Jeancilia and Héribert are no strangers to raising children. As parents of nine—including two sets of twins—they had faced almost everything parents of a large family can: sleepless nights, unfinished homework, the struggle to pay bills. Just feeding nine growing children was often a challenge, but one Jeancilia and Héribert chose to face together.
Héribert worked for a variety of farmers sowing sweet potato. He also collected pebbles from the seashore for construction material, earning $15 US per truckload. During the rainy season, he could fill about four truckloads per month—barely enough to make ends meet. After their ninth child arrived, Héribert and Jeancilia agreed that they needed to go on birth control. They simply couldn’t afford another child.
But when Jeancilia got sick with yellow fever, she was required to stop taking any other medication she was on—including birth control. Gradually, Jeancilia got her strength back and began to feel better. Then, in early 2014, she discovered she was pregnant again.
Jeancilia was devastated by the news. But Héribert, with a calm that belied his inner shock, gently responded, “We didn’t die while raising our nine kids. We will survive, somehow, with one more child. Don’t be discouraged.”
On October 10, 2014, at 1:00 a.m., Jeancilia gave birth to Judson at the local hospital. She was surprised he was so small and weak, although she hadn’t had an ultrasound to see how he was developing, as the $15 needed for the procedure was used in an emergency instead. But the biggest surprise came within the hour, when she gave birth to not one, not two, but three more babies: Stervenson, Davidson and Williamson.
Héribert and Jeancilia were dumbfounded. How were they supposed to provide for four more infants?
Héribert did everything he could to gather support for his newly expanded family. He even went to the local radio station to ask for help from the community. The only response the family got came from a woman named Louisena Dupré, the Coordinator of the local Child Survival Program with Compassion, who was at the hospital when the quadruplets were born. By the time Jeancilia left the hospital, she was already registered in the program.
“After the surgery, my wife and I received a big basket of food supplies and baby care items for our four children. We thought that it was from the central government, but it was from the program Mrs. Dupré was part of,” says Héribert. “All our medical bills were paid by the people in the Child Survival Program. It was such a relief, because I didn’t have a cent anymore.”
The program covered all the ongoing medical bills for the quadruplets, who were in and out of the hospital for more than a year. “Before 2016, it was a miracle to have these children stay healthy for a month,” says Louisena. But thanks to the program, Héribert and Jeancilia did not have to worry. Their children would get the care they needed.
Program staff also sat down with Héribert and discussed how he could better support his large family. With Compassion’s assistance, Héribert is now the proud owner of a motorcycle that he uses to run his own business. “You see this bike right here?” he says proudly, pointing at the vehicle. “That’s the money for my children’s tuition.”
Héribert, previously a skeptic of Christianity, was overwhelmed at how the church cared for his family and decided to give his life to Christ. He has stopped going to the voodoo temple, quit smoking and drinking and doesn’t even go to cock fights anymore. And as he learned more about God’s plan for his life, Héribert soon felt that he and Jeancilia needed to be legally married. With the support of the entire Child Survival Program team, Jeancilia and Héribert tied the knot on March 26, 2016.
Jeancilia loves spending time at the Compassion centre and learning new things about being a mom—something that both surprised and amused her. “Judging by the number of children I had, I once thought I knew everything about being a good caregiver and an excellent mother,” she smiles. “I was wrong. I have learned so much in this program that I feel I am better than I was before.”
Héribert, holding two of his babies, grins. “We thought we were too poor to raise quadruplets. With the help of God and the Child Survival Program standing with us, our babies are alive and well. We have no words to express our gratitude to Mrs. Dupré, the staff in the centre and the entire team at Compassion. Thank you so much.”
By Jean Elie Nicolas, Compassion Haiti, and Aveleen Schinkel, Compassion Canada