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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

‘We are all human’: Amid crisis back home, Spokane group supports area’s growing Haitian community

Katia Jasmin, founder of Creole Resources, right, poses for a photo with her client David Derosier on Tuesday at Creole Resources in Spokane.  (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)

Katia Jasmin was about 18 years old when she woke up to the sound of the door to her family’s home in Haiti being broken down.

“Gang members came to our house,” Jasmin said, recalling how they threatened her family and demanded money at gunpoint.

When they left, “they say they would take me with them because they say I was the mouthy one,” Jasmin said.

Before that could happen, the police arrived – an hour and a half after the break-in. But “I went through a lot of trauma,” she said.

Jasmin, now 40, moved to the neighboring Dominican Republic with her brother and grandmother, and then to the United States with her 10-year-old son years later. Today, in addition to having a full-time job, she runs a Spokane organization, Creole Resources, “dedicated to empowering and supporting the Haitian community in the Spokane County region.”

The group offers Haitians and other immigrants job training, housing support and English classes.

“As soon as they come here, they want to work, they want to find a job, they want to learn English,” she said. “I have some of them, they are working two jobs so they can help people back in (Haiti).”

When Jasmin hosted a party to celebrate the launch of Creole Resources last year, “I had 70-plus Haitians that showed up,” she said. “I was like, ‘Wow, I didn’t know we have that many Haitians here.’ It was amazing.”

Now, she estimates there are more than 200 Haitians living in Spokane. Creole Resources has helped a dozen of them find a home in the area, and they hope to double that number over the next year, Jasmin said.

The need is pressing.

In late February, heavily armed rival gangs united to launch widespread attacks on the nation’s capital, killing and kidnapping hundreds of people, and raiding buildings including police stations, banks and hospitals. Gangs now control roughly 80% of the city. Nearly 95,000 people have fled Port-au-Prince in the last month, the United Nations reported last week.

More than a dozen medical clinics in the country, including Haiti’s biggest public hospital, are closed, and basic supplies remain scarce as Haiti’s main international airport and largest seaport are closed.

“We come here because we were forced out of our country,” said 30-year-old David Derosier, who is getting help through Jasmin’s organization .

Derosier left Haiti in January 2023.

“It’s a sad story,” Derosier said in Haitian Creole as Jasmin translated. “I went through 12 different countries, mostly walking, to get here.”

The group he traveled with, friends who considered themselves family, was 15-strong when they left Haiti. Five months later, only nine made it to the United States. Some drowned crossing a river, others died of starvation or thirst.

At one point, the group passed two pregnant women whose feet had become so swollen from walking, they couldn’t go on.

“We shared food with them, but not a lot because we didn’t have a lot of food,” Derosier said. “Not being able to help them was hard … we cried, because we are all human.”

Derosier is in the United States on asylum status and has been in Spokane since July. He has a job lined up but isn’t able to start until May, when he gets his work permit. In Haiti, Derosier was studying accounting in Port-au-Prince, the country’s capital city.

“I left Haiti because of what’s going on, because of the gangs, because there is no hospital,” Derosier said.

Growing up in Haiti, with gang violence and political corruption, “it was bad, but not like now. This is worse,” Derosier said.

Derosier’s brother and parents are still in Haiti. They were driven out of their home by gang members about a month ago and are now homeless, somewhere in Port-au-Prince.

“It’s a lot of stressful moments for them; some of them are sick,” Derosier said.

Derosier calls his family when he can, usually every week, “but sometimes they don’t have internet,” he said. Not knowing how his family is doing between calls is hard, Derosier said, but he has found support in Spokane’s Haitian community.

When asked what he sees in the future for Haiti, Derosier said, “I cannot see anything, because it is getting worse and worse.”

Thousands of people like Derosier’s family have been forced out of their homes in the capital due to gang violence and have taken refuge in abandoned public buildings, like schools, according to media reports.

The UN’s International Migration Organization reported that about 5.5 million of Haiti’s 11.7 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance. More than half of them are children.

“If we were fine home, we would not come here,” Jasmin said. “We would stay in our country and then use our skills to help others.”

Instead, Jasmin works to make a difference in Spokane.

“We want to do stuff, we want to be informed, we want to donate, we want to give back to the community, because they welcome us here, so we want to give back; we want to show them that together we can do something,” Jasmin said.

Jasmin’s parents moved to the United States when she was just 1. They left Jasmin and her older brother with their grandmother. Her younger brother, Luc Jasmin III, was born in the U.S.

They weren’t familiar with the place where they were moving, and they didn’t know how things would go, Jasmin said, “so they didn’t want to bring any kids with them.”

Jasmin’s grandmother has since traveled to the U.S., and her older brother remains in the Dominican Republic.

She’s been helping immigrants in some capacity for roughly two years, but she decided to make it official in July 2023. When she pitched the idea last year to her brother, Jasmin III, it was about community.

“I told my brother, ‘You know what I want to do? I want to have an organization where people can gather, get together and they can talk … people can feel free coming and share their experience,’” Jasmin said. “Then he said, ‘Let’s make it happen.’ ”

The group started with a team of three. Jasmin ran the enterprise, while Jasmin III helped out with finances. Their father, Luc Jasmin Sr., pastor at the multilingual Maranatha Church in Spokane, helped get the word out. Now, there are five on the team.

“It’s still growing. I’m hoping on hiring more people,” Jasmin said.

“It’s been going good. I think we are doing a good job helping others,” she added.

But Jasmin’s work is far from done. She regularly gets calls from people abroad asking for help. Sometimes it’s friends, sometimes it’s cousins, sometimes it’s simply people who have heard about her organization.

“People keep asking me, ‘Please help us,’ ” Jasmin said.

But with limited resources, there is only so much the organization can do.

“If I had more help, I would be able to help a lot of people,” she said.

Earlier this year, Jasmin was working to help one of her cousins come to the U.S.

“(Gang members) killed my cousin on February 14. He was 25 years old, and he was a photographer. They shot him nine times,” she said. “I was too busy doing other stuff that I didn’t have enough time to do his paperwork, and I think that maybe if I did that before, that would have never happened.”

“You never know,” she said.

Jasmin’s aid for her clients goes beyond housing and job support.

“When I moved here and I was new, there was a lot of things I didn’t know how to navigate,” she said. Sometimes she helps refugees make sense of the United States’ banking, mailing or bus systems.

A few Creole Resources frequenters used to wake up in the early morning to bike from where they lived on the South Hill to get to their work in Spokane Valley by 5 a.m. – too early to take the bus. When it started snowing, Jasmin got up early to drive them.

“I don’t count,” Jasmin said of how much of her time goes to Creole Resources. “I have a 4-year-old, and she said, ‘Mom, you’re always busy doing stuff.’ ”

But Jasmin said she enjoys her work.

“It’s like something in me, I love helping others,” she said.

Though most of the people Creole Resources has helped have been Haitian, “we are helping others, not only Haitian, anyone that needs help,” Jasmin said. “There are some people, they are not top priority on anybody’s (lists),” Jasmin said. Those are the people Creole Resources is there for.

Donations can be made to Creole Resources at

Roberta Simonson's reporting is part of the Teen Journalism Institute, funded by Bank of America with support from the Innovia Foundation.