Marie-Josée Bouchereau
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Marie-Josée Bouchereau

From fleeing a dictator in Haiti, to seeking asylum in New York city, immigrating to Canada, university studies in Spain, working as a nurse in Canada and being a single-parent, to returning to Haiti as a health care volunteer upon retirement … what a life to learn about!

Personal Life and Experiences
  • I was born in Haïti when the island was still called “La perle des Antilles” (The Pearl of the West Indies).
  • For 3 years, my life was a dream. My mother was very gifted for commerce and my dad was a lawyer. I was surrounded and spoiled by family and friends.
  • Daddy decided to make a change in his life and go back to university to study psychology.
  • At the age of three, a terrible tragedy struck our family, my mother 28 years old, got sick and died, a complete turn in my quiet and harmonious life. Until my dad came back from the States, I went to live with my aunt..
  • In 1956 our elected president transforms himself into sanguinary dictator. The Haitians who were not executed were imprisoned, terrified and muzzled, or a badly interpreted word can earn you a one-way ticket towards “the country without hat” (in creole this means a ticket to die).
  • The hotel that my dad owns is ransacked, my father among many other intellectuals in the country, are imprisoned for no reason. As soon as he is released from jail, he asks for asylum of the United States.
  • I accompany him when he leaves Haiti, I am ten years old. I am devastated that I must leave so much behind. I discover a New-York that is a contrast to my peaceful Port-au-Prince, in Haiti: it is noisy, full of impatient people, sirens day and night, horns, unknown odors, and unknown language so different from my musical mother tongue creole!
  • For the first time of my life, I suffer from loneliness stuck in a square box called an apartment, which is now our residence. Where is my garden of thousand perfumes, where are the burning stones on which one should not linger on without burning one’s feet? When will I be reunited with my adored family and friends?
  • At the age of 13 my dad decided to send me to boarding school in Winnipeg, Canada. There, at least people spoke French. I spent 2 years there, much more at ease than in New-York which was a form of hell to me.
  • During my time in the boarding school, dad visited Québec city, where he met and fell in love with a “Québécoise”. He married and soon after I was welcomed by my new family in Saint Casimir, Quebec.
  • Facing judgement, and the racism of Canadians at the time. I was quite isolated as a teenager, though I also formed very strong and lasting bonds with my new extended family.
Professional Experiences and Accomplishments
  • Dad opened a psychologist office in Quebec city where we eventually moved and I completed my high school. Without speaking English yet, I gave myself the challenge of doing my nursing studies in the language of Shakespeare.
  • After earning my nursing diploma, I left for Spain to find myself after all of the instabilities of my youth. Registred at the university of Madrid, I obtained my B.A. in Spanish studies, linguistics, history and history of arts.
  • I returned to Montreal to practice nursing and to raise my newborn baby. Nursing was not my passion so I decided to study at Laval University for a 2nd degree in Linguistics.
  • My family expanded to include my newborn daughter Mila. With two young children to raise, I returned to nursing from 1979-2006.
  • During my career and once retired I have been involved in grassroots organizations to support the development of Haiti. Since retirement I have been able to spend over three years in Haiti working on volunteer initiatives around health centres and literacy programs for women.
  • My son and daughter are now well established in their own life, my son is a RCMP officer and my daughter is a surgeon.
  • This time in Haiti has allowed me to reconnect with my Creole culture and language. I am mostly involved in teaching workshops on Haitian culture. This is to help UN police officers going on peacekeeping missions, as well as Canadian students and health professionals so that they have a better understanding of the reality of the country they are going to work in. I also enjoy life with my two marvelous grand daughters.