Student. Seamstress. Business Owner. Visionary.
When I met Denis, it was the end of my first week as a conversational English teacher, at a Port au Prince school. I had just finished “teaching” a class of seventy-one students and was more than overwhelmed to walk into another classroom of over fifty teenagers. After writing some basic English greetings on the chalkboard, I asked in English for the class to read the phrases out loud. After a few painful minutes of lame attempts to evoke a response, a soft-spoken, brightly smiling student walked over and offered to translate. When God shut the mouths of the lions, I bet Daniel must have felt the same relief I did when Denis stepped up to help! I had the honor of sitting down with this young man and chat about his life and vision for his future.
Denis is currently in his third year at College St. Andre as a Rheto [junior] student and president of the English Club. (He is an excellent English Language Learner speaker!) At most Haitian schools, students are taught in French while learning Kreyol, Spanish and English. In addition to his basic schooling and language learning, he has also taken technical courses, such as plumbing, paving, and sewing and will soon begin computer classes next semester.
I asked why he pursues advanced English learning: “At first, I didn’t like learning English. In this country and others countries, English is the language for business.” Denis believes that in the Haitian culture, for a Haitian to be respected, they must obtain a degree from an university in another country. He dreams of an opportunity to further his education and future with a Business and Foreign Studies degree, outside of Haiti, but fears he will not have the possibility due to the costs.
“...for attaining wisdom and discipline; for understanding words of insight; for acquiring a disciplined and prudent life, doing what is right and just and fair; for giving prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the young - let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance.” Proverbs 1:2-5
Besides leading English clubs, one of Denis’ other extracurricular activities included sewing. Since sewing is not the “typical” teenage boy hobby, I inquired where he learned to sew. “Outside of my house there was an old man [street vendor that set up shop] who was sewing. I watched him and learned day by day.” A couple years ago, Almando and Cassandra Jean Louis, gifted Denis monies to purchase his first sewing machine, sewing classes and the materials to kick start his business. Through a church scholarship, he was then gifted another “simple” sewing machine to continue advancing his trade skills. He has put those gifts to full use by learning how to sew and teaching others. “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today” Hebrews 3:13
At the ripe age of seventeen, Denis started a home-based business, DENS Productions, making and selling textiles. His main products are backpacks and now is branching into shoes, shirts and all school textile needs. He says, “Every school year, Haitian parents buy cheap and bad quality bags.” DENS offers products that are stronger and more durable - while remaining affordable. It is one of the ways he helps to support his community.
In two short years, he has now grown his business to include five employees, five sewing machines (though two are broken) and his production has dramatically increased. He sold over 550 backpacks during this year’s back-to-school season! When I asked if he planned to continue to expand his business, he calmly replied, “At first, I didn’t like it but once I saw I would be able to give jobs [to others]... it is my destiny.”I was curious as to what a teenage entrepreneur spends his money on. He told me his profits go towards paying his school fees, helping with part of household expenses, some to treat his mother (who is his heart), and the rest for food and clothes he’d like to buy. “The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty.” Proverbs 21:5
“I don’t want to be independent. Young Haitians have talents. I find out and call them; I want to see how our talents can be unified.”
For Denis, giving back to the country he loves is his purpose. His vision is not to create four or five jobs, but thousands of jobs to unify and empower his fellow countrymen, here in Haiti. It breaks his heart that for so many Haitians, the only option to support their families, is to leave Haiti to find jobs opportunities in other countries. That is why Denis is working on his business plan to advertise his business, find a facility, and hire more employees and work towards gaining corporate accounts, such as the Haitian National Police and Brana, the manufacturer for Prestige beer. If that was not a big enough endeavor, Denis’ dreams do not stop there! He would love to build a place where people can go to have a good time, like an amusement park or movie theater.
“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor; if either of them falls down, once can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
Prayer Needs for Denis
A nineteen-year-old young man with such a passion, drive, success and heart for his country could only be attributed to a relationship with God. Denis believes in living out the teachings of Jesus, particularly being the “good” in the world. Anyone who has an opportunity to chat with him and watch his face light up when he speaks about his mother or his vision for Haiti can absolutely understand that Denis has God-given talent and purpose.
According to scripture, “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” James 5:16. Please join with me in covering this amazing young man in prayer! We stand in confidence that the Lord will hear our prayers.
- Continue to grow his faith in the Lord and walk in God’s will
- Successful completion of his current schooling (fees and grades)
- Ability to pursue a Business degree from an accredited university
- Steady growth of his business
- Industrial sewing machines (for thicker materials)
- Secure facility location to house his business
“But it is the spirit in a man, the breath of the Almighty that gives him understanding. It is not only the old who are wise, not only the aged who understand what is right.” Job 32:8-9
Michelle McKay serves with the National Spiritual Council of Churches of Haiti (CONASPEH). Her appointment is made possible by your gifts to Disciples Mission Fund, Our Church’s Wider Mission, WOC, OGHS, and your special gifts.