Thumbnail image for this story (this will show up on the stories page of the site):
Relevant issues for this story, separated by commas (eg. war, race, gender):
Human Rights
Geographical region for this story (eg. Africa, Middle East, Southeast Asia):
North America
Relevant key words for this story, separated by commas (eg. Africa, Hurricane Katrina, Mother Teresa):
Haiti, USA, Virginia, Asylum, Migration, Refugees
A short summary for this story that will go on the stories page (1-2 sentences):
Paul Jean-Louis, his wife, Therese, and five of their seven children fled their home in Haiti on July 21, 1994 for a new life and political asylum in the United States. By documenting the struggles and joys of this family as they assimilate into American society,  greater appreciation of the importance of cultural understanding on the local level can be gained.
Joseph John Kotlowski

1995 — student award of excellence

Paul Jean-Louis, his wife Therese, and five of their seven children fled their home in Haiti on July 21, 1994 for a new life and political asylum in the United States. An Aristide supporter and political organizer in his hometown of Les Cayes, Paul gave convincing proof for asylum: three years of persecution and hiding to escape death at the hands of hostile military rulers; his wife’s three imprisonments while police pressured her to reveal her husband’s whereabouts; his children’s horrific accounts of police repeatedly invading and vandalizing their home.

In their search for peace, the Jean-Louis family found a new home in a land where they do not have to worry about being thrown in jail for what they believe. By documenting the struggles and joys of this family as they assimilate into American society,  greater appreciation of the importance of cultural understanding on the local level can be gained. “Here,” Paul said after landing in Norfolk, Virginia, “I m free.”

Read more
The Jean-Louis family arrived in Norfolk, Virginia on July 21, 1994.  The family includes eight children--two remained in Haiti--and parents Paul and Therese.  Aristide supporters in their hometown of Les Cayes, Haiti, the Jean-Louis' endured three years of persecution at the hands of military rulers who had overthrown President Aristide.  Paul, a political activist, was forced underground, moving from one friend's house to another as death threats circulated against him.  The family received political asylum in the United States after a pregnant Therese was beaten and imprisoned for not revealing her husband's whereabouts.  Here, during their first week in America, the family listens to instruction from a Creole speaking aid worker.  Joseph John Kotlowski/Alexia Foundation
Therese, Susette, and Cherlot spend a quiet afternoon waiting for the rest of the family to get home from school and work. Conceived in Haiti and born four months after the family's arrival in Norfolk, Susette became the Jean-Louis' first American citizen. Joseph John Kotlowski/Alexia Foundation
The family learned to speak English with the help of their television, a curiosity they didn't have in their Haitian home. Joseph John Kotlowski/Alexia Foundation
Nancy Jean-Louis relaxes on her bed at the family's new home in Norfolk. "I felt lonely," Nancy said about her first weeks in America, "I had no friends. I didn't know how I would survive." Joseph John Kotlowski/Alexia Foundation
From left, Cherlot, Susette, and Daniel greet a new day. Joseph John Kotlowski/Alexia Foundation
From left, Maxim, Daniel, and Maxon Jean-Louis dress in donated clothes for Sunday service at the Living Word Tabernacle, a Haitian church in Portsmouth, VA. The pastor of the church, Reverend Jean Castel, immigrated from Haiti 25 years ago. "It has been a hard thing for them," Castel said of the Jean-Louis family's move to the United States. "But to escape death, you accept a new environment willingly." Joseph John Kotlowski/Alexia Foundation
A lighted picture of Jesus decorates the Jean-Louis' living room. "It is God who saved our family," Therese said. Joseph John Kotlowski/Alexia Foundation
Maxon and Cherlot, at left, wonder at the marvels of electricity, a luxury they didn't have in their Haitian home. Joseph John Kotlowski/Alexia Foundation
Daniel Jean-Louis. Joseph John Kotlowski/Alexia Foundation
Nancy and Daniel enjoy a little sunshine during their first experience in a swimming pool. Jane West of Virginia Beach provided the pool and volunteered to help tutor the children.  She also took the kids to their first movie, "The Lion King," and introduced them to computers. "Everything is so completely new to her," West said of Nancy. "It's been exciting to see her do things for the first time." Joseph John Kotlowski/Alexia Foundation