Haiti has a special place in Private Yvon Bellevue's heart. He was born and raised in Port-au-Prince, the Republic's capital city. After 20 years he returned to his homeland with the Canadian Forces on a six-month United Nations Peacekeeping tour and saw the country with new eyes.
His family moved to Montreal, Quebec in 1974 when he was 10 years old, "because the idea of living in another country suggested a lot of wealth," he comments. He remains uncertain exactly why they left Haiti since his parents had good jobs, three or four servants and lived comfortably.
"I don't know if our situation would be similar today to what it used to be back then though," he adds.
Bellevue mentions that a lot of things were different 20 years ago. 'Papa Doc' Duvalier was a dictator, but he was also a strong leader and saw to the interests of his country.
Haiti was beautiful and so clean that nobody would dare spit on the ground. Its nickname was Pearl of the Caribbean, but now he thinks that it resembles a huge landfill and it saddens him.
Bellevue was pleased when he learned that he was assigned to the Military Information Support Team (MIST) as a Creole linguiste and would serve in the country where he was born.
As part of MIST he was very involved with the locals and was constantly on the road visiting dozens of villages throughout the country. His work as a linguiste and communicator presented many conversations with the people on their current situations.
"I feel like I made a contribution to help my people and I feel good about it although I would have liked to do much more," declares Bellevue a few days before returning to Canada.
Every time Private Bellevue and his team went out, they gathered their lunches, stopped on the side of the road and distributed their food to the neighbouring kids.
"That was our way to help and it made us feel so good."
Bellevue still has close family members in Port-au-Prince. He intends on taking a three-week holiday in Port-au-Prince and spending it with them.
"I had a chance to rediscover my country, my people and to renew my origins. I would do it again anytime."
This article appeared in the May 1997 issue of Hot Chocolate.