Her Story: Cathy Dorvil

Motivating Stories from Local Women


Every woman has a story to tell, and no two stories are alike. Meet the women who have persevered through challenges and tribulations and come out the other side stronger than ever. These unique individuals have seen their fair share of adversity but continue to inspire those around them with the lessons they have learned and their love of life. Read on for a truly motivating story by a woman who experienced them firsthand.


Photography by Emily Pérez Long / Photos taken on location at the Chattanooga Choo Choo




Cathy Dorvil, Signal Mountain


On December 11, 2004, my husband was killed by a gang while we were living in Haiti. Before that devastating instant, my life had been characterized by joy: I grew up in a nurturing and loving family, went all the way through school with the same tight circle of friends and made good grades, found fulfillment working in remote Haitian villages, and had come to love and marry a man who shared my faith and commitment. 

What followed Joseph’s death was crushing grief as I came to terms with the reality that his life had ended. I found myself planning a funeral in the midst of an erupting coup d’état instead of celebrating our first wedding anniversary. Departing from Haiti to return home to the States was one of the hardest transitions of my life. 

Following my return, I spent months immersed in reflection. I was supported by family, friends who shared my passion for Haiti and understood the commitment that had taken me there, and our church community. In the end, I decided to pursue a new career path in law that would build on my past experience and allow me to continue to work for justice and advance human dignity. 

The years since have witnessed profound life changes. Relocating to Miami, where I studied law, gave me a renewed focus and fresh direction. Just a year after moving there, I became the legal guardian of three sisters from Haiti in need of a home. I eventually adopted them, gaining an instant family of my own and giving me a new purpose. More recently, I returned to Chattanooga to be near my parents and the community who first introduced me to Haiti, and I found a professional home working alongside people who share my commitment to justice and service. 

Along the way, I have found that grace comes to us in unexpected ways and has the power to support us through times so devastating that we feel we might not survive. Time and again, I have been reminded that life can deal some hard-hitting challenges, but we can choose to move forward with hope and appreciate the journey. 

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