“Six Facts about Haitian Education System” was my first article contribution to IAFL’s Monthly Newsletter in the Fall of 2020. I never thought I would be a writer for an organization as a volunteer, or a writer of any kind. As a Chemist, English is not one of my strengths. In fact, English is my second language; one that I am still trying to perfect. But researching and writing for IAFL’s ‘Six Facts’ pieces allows me to practice and learn along the way. 

In the Spring of 2019, I met Marie Thadal in New York during a Cosmetics Trade Show, NYSCC (New York’s Society of Cosmetic Chemists) Supplier’s Day. As a mentor for the mentorship event, Marie was on the stage sharing about IAFL’s Beauty Projects and her mission to help underprivileged kids in her own childhood elementary school in Haiti to receive education and other basic needs. She invited and welcomed all the mentees in the audience to join and help. As a student at the time, I thought to myself, what a wonderful opportunity to give back and network with a successful industry veteran! After a year of trying out a few different tasks, I was introduced to Brenda Whiteman who was the editor of IAFL’s newsletter at the time, and she gave me my first task as a writer. I was nervous, but glad that I was not tasked with writing a story or reporting on an event where excellent journalism and writing skills were required. I would spend hours researching my topics and organizing information in a way that I thought was digestible to the readers. It was a slow process for me as I seemed to enjoy reading all about the different aspects of Haiti a little bit too much. Topics such as ‘The Greatest Heist in History’: How Haiti Was Forced To Pay Reparations For Freedom, How Italian Spaghetti Became a Haitian Breakfast Staple, Here’s what makes earthquakes so devastating in Haiti, Haiti’s History to Independence… all things that I was not aware of or had heard of before. 

During the first year of Covid, I finished my last semester of my master’s degree program with an ‘abnormal’ virtual Defense for my Thesis and moved home to Toronto to look for a job. Throughout my job hunt, anxiety and hopelessness were my companions. As an attempt to cheer myself up and stay positive I enrolled in Coursera’s Positive Psychology courses and listened to happy psychology Podcasts such as the Happiness Lab by Dr. Laurie Santos. A theme that comes up repeatedly, is the importance of gratitude and the act of giving. Countless studies and research have shown that giving to others rather than to ourselves can bring us happiness that lasts longer. You may think that, yes, giving makes you feel better about yourself, but it is more than that. Giving promotes a sense of community, social connection, and cooperation. While being isolated at home with my family and the occasional couple of friends, IAFL made me feel connected to people that are thousands of miles away. 

Now four years later, I am the busiest I’ve ever been in my professional career as a Chemist, but I still enjoy being a writer for the Monthly Newsletter. It’s an opportunity for me to learn, to practice something that I am not good at, and to help the children far far away to have a shot at something that I love doing, learning.

Written by Jennifer Chen

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