Beverlie Fleurinay’s path to success has been anything but painless. Born in Haiti, Fleurinay was sent to the U.S. when she was only 6 years old because her mother Myrline Brizard felt she couldn’t support her.
Now a third-year psychology major at SUNY New Paltz, Fleurinay is President of Envied Fashions, mother of an 8-month-old son and taking 19 credits in classes. Despite all of this, her most prevalent concern is always Brizard, nearly 10,000 miles away.
Brizard runs a school for underprivileged children in Hinche, Haiti. Some of the children lost their parents in the 2010 earthquake that claimed over 200,000 lives and many of the children’s parents simply couldn’t afford to take care of them, let alone provide them with an education.
The school is weakly constructed with brick and mortar, funded by money Fleurinay received from school refund checks.
When Fleurinay visited Brizard during this year’s spring break, it was their first reunion in nearly a decade.
“She was crying,” Fleurinay said. “She was so happy to see me and was so proud of what I’ve done.”
Fleurinay couldn’t help but notice the dire situation at the school. The benches supporting the malnourished children looked as if they were going to break and lessons were taught with singular pages ripped out of old notebooks. For many of the children, the meal provided by Brizard was the only food they would eat that day, and they had nothing to drink with it.
“The trip changed my whole perspective,” Fleurinay said. “Seeing my mother and knowing she doesn’t have much and is so willing to dedicate her life to helping [her students] inspired me.”
Fleurinay knew that refund checks wouldn’t be enough to support her mother and the kids, so she created the Foundation of Myrline Brizard, a non-profit organization that raises money for Brizard’s school. Fleurinay’s drive to help the children is relentless, and it comes from her own personal experience.
“It’s important to me because I know what it feels like to not have food to eat,” Fleurinay said. “I know what it feels like to not have an education, because I’ve been through that, and I want these kids to have a better experience.”
In addition to the burden of being a college student and a mother, Fleurinay feels immense pressure to support the children in Haiti. She knows she will have to get people to donate if the kids are going to be fed and educated.
“For every day that I’m not able to raise money, they’re starving,” Fleurinay said. “I’m responsible for feeding 20-60 children on a daily basis and providing them with an education.”
Fundraising in order to feed starving children has not been as easy as Fleurinay expected. She grapples with the idea that nobody wants to donate money each day, even for a good cause.
“I feel really depressed when I don’t get donations and nobody is even interested in the foundation,” Fleurinay said. “I keep asking myself, why don’t people want to help out these starving kids?”
Fleurinay was struggling with finding ways to get people to donate money, and needed help.
She found a stroke of luck while being tutored by third-year psychology major Maureen McCarthy. McCarthy helped Fleurinay write for her conflict management class, and was able to read all about her life story and struggle to raise money.
Being a member of the Red Cross Club, McCarthy was eager to help Fleurinay raise funds for her foundation.
The Red Cross Club hosted an ice cream and pizza social on April 29 at Bevier Hall where people were eager to donate for Fleurinay’s cause. Throughout the week they had a coin and pen drive, where people donated money and school supplies that will be sent to Haiti. They raised nearly $500 and dozens of notebooks, pens and more.
Fleurinay was astounded by the success and happy she wasn’t alone in her endeavors anymore.
“I love Maureen,” Fleurinay said. “She’s such a good person and she’s helped me so much.”
McCarthy was equally complimentary of Fleurinay and impressed by her immense levels of commitment.
“She’s going places, she’s gonna do great things with her life,” McCarthy said. “The fact that she’s starting this operation so young and already being this successful is amazing.”
Fleurinay believes the Red Cross event was just a start, and knows there is much more work to be done. After the school sessions are done, many of the children have nowhere to go and nowhere to sleep, a problem she wishes to solve.
“Just feeding them and providing education is not enough for me,” Fleurinay said. “My ultimate goal is to rebuild the school and provide them an orphanage where they can stay.”
Anyone can donate to the Foundation of Myrline Brizard on fmbhaiti.org. Fleurinay plans to dedicate the entire next semester to fundraising.
“These kids are my passion,” Fleurinay said. “I won’t give up until I reach my goal, no matter what.”