There’s great meaning behind a person’s name. In some cultures, names are highly regarded and ceremonies are held where newborns are given names which are carefully selected. It’s understood that the children will live up to their namesakes.

A person’s name is a part of who she is. Events and experiences will always reflect the kind of names people have been calling her. For example, being addressed as “Queen” wherever she goes will surely change her demeanor. She will dress, speak, and act in a way that exudes confidence, honor, and respect.

One activity of self-awareness is to research the definition of one’s name. It will add another dimension to one’s purpose – the reason why you are alive. Understanding your name is as important as understanding your history. It’s crucial to know who you are and where you came from.

A few years ago, I discovered that my name, Cindy, meant “bringer of light.” In other words, impart knowledge…bring light to darkness. It all makes sense now. As a women empowerment activist and writer, I help bring insight into people’s situations and help them discover and maximize their potential.

Do you know that names can live on, even after the person has gone the way of all flesh? It has been said that a man is not dead while his name is still spoken. Names like Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Mother Theresa, and Mahatma Gandhi have been mentioned thousands of times decades long after they have passed. After millenniums, people still call out the name of Jesus.  Why is that? “What you do for yourself will die with you, but what you do for others will last forever,” Bishop Barbosa once said.

I would like to take the liberty to mention a name – Oreste Janvier, my grandfather. He made his transition at the age of 92 about a week ago on Monday, October 24, 2016. He lived in Moron, a commune in the Jérémie Arrondissement, in the Grand’Anse department of Haiti.

One day, I decided to look up the meaning of his name – Oreste; and, I discovered the following:

“People with this name tend to initiate events, to be leaders rather than followers, with powerful personalities. They tend to be focused on specific goals, experience a wealth of creative new ideas, and can implement these ideas with efficiency and determination. They tend to be courageous.…”

My grandfather embodied the abovementioned description in everything he said and did. He was the former mayor of Moron. He was not only the patriarch of the family, but he was also a courageous, courteous, generous, and respectable man in the Moronaise community. He was filled with wisdom and knowledge.

He was a strong advocate of education and community-building. He always gave advice about life’s matters. In only three short phrases, he would command our attention: “Gade devan, pa gade deye. Pran lekol nou o serye. Konesans se nan liv li ye.” I learned the following life lessons from him:

1. “Gade devan, pa gade deye. “

(English: Look ahead, don’t look behind.)

Our tendency as humans is to focus on our failures, weaknesses, and mistakes. Life only moves ahead. We must determine in our hearts that we will look ahead and never behind us. We must do our best to put one foot after the other and walk towards our destiny and calling. We have a great future ahead of us.

2. “Pran lekol nou o serye.”

(English: Take education seriously.)

My grandfather believed in the power of education.  He understood that it was the bridge that would connect us to a better of quality of life. Education would afford us the opportunities to visit places, meet people, and do things beyond our imagination.

However, the following education statistics in Haiti are alarming:

-50 percent of children do not attend school. (World Bank 2013)

-Approximately 30% of children attending primary school will not make it to third grade; 60% will abandon school before sixth grade. (UNICEF 2008)

-Only 29 percent of Haitians (25 and above) attended secondary school. (USAID 2015)

-Almost 80 percent of teachers have not received any pre-service training. (USAID 2015)

-Half of public sector teachers in Haiti lack basic qualifications. (USAID 2015)

-90% of primary schools are non-public and managed by communities, religious organizations or NGOs. (USAID 2007)

-Haiti’s literacy rate is 61% – 64% for males and 57% for females. (CIA Factbook Nov 2015) The average literacy rate for Latin American and Caribbean developing countries is 92%. (World Bank 2015)

Thankfully, organizations like Anseye Pou Ayiti (Teach for Haiti) are addressing the challenges by bridging the gaps and providing access to quality education. Their mission is to “raise education outcomes in disadvantaged areas of Haiti by recruiting and training outstanding teachers for existing schools.”

3. “Konesans se nan liv li ye.”

(English: Knowledge is found in books.)

My grandfather loved reading. It was as fundamental as oxygen. One would always find him reading the local newspaper.  He knew the importance of expanding one’s vocabulary and comprehension to make informed and valuable contributions to society.

Understanding one’s history is important. Understanding one’s name is equally crucial. Although my grandfather is gone, I am grateful for the lessons he had taught me. In the words of Marcus Garvey, I will look for him in the whirlwinds of justice, change, self-development, education, and literacy.

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