By Raquel Pelissier | IG: @raquelpelissier
When Dr. Z approached me about joining Shashamane Sunrise and described the organization’s mission, I instantly wanted to be part of it. As Miss Haiti, my platform was education; I wanted to promote literacy and to instill the value of education in our children. I set out to donate 200 copies of Le Petite Prince (The Little Prince) translated in Creole by a Haitian author to children in need, and I received absolute support from Shashamane to execute this project. My first meeting with the Shash Team was an extremely productive one. I was very happy because I noticed how motivated all of the volunteers were. It was then that we planned our visit to Marion School to donate necessary school supplies. I’d recently gone to another school in Haiti with actor and musician Nick Cannon and former Miss Haiti Sarodj Bertin to distribute Le Petite Prince, so I was looking forward to our upcoming visit.
I loved visiting Marion School. We arrived on Christmas Eve and brought some much needed holiday cheer in the wake of Hurricane Matthew. The kids were really happy to receive the books and supplies—the school was in a very remote location, so our organization was probably the only one to offer them support. To get to the school, we took an eight hour bus ride over roads that weren’t in good shape. I could sense how grateful the children were that we’d made the long journey to deliver these gifts especially considering the recent destruction caused by Hurricane Matthew.
We also spent time reading with the kids. I was shocked to learn that some of the students, even though they were old enough to read, had a lot of difficulty. When it was one boy’s turn, he struggled, and his classmates laughed at him. I wanted to show the students that they should not be ashamed and that everything gets better with practice. Instead of laughing at each other’s mistakes, they should motivate each other to work hard. I told the kids about why I loved The Little Prince so much. I told them how much I’d learned from it, and that it’s a book you can read and return to at many different points in your life, and each time, you’ll learn a valuable lesson from it. That’s why I chose this book, and I hope the students will value it for the rest of their lives. By the end of our reading session, everyone was participating, and there was no laughter. This was my most valuable contribution. When we finished reading, all of the children and volunteers collaborated to create a very funny “mannequin challenge” video—you can watch it here!
In each chapter of The Little Prince, the prince encounters a new character and learns something from them. The chapter that I love the most is the one that taught me to appreciate the little things in life and to understand what makes someone unique and special. The prince had an incredibly beautiful flower, and to him, it represented what was special about his planet. When he travelled to Earth, he had to leave his flower behind. On Earth, he saw a garden full of flowers that looked exactly like the one from home. He was lost; he didn’t understand how something he thought was so precious could be ubiquitous on this new planet. He stood before hundreds of them. The writing makes the reader feel the prince’s confusion in that moment. He realizes that he cared so much about the flower because of the time he invested in it—he watered it and cared for it. That’s what made his flower unique, not its physical appearance. It’s a beautiful metaphor. People often feel lost in the world and they don’t know what makes them special. This short chapter can help readers to understand their true value and that they can’t be replaced.
My visit to Marion School was really gratifying— my purpose is to inspire and empower the youth to live out their dreams invest in their education, and always believe in themselves. During my reign as Miss Haiti, I visited many schools, and I was touched to learn that many young girls wanted to become Miss Haiti, so that they could represent their country, change their communities, and show everyone that Haiti is much more valuable than the world might think. I quickly realized it was hard to be everywhere in person. I decided to pour everything I’d learned into a book called L’Art Belle Peau’, or, in English, Being Your Beautiful Self. Published in French in June 2017, it was met with great success. I’m working on the English translation so I can reach a wider audience. Through this book, I want to inspire the world’s youth. I don’t want them to think that there are limits to what they can do in life. I want them to see endless possibilities, and I want them to have faith.
Raquel Pelissier is Miss Universe Haiti, Miss Universe 1st Runner-up 2016, and a Shash Ambassador.