’s own mother died of an infection days after giving birth at home in her village, where women frequently and very bravely have babies on their own with little knowledge of how to treat even minor emergencies. Despite what happened to her mother, Leonie says she is not afraid of giving birth. She will have qualified birth attendants and a clean, safe place to live with her child. She’s due in June.