“It just shows that anything is possible if you want it bad enough.”
Maybe the reason Clerius cherishes his newly acquired citizenship is because he didn’t realize he wanted it so much. Then again, at age 9, it might be because he didn’t know that membership has privileges.
“I didn’t want to come,” Clerius said. “I didn’t want to leave my family and friends and I didn’t know much about the United States. Now, I’m thankful about being a citizen. I’m thankful about being able to overcome things to be able to do that.”
The hard way
When it comes to Haiti, the United States is on the outside looking in.
It’s a country with many political and economic problems shown on television news and charity infomercials. For some, it is a vacation paradise.
But that’s the other side of the island. On Clerius’ side, it was no paradise.
“Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere,” Clerius said. “There are the poor and the really poor. People couldn’t afford places to live. Houses were packed with 10 or more people living in the one room.”
Haiti has endured challenging times. It is scarred by political violence and destroyed by natural disasters, most recently a 7.0 magnitude earthquake in 2010. It destroyed buildings, business, homes and lives.
“Haiti is worse now,” Clerius said. “Not everyone has the same lifestyle. The fighting and the natural disasters that happened down there made everything worse. The bad thing is that the government is bad down there. All the help that is being sent and the people should be receiving is not getting to the people.”
Clerius won’t say where his family’s lifestyle ranked — poor or really poor — but it was challenging all the same. No day was easy or normal.
“People shop at markets, but not everyone has money,” he said. “My mom sold things at the markets. It wasn’t an everyday job and there were some good days and some that were not so good, so it affected things.”
But when there were good times, even in poverty, there is charity.
“A lot of people were unable to eat every day. Sometimes they went weeks without eating,” Clerius said. “When you did have food, it was a big deal to be able to share with everyone else. It was really important to help.”
Now, after living in the United States for half of his life, Clerius understands the difference.
“When we go back to visit, people know we are living in America,” he said. “A lot of people think we are now rich. They come to us looking for money and help.
“Haitian people are strong. They will overcome.”
Coming to America
Like the Mayflower before him, Clerius’ trip to the U.S. wasn’t all smooth sailing.