Sergeline Michel: Dominica made me who I am
Sergeline Michel, from Haiti, is passionate about fighting xenophobia and an advocate for empowering youth, all because of her experiences in Dominica, the land she calls home.
Sergeline moved to Dominica in 2005 at age eight. Her mother, already living on the island, sent for her and her two siblings. "My first impression of Dominica was that it was beautiful and the people looked like me; the same black race and not something different," she said.
Sergeline made her move to Dominica in the best interest of the family.
"Firstly, safety," Sergeline added. "Haiti started becoming very dangerous, and security was important to my parents. Secondly, even with their careers, the economic system began to be of concern."
Michel told The Sun she had to make significant adjustments settling down in Dominica.
"My biggest culture shock was the difference in language, the patois is similar to Haitian Creole, but I was well versed in French," she said. "Starting school, it was difficult to communicate or understand."
The stigma attached to Haitians in Dominica was another shock.
Sergeline said: "I was bullied throughout my school years for being 'Haitian', and the reasons, to me, were absurd. Classmates would say, 'Haitians are poor!' 'Haitians do voodoo!' 'Haitians are black and ugly!'"
The comments took a toll on Michel because, in Haiti, her parents were considered wealthy as they owned their own home and business, were the breadwinners for the extended family, and raised Sergeline with maids.
"What hurt was seeing my parents work menial jobs while their degrees and education sat there," she said. "I had to try my best to fit in, and I created a version of myself that I hated."
Michel, the owner of a faith-based blog: Life In Writing, shared: "My impression of the island evolved. Initially, it was a mean place where I assumed everyone was xenophobic. But, I gradually realised some people could care less about where I came from. People would even doubt I was Haitian because I adapted so well, and Dominica became home because that is where I grew up."
Currently wrapping up her Bachelor's degree in Journalism at the Florida Memorial University, Sergeline saw many changes in Dominica through her youthful eyes.
"Things don't change for the better in immigration; I lived in Dominica practically all my life," she said. "When I tried to get what I believe to be the right of someone who has lived here for so long, I was denied and stopped at every turn. I could not gain residency or citizenship. Application after application, I was denied."
Michel's experience in Dominica taught her that someone needs to fight for what they want and that there is good and evil in everything.
"Being in the journalism field – having done work with DominicaNewsOnline, The Sun Newspaper, and Voice of Life Radio - I was able to grow and see beyond the surface of some of these issues," she said.
Despite the trials and tribulations, this podcast host confessed, "My experiences in Dominica made me who I am. I wouldn't change that for the world."
Michel's love for writing eventually shaped her into an author.
"I recently published a book: 'There's more; a little something called Grace.'
This echoes everything about my move from Haiti to Dominica and its effects on my family and me," she said. "It also shares that there is more to life than struggles, and the life-changing moments that may seem final are not." Sergeline's experience in Dominica led her to form a nonprofit organisation: The Michel Hands and Heart Organization.
"I started it in 2021 to fight against xenophobia, bullying, racism and orphan abuse. But, unfortunately, I experienced issues, or people close to me have," she said.
Michel advises youth who have migrated to any country and feel displaced: "You don't have to change who you are, or lie through situations, to be accepted. If there is one thing I've learned is: doing all that to get accepted leads nowhere. So stay true and always be you."