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Letter sent on Mar 12

‘Excited but also nervous’

Peguy Ceneus, who is almost 33 and lives in New York, emailed me almost a year ago out of the blue. In the subject line she wrote, “Did you interview my brother?”

The teenager who might be her brother is Ronaldo Luis. He lives in a slum in the northern Haitian town of Ouanaminthe. I’m writing this from just across the Dominican border, in Dajabón.

“I am so grateful that they survived the earthquake in 2010,” Ceneus wrote. “I just want to provide for them if they are my family. I want them living with me and out of poverty. Please let me know if there is any way you can help.”

I tried to get in touch with people who live around here who could try finding Luis. But finally, with news that my wife and I are moving away from Santo Domingo soon, I just decided to come. So yesterday I drove up here, and in about an hour I’m going to meet up with a friend of a friend in Ouanaminthe and see if I can remember where his house is. Then I’m going to put him in touch with Ceneus and see what happens.

Maybe they’re family. “I know this may sound far fetched, but my gut is telling me that they are my family,” Ceneus wrote. But maybe they’re not.

Maybe Luis will someday grow up to be a diplomat, like he told me he wanted to be almost two years ago. Maybe he’ll move to the U.S. and get a college degree. Or maybe he’ll stop school in a year or two (if he hasn’t already) to start trying to earn money for his family.

At the root of this story is the tragic fact that it’s circumstance and not potential that decides your fate in life. One child stays in Haiti; the other goes to the United States. One became a nurse. The other eats rice and mangos, living on a dollar or two a day.

I have no idea how this is going to turn out, but I’m updating readers in real time. You can follow the story on Medium’s new platform, Series, by clicking here and downloading the app.

“I’m excited to hear this news but also nervous about this being a possible dead end,” Ceneus wrote to me this morning. We’ll see.

Ben

PS. I’ve extended the expiration date on getting 12 percent off Latterly print subscriptions and memberships. I wanted to give people through Sunday to take advantage of it. Just plug in the coupon 12off.