Every age has something to bring forward.
Why must we put old age in parentheses?
All of life is contained
In life, one must dare. That's my motto.
Even if it doesn't work, it will be a sign of life.
Only the dead do not know failure!
Remarks recorded during an interview.
Born in Kinshasa, today in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Henriette
Nzuji Ntumba loves to recall what her father used to say to her and to her
brothers and sisters: "Instead of leaving you a plot of land or
possessions that might divide you, I prefer to leave you something for your
head, for your heart." Responding to her father's wishes, Henriette
continued her education in Belgium. After completing studies in business
administration, she opened a vocational-training centre for women in the
Democratic Republic of the Congo.
In 1993, after the death of her husband, she
had to face the harsh condition of widows. "It's as if you had
committed a crime. They accuse you of being a witch. You endure so much sarcasm
that you lose yourself." She decided to found Les Veuves unies
le développement intégral, an organization for the
self-development of widows. She gave one of the parcels of land she owned to
these often psychologically and financially impoverished women, so that they
could cultivate it and provide for their own needs. The political and economic
instability of the country, but above all the illness of one of her daughters
living in Quebec, prompted her to immigrate to Canada. "Feelings of
maternal love led me to follow my children, to help the one who was in
need." In 2000, at the age of 58, Henriette settled in Montreal.
"To immigrate is not easy, especially for a person of my age,
" she says. Noticing that most older immigrant women lacked
activities, Henriette founded in 2002, in Montreal, the association Mamies
immigrantes pour le développement et l'intégration (Immigrant
Grannies for Development and Integration). Its French acronym, MIDI, signals
hope and dynamism, for, as she says, "at midi (noon), the sun
shines." Reflecting the diversity of its members, this
body offers a wide range of activities, notably talks given at retirement homes
on the countries of the world. "Diversity makes us strong. There is
reciprocity, there is love. Love is a weapon of mass construction!"
Henriette devotes herself to projecting the image of "grannies for
everyone," who are ready to help and who have both feet planted in
rather than simply remaining spectators. "Lack of occupation
kills!" she exclaims. Even today, neither age nor the Quebec winter
stops Mamie Henriette. "Sometimes the children say to me, 'We called
and you weren't there. Where did you go in this weather?' Once outside, I no
longer see the snow. I see the objective, what I must accomplish."