“I saw kids running around outside when they should have been in school. I thought, what is this? And so, I wanted to do something about it.”
Sometimes JPNDC’s work goes to unexpected places. Anne St. Juste took a business class at JPNDC to strengthen her non-profit. Now she’s doing more than ever to help Haitian children and families (plus volunteering at JPNDC)!
Would you tell me about your background?
Anne: I was born in Haiti and moved to Boston in 1999. I’m a single mother of five kids. While taking care of my kids and living in Mattapan, I started going to Roxbury Community College to earn a double associate’s degree in Biological Science and Pre-nursing. But soon I realized how tough it was being a single mom and nursing student, so I opted out. Later I received a bachelor’s degree at Cambridge College in Multidisciplinary Studies and am now pursuing my master’s degree at UMass.
I speak French, Haitian Creole, Spanish and English and I have a good understanding of Cape Verdean Creole.
Anne: I was introduced to JPNDC by a friend, who was taking a business class. I asked, “How much do you pay?” and she said, “as a matter of fact, it’s free!” I then replied, “You should take me with you!”
So, I came in to check out the classes and was happy I did. Now it’s been three years with JPNDC and I’m still involved with them. I am now a member of the Organizing Committee.
What was your business idea?
Anne: I was working on building a non-profit organization called Compassionate Care Centers. Our mission is to work with underprivileged youth and families, especially in Haiti. I got the idea after I went to Haiti in April 2012 and saw a bunch of kids running around outside. I thought to myself, “what is this? It’s school time! Do they have school in this neighborhood?”
By faith I want to start something. With poverty being so high, education is key to having a better life.
One of my current projects is building a roof for the second floor of the school in Haiti. Right now, our program has 45 kids with seven staff and every year we are planning to add a new class. I also teach English in Mattapan to recently arrived Haitian-Creole speakers.
I’m still in the process of learning and volunteering. I have learned that starting a non-profit in here is not easy and comes with unseen difficulties. But I’m not going to give up, I will keep going and continuing with fundraising and looks for help to support more people and move forward.
What was your experience with the classes JPNDC offers?
Anne: I started with the business class with Carlos [Espinoza-Toro] but then took 3 or 4 more classes. I had a class in community organizing with Erica [Rothschild], and one on budgeting with Paola [Liendo]. I fell in love with it! And everything is free of charge.
JPNDC has helped me a lot and I’m very happy about it. I really appreciate the 1 on 1 coaching program which assist me in more ways than just business. Anywhere else, you must pay money if you want a coach and because of my student loan, my credit wasn’t too good. My mentor at JPNDC helped me fix that. Now I feel good about paying my bills on time and I learned how to spend my money wisely.
I love that JPNDC works with you until everything fits. And if they cannot help you with something, they can refer you to a proper place.
What has happened since you completed the courses?
Anne: Wherever I go, to Mattapan or Dorchester, I take JPNDC flyers with me. I tell people how JPNDC has helped me and encourage them to come and do same. Whenever I am doing my event, I always adding JPNDC flyers for more people to know it and even connected people from Brockton to JPNDC.
I also attend events with JPNDC, like going to the State House. The leadership class helped me learn about talking in public or to an elected official.
I tell people, “Even though they don’t give you money, they will show you how to get money.” It’s like the saying, “You can give people fish daily, but teaching people how to fish is better.”
What do you have planned for the future?
Anne: Lots of things! I am looking for volunteers and support for Compassionate Care Centers (we’re still working on the website) so I can expand the impact I have on my community. I’m also working on self-publishing several books about my life and Haitian folklore!