Pregnant at an early age, Marie Sherlla (pronounced Mar-ee Sher-la) worried about school, friendships, her future, and what her friends and family might say. She was only 18 and had hopes of finishing school and pursuing a career as a nurse. Marie Sherlla’s sponsor in the United States, also a nurse, was the perfect partner and friend to encourage and share her dreams. She wondered what the pregnancy would mean to her future and these relationships.
Marie Sherlla remained focused on her goals as her baby grew inside her. While motherhood and the responsibilities that came with it would undoubtedly offer new challenges, she also knew she must press forward. With generous and unwavering support from you, her Heartline Family, Marie Sherlla began her prenatal journey while still in school and ultimately delivered a beautiful, healthy baby girl.
Baby girl, Anshaïlla Menzara (pronounced An-shy-la Men-zar-a) arrived in the fall of 2019, shortly before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and in the middle of Peyi Lok, country lockdown in Haiti. Peyi Lok had been ongoing throughout the year and resulted from continued unrest and dissent due to government corruption and increasing inflation. As is always the case, lockdown and unrest impact the materially poor and marginalized first, which meant challenges for Marie Sherlla as she faced motherhood in the slums of Cité Soleil.
Just weeks after Anshaïlla’s arrival, Marie Sherlla began to feel ill. She experienced swelling in her feet, headaches, and respiratory distress. She was frustrated and felt terrible. At times, she was unable to care for her newborn as the illness worsened. In Cité Soleil, Haiti, resources, and care would typically not be an option. Cité Soleil is the largest slum in Haiti and is home to some of the most violent gang activity in the world.
Thankfully, Marie Sherlla was already part of the Heartline family through the student sponsorship program. Through Heartline’s leadership on the ground, we were able to identify that her return to school was not within the window we anticipated. Ultimately, she spent much of 2020 away from school fighting this unidentified illness. At one point, doctors thought it might even be tuberculosis. In frustration, her family attempted to steer her away from formal medicine, opting to seek the counsel of local, community Voudou practitioners who relied on teas and other traditional remedies. For many reasons, it became urgent that the Heartline Team determine what was causing Marie Sherlla’s illness…