Of all the hats that Maryse Penette-Kedar wears, “mom” is her favorite. She has one grown daughter, Arielle, but hundreds, if not thousands, have depended on her generosity, vision, employment and schooling over the course of her life.
Born in Petion-Ville, Haiti, she is the daughter of highly respected school professor Max Penette. He instilled a spirit of leadership through education into her and in 1995, following an illustrious career in Haiti’s foreign service, she founded the internationally recognized non-profit Progress and Development Foundation (PRODEV), an empowerment-through-education initiative. In 2010, following the devastating earthquake in Haiti, she co-founded l’Ecole Nouvelle Zoranje to provide education in an under-served community north of Cite Soleil.
“Visiting the children at the school always brings me immense joy. Witnessing their progress, seeing them grow into wonderful, educated, young adults is a true source of happiness and pride,” Penette-Kedar said.
“I am blessed to have one wonderful daughter (Arielle). People who know me well also know that despite my small family, I have created a much bigger family of many amazing Haitian children from all walks of life and ages – I consider them my own (children),” Penette-Kedar said. “I have had the opportunity to build profound relationships with so many young Haitians; I truly hope that I have enriched their lives as they have enriched – and continue to enrich – mine.
When Penette-Kedar acknowledged the difficulties to overcome in the education sector, she didn’t mince her words. “In Haiti, the lack of access of education is a serious hindrance to the advancement of this country. In that respect, L’Ecole Nouvelle Zoranje serves as a model school that participates in shaping Haiti’s future leaders. In a country where the widespread perception is that ‘nothing works,’ local efforts such as Zoranje represent Haiti’s best-kept secrets. So many of these Haitian-led and successful initiatives such as model schools, artisan networks, women’s groups, small businesses and stellar foundations are what keep me going and believing that Haiti, despite all evidence to the contrary, will succeed,” she asserted.
As in nearly all cultures, women in Haiti bear the overwhelming responsibility to do the best they can for their children. “Haitian women are the heroes of Haiti, and on this Mother’s Day, my heart goes out to all the mothers – pillars of their communities – of our country,” said Penette-Kedar. “They surmount incredible obstacles to raise their children, send them to school and provide for them. Mothers are the real warriors.”