We Are America

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Photo ofHelene Milceus

When I was two years old, my grandma gave me a gold necklace right after I got better from being sick. She gave it to me before my family left Haiti for the United States. Years later, my dad told me his grandma gave it to his mom and she passed it down to me. I am my grandmother’s third granddaughter. And so I always wondered why she chose to give the necklace to me. 

From the time I was eight years old I began hearing a lot of different stories about myself, some hard to believe and some that sounded made up. But the older I got the more I started to believe the stories I heard. I am from Haiti where there is magic and voodoo, and things happen that nobody would believe. I always said my grandma gave the necklace to me for a reason. 

When I was two years old, I almost died. I was attacked by a lougarou. Every Haitian knows what a lougarou is. A lougarou is a sorcerer who has the power to change themselves into dogs, horses, trees, and other animals or objects and try to kill you. 

I don’t really understand the stories, but one day I stopped eating and walking and breathing. My parents rushed me to the hospital where I stayed for a month. While I was in the hospital, my grandma made a Haitian medicine. She never told anyone what type of medicine it was. When the hospital said they didn't know what was wrong with me and they couldn't help me, my father brought me to my grandma. She did what she had to do in order to save my life. My father never questioned her, he trusted my grandma. My parents knew once she had me in her hands, there was no way she was going to let me die. And after I had her medicine I got better. But when I recovered my parents learned that I had lost some of my memory. I had to relearn how to walk so it took me time to recover. After my grandma saved my life she gave me my necklace. I never took it off, I believe It protects me. My mom said I have never gotten that sick since then. 

A few months after I recovered from being sick, me and my mom’s side of the family had an opportunity to come to America. I always wondered if my grandmother had something to do with that or was it just a coincidence. My grandmother helped pay for our visas. Roughly three years later, I had just turned 6 years old when a big earthquake hit Haiti. I lost my grandma and many family members in the earthquake. 

In America, my mom and my aunts went to school and I started pre-K in a class for English Language Learners. Being in ELL classes messed my head up. Each year I had to prove that I knew English and take the same English test. From the time I was in preK to senior year of high school I have studied in ten different schools, in two different states, and in seven different cities. 

I have worn my grandma’s necklace since I came to America. My family reminds me of the time I got sick and she saved me. They remind me so I can do something big with the opportunity my grandma gave me. My grandma is watching over me and I know she is proud of me. My father is now in America and bringing the rest of the family to America. I will be the first on my dad's side to graduate and the 2nd on my mom's side. I will be the first to graduate at 16 years old. I worked hard to get where I am and I know the hard work is really just starting. I will continue to wear my grandma’s necklace proudly. I will forever be grateful for her.

© Helene Milceus. All rights reserved. If you are interested in quoting this story, contact the national team through this website and we can put you in touch with the young person's teacher.