Brillant Buder, 23 years old, came to Port au Prince from Cap Haitien on Haiti’s north coast approximately a year and a half ago to try to fulfill his father’s dream of him becoming a doctor. Unfortunately, to this point he has made little progress in that regard and is currently working as a security guard at the Palm Inn Hotel in the Delmas neighborhood, not far from the airport.
Brillant was born and grew up in Cap Haitien, with his two brothers, Fresnel, now 26 years old, and Philippe, now 20. His mother died when he was four years old, so his father, Fernand, mostly raised the boys alone, working in a small shop making shirts to support the family. They lived in a one room home, no larger than 400 square feet, and the three brothers shared a single bed.
An excellent student, Brillant received his Baccalaureate from the Lycee Jean Baptiste Boukman in Cap Haitien in 2008. A Baccalaureate is essentially equivalent to a high school diploma in the U.S., although in the Haitian educational system students, at least the fortunate ones, spend seven years in primary school followed by seven years at a lycee before receiving their diploma. Brillant hoped to go on to a university to begin his studies to become a doctor, but due to a lack of funds he was unable to do so.
Nevertheless, he continued to study biology, chemistry and physics, subjects he shone in at the lycee, on his own. He would also sometimes teach local children the basics of these subjects, as well as math, not for pay, but, because, as he put it in English, “it was a pleasure for me, for keeping the knowledge.” A year after Brillant received his Baccalaureate, his father, seeing that Brillant’s potential was going to waste in Cap Haitien, urged him to move to Port au Prince, where he might have at least a chance of finding a way into a university.
When he arrived in Port au Prince, Brillant moved in with friends from Cap Haitien who had preceded him here. He wrote letters to a variety of embassies, including France, Venezuela, Mexico and Brazil, asking if there was any way he could get sponsored to go study in these countries, or if there was some way for them to help him study here. He received no replies.
Then, about five months after Brillant arrived in Port au Prince, his father had to quit working because of eye problems possibly related to Parkinson’s disease. The little financial support he was able to provide dried up and Brillant started looking for work. Through a friend, he found the job at the Palm Inn eight months ago.
Brillant’s primary duty is to open and close the iron gate to the hotel grounds to allow authorized visitors to enter and exit, although he also performs other tasks as well, including monitoring the level and purity of the water used by the hotel for washing clothes and giving directions by phone to people trying to get to the Palm Inn. But much of the time he sits on a bench in front of the hotel office, reading and studying. He’s currently teaching himself Spanish.
A quietly religious young man, Brillant prays regularly for his father, and that he might yet find a way to pursue his father’s dream of him becoming a doctor. He’s on the lookout for another job that would pay enough to allow him to finance a university education. In the meantime, he continues at the Palm Inn, well aware that even though it’s not his dream, it’s a much better situation than that of most Haitians.