At 4:53pm on the 12 January 2010, Haiti shook violently with a massive earthquake. It claimed the lives of my husband Emmanuel (39yrs), and our beautiful daughters, Kofie-Jade (5yrs) and Zenzie (3yrs), when our 5-storey apartment building collapsed. Miraculously, our youngest daughter Alyahna (1 yr) survived and was pulled out with a broken leg and trauma after 22 hours under the rubble.
Emmanuel (born in Haiti and raised in France and the USA) and I (New Zealander) met in Nigeria in 1998 while serving as United Nations Volunteers. We spent the following 12 years devoted to each other, to our children, and to our work with the United Nations in Electoral and Peacekeeping missions spanning Rwanda, Cambodia, Nigeria, South Africa, East Timor, Kosovo, Eritrea, Ethiopia Burundi and finally Haiti. Former Secretary-General Kofi Annan, eulogized Emmanuel as a true citizen of the world who represented the best of the international civil service.
I have established the Kenbe La Foundation in the memory of my family. Kenbe La means ‘Never Give Up’ in Haitian Creole. It is a vehicle for hope in the face of a tragedy that is literally incomprehensible. It honors Emmanuel and the passion and dreams he had to help disadvantaged children of his native Haiti – to provide educational opportunities to help them realize their potential. With a focus on sports, music, leadership and entrepreneurship, it aims to develop self-confidence in children and enable access to valuable life-skills.
Purple Cake Day, inspired by Kofie-Jade and Zenzie, is created as an annual awareness and fundraising event for the Kenbe La Foundation. It aims to celebrate and empower our children to help kids in need worldwide and to promote awareness of child poverty in developing countries.
You cannot control everything that happens to you in life but you can control how you respond to it. In my darkest hours I have pledged to Emmanuel, Kofie-Jade, Zenzie and Alyahna to rise like a phoenix from the ashes – to Never Give Up. The Foundation is a way that we can make a difference in the lives of some children. Help me to realize this goal and rise to the challenge.
“Union Fait La Force” – United We Stand.