(Note: Before we begin, I just want to disclose that I met this wonderful woman last year while volunteering for the Hurricane Matthew Relief for Haiti. A mutual associate felt that it would be a good idea for Nadege and I to connect since we both share a passion for uplifting women. We exchanged our contact information, but never managed to stay in touch. After a re-encounter—she started a new position at my place of employment—we were able to formally converse.-Jadine Louissaint)
In celebration of International Women’s Day (which is part of Women’s History Month), we are excited to share the stories of Haitian women entrepreneurs who are impacting their communities with their love of God and talents. In TransforMe Ayiti we call these women “Fanm pou Bondye,” which translates to “Women for God.” We’ve decided to highlight a woman each week this month.
Nadege Vilsaint, LCSW, MSW, the founder of Prosperity Social Community Development Group, Inc. where “love, hope, joy and peace conquers.” Her organization is a 501(c) 3 non-profit with a mission to create opportunities that will stimulate and revitalize social and economic development in underserved communities throughout Miami-Dade County. The organization is currently serving minority groups, immigrants, women, teen-girls, the homeless and ex-offenders. I had the honor of interviewing her on February 28, 2017 and would like to share this “Fanm pou Bondye’s” story.
JL: Where were you born?
NV: Port-de- Blanc, Haiti
JL: At what age did you move to the United States?
JL: Describe your business in one statement
NV: “Place of Hope and Love”
JL: When did you find Jesus and how did it change your life?
NV: At the age of 13, after the break-up with my first love. That relationship made me realize that I had an idea of love, but didn’t experience true love until I found Jesus.
JL: What is your favorite bible verse?
NV: “I actually have 3; Psalm 37:4-5, Isaiah 41:10, Philippians 4:13, these verses combined gave me the strength to start the organization in August- 2011.
JL: What’s your “why” and how did that help you start Prosperity Social Community Development Group, Inc.
NV: Well growing up in a home where I witnessed an abusive relationship between my parents, I knew one of the ways I could help my mother, who was a Haitian immigrant, be empowered was to teach her how to read and write English. With the assistance of my sibling, we taught our mother how to read and write English and before we knew it she was able to become a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA). That was just the beginning. She eventually continued her studies and later became a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) all because we invested in her and gave her the confidence of learning how to write her name. My mother would die 10 years later and after her passing I had the desire to help other Haitian immigrant families. Today, we serve 130 immigrants in the city of North Miami ages 45 to 95 with our organization’s literacy project “Connecting the Bridge Through Literacy.” As that project continued to grow, it led us to start the “Needing Opportunity to Win” (NOW Project) which caters to at risk high school girls from the ages of 15 to 24 and it’s as an after school program where the organization provides professional and social development at COPE North Center, North Garden High, Carol City High and Norland High. When the need for childcare arose while working with the adults, we felt led the to start the Shine Bright after-school program, which provides the children of the immigrants learning how to read and write after school care. We provide parent-teacher conferences, tutoring, self- esteem and confidence building. The program currently has 75 kids from North Miami Middle and High School North Miami Beach Middle and High School, Gratigny Elementary, Miami Shores Elementary Holy Family and Holy Cross. This year, we’re excited as we work on our future project “The Place of Hope,” which will be a shelter for homeless, runaway, teen pregnancy, sex trafficking young girls. It will provide support as they strive to care for themselves and their babies.
JL: How do you balance everything?
NV: Over the years I learned to balance everything as it helps me prioritize what is important and what can take a back seat. When you find your passion and calling it becomes your lifestyle, it forces you to be a leader and every of your life, which allows you to control your feelings, and prioritize your social life and personal life.
JL: Can you share an A-ha moment?
NV: Yes, I actually have many A–ha moments, but I will share two today. The first A-ha moment came from our adult literacy project participant who started our program in 2013. The participant gave me her concerns about how difficult it was for her to learn how to read and write and she didn’t believe she would be able to do it. After talking to her and making her understand that if her mindset does not change; she will never overcome that obstacle, this woman is finally able to read and write and is currently working as a Certified Nursing Assistance (CNA).
The next A-ha moment was with one of the young girls that we had in our project “The Place of Hope”. She was raped and wanted to have an abortion. Also, she didn’t feel worthy enough to attend her prom. After providing her with individual counseling and ongoing therapy, she kept the baby and is now enrolled at FIU studying to become a nurse. It’s these success stories that keep me going because I know our organization is making the difference and impacting lives in the community.
JL: What has been a discouraging moment during your journey as a business owner and how did you overcome it?
NV: So one of the most discouraging moments in the business was in 2015 when we lost our house that was housing eight at-risk young girls. We were providing shelter, mental health and social services. During that season, it was the most devastating thing that could happen to me, as I felt like a failure and ultimately I failed these young girls. This almost put me in a state of depression as I started questioning if I had been disobedient to God, did I move to quickly when renting this house and did I do everything in my power to keep the house? What helped me overcome this season were the people God strategically placed in my life and the business. God surrounded me with folks that wouldn’t let me give up, especially my board of directors. The prayers of the adults from the literacy program and support from my pastor helped me push through. During this time one of our board of directors worked for the county and had a connection with the Camillus House, today we have a private floor at the Camillus House where we were able to house all 8 girls. God gets all the glory and praise, as I know one door was shut and another one opened. So as we wait and work out the process of buying a home, we know that these young ladies have a safe place, a safe haven and will push forward to their recovery.
JL: Do you have any last encouraging words for women who are sitting on their purpose?
NV: Yes I do, just start! That desire or passion that you have in you, is bigger than you. Do it because the world is waiting on you to impact your community with your uniqueness. When passion, determination and your uniqueness comes together, you create something that no one can duplicate.
All donations and t-shirt sales for the month of March will go to our first Fanm pou Bondye Ms. Nadege Vilsaint, who is the founder of Prosperity Social Community Development Group, Inc. Their mission is create opportunities to stimulate and revitalize social and economic development in underserved communities throughout Miami-Dade County serving minority groups, immigrants, women, teen-girls the homeless and ex-offenders. Their upcoming program called The Place of Hope Project, will provide housing for homeless, runway, human trafficking young girls with or without children has captured our hearts and we would like support it with your help. For more information about the organization, please visit http://p-scdg.org.