January 2, 2005: Headlines: COS - Haiti: Married Couples: Safety and Security of Volunteers: Richmond Times Dispatch: For Peace Corps bride Melissa Perkins Joseph and her Haitian groom, Richmond is home now

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Haiti: Peace Corps Haiti : The Peace Corps in Haiti: January 2, 2005: Headlines: COS - Haiti: Married Couples: Safety and Security of Volunteers: Richmond Times Dispatch: For Peace Corps bride Melissa Perkins Joseph and her Haitian groom, Richmond is home now

By Admin1 (admin) (pool-151-196-43-253.balt.east.verizon.net - on Saturday, January 08, 2005 - 10:06 am: Edit Post

For Peace Corps bride Melissa Perkins Joseph and her Haitian groom, Richmond is home now

For Peace Corps bride Melissa Perkins Joseph and her Haitian groom, Richmond is home now

For Peace Corps bride Melissa Perkins Joseph and her Haitian groom, Richmond is home now

After a precarious start, 'we're able to have a life'

For Peace Corps bride and her Haitian groom, Richmond is home now


Jan 2, 2005

Melissa and Jean Hariph "Santo" Joseph are newlyweds approaching their first anniversary with the excitement of a year down and many more to come.


Most assume the latter would be a given once two are joined in matrimony. Not so.

The former Peace Corps volunteer and the Haitian native, who married on the island Jan. 10, have traveled a road to daily coexistence fraught with potholes political and bureaucratic ("Uprising leaves newlywed alone," Feb. 21, and followups).

In the midst of uncertainty about a future hung up by one nation's deadly civil unrest, Melissa Joseph predicted her husband's eventual move to Richmond would be the start of a long adjustment. That period turned out to be shorter than expected.

More than six months after moving to the states, they've landed full-time jobs, bought a used car and closed on a three-bedroom fixer-upper in the Lakeside area.

"I find my mental state to be so much more relaxed now. Out of everything I've gone through . . . it's just an easier process," said Melissa Joseph, a domestic violence program manager in the state attorney general's office.

"In the beginning, I was so negative. I was so worried about a lot of things because America is very different. Day in and day out, it's very structured. You work every day, Monday through Friday, and you have your weekends off. In Haiti, because everyone is so poor and the poverty is so high, there is no employment," she said.

She also worried about her Creole-speaking husband learning English. Today the former driver-for-hire turned interior construction worker is excelling in the English classes he attends four nights a week. Despite his improved language ability, however, Melissa Joseph said he'll sometimes defer to her about decisions.

"He's really taken a step back and he's done really well. . . . He'll say, 'Some things I don't know because I'm in your space,'" she said.

The couple, who prefer to use his native tongue for serious conversations, met in 2002 at the start of the Virginia Commonwealth University graduate's Peace Corps tour. His sister cooked her meals. He helped the American learn Creole and navigate the culture. Their friendship grew into love and they married last January.

On Feb. 20, civil unrest in the Caribbean nation, triggered by a revolt against then-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, forced the Peace Corps to evacuate all of its volunteers. Santo Joseph's visa paperwork was completed save a fingerprint check. The unrest and closing of the U.S. Embassy further delayed the two- to six-week process, forcing Melissa Joseph to leave her husband behind.

On March 20 she was back on the island, her second home. The couple left two weeks later, visa in hand, for Florida and a weeklong reunion with Santo's sister. Next up: Richmond.

"I feel safe because now, in my country, it is really bad," said Santo Joseph last month, three days after returning from the funeral of close friend and countryman Joseph Dorvil.

Dorvil, a University of Notre Dame graduate student, was shot by an armed gang in Haiti last month, according to the couple and news reports. Dorvil's body has not been found and he is presumed dead. Dorvil and his American

wife, a close friend of Melissa Joseph, were to celebrate their first anniversary the week he was killed.

The recent loss of Dorvil has been especially difficult as is Santo Joseph's separation from his family. Routine weekend calls help quell such feelings in the man whose life is now here with his wife.

The couple has been living with her parents in their West End home, but the newlyweds plan to move into their first home this month. It will be another beginning for Santo and Melissa Joseph.

She said she marvels every day at her parents' unwavering support. That included sharing their daughter's dilemma with U.S. Rep. Eric I. Cantor, R-7th. His office, once recruited, worked with the U.S. Embassy and the state department to reunite the couple.

"Just now I'm starting to get over that shock -- that [my parents] have been so accepting -- because here we are, and we're able to have a life."

Contact Penelope M. Carrington at (804) 649-6027 or pcarrington@timesdispatch.com

When this story was posted in January 2005, this was on the front page of PCOL:

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Story Source: Richmond Times Dispatch

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Haiti; Married Couples; Safety and Security of Volunteers



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