Today (Saturday) still feels like something out of a dream, or a nightmare.
Early this morning it became clear that one of the little girls in our care needed medical attention. It was decided that we would try to find a hospital to check her. As in Haitian fashion no one was in much of a hurry. Jeankencia would wait until our other errands had been run.
First was a trip to a mountain village, about an hour away. The families of 3 of the little girls who had lived at our orphanage had come and taken them home a few weeks ago. We went to visit and make sure they understood what we were doing with the adoption process and make sure that they still wanted them to remain an home with them. When we arrived, after a steep hike far into the wood, past cows and wild roosters. Among small huts and even family graves, we entered a place that even still gives me goosebumps.
Grandfather of the family sat under a palm tree and didn’t rise when we approached. As the rest of the family scrambled to bring chairs and seats for their visitors Grandpa sat and stared us down. I spotted Enose, Rolanda and Betsaida among the barefooted, orange haired children. Rolanda and Enose remembered me. Betsaida kept her distance. As we visited a story unfolded that broke my heart. Grandfather had learned of the plan to send his grandchildren to the United States through adoption and immediately put a stop to the process. You see, Grandpa had very specific reasons for not allowing his grandchildren to be put up for adoption… His profession was sorcerer to the voodoo community around him and one of their teachings he believed in to his very core. To send his grandchildren away would surely bring a curse upon the entire family. Instead he chose to bring them home, to live a life of hardship and pain. He chose to sacrifice their hope of a future to save off the fear of the spirits that rule his life. After almost an hour of back and forth I finally had to make the call that we should leave. My job is not to convince parents to give us their children, my job is to give them a hope if they come to that decision themselves. To turn around and walk away from those children was quite possibly the most difficult thing I have ever done. Difficult because of the unknown of what their lives would bring, difficult because I didn’t know if they would survive the harsh reality of growing up in Haiti. Difficult because, as hard as I pray, I have no certainty of their spiritual faith. Difficult because I was placing them in my faith as I slowly let go of the idea of them in my arms. Difficulty eased only a bit by the voice that followed us as we turned to leave.
“Please,” He said “wait” I listened to what you said and I have a child living in Leogane, can you find a family for him?”
I stopped in my steps and turned to face him. He told us about his son, who was living in a tent city just blocks from our home. He would take us there and give his young son into our care.
Again, with sick Jeankencia in the backseat we set out in search of a child that needed us. We arrived in a tent city like none I had ever known. These were not nice, matching rows of well kept tents. Instead, I tiptoed among shredded tarps that sort of sheltered the families inside from the elements. In one I saw a bed made of cinder blocks, in another I saw no belongings at all. As we reached the center of the tents I spotted the child, it was obvious by his swollen limbs and his coarse, red tinged hair, he needed our help. I approached and cringed and he shied away from me in fear. White skin was not something he was familiar with, he snuggled away from me and into the arms of his Mama. The mutual love was obvious. After several moments of conversation it was obvious that this mother was not ready for us either. Again, we turned and walked away, empty handed.
As the doubt and concern of my ability to do this work mounted we set of in search of medical help for our little girl. After several disappointing stops at “American Field Hospitals” we were pointed in the direction of Medecns Sans Frontiers… Doctors Without Borders – French Base.
I haven’t done much research on Doctors Without Borders, mostly I’ve lumped them in my mind with the other “saving” organizations that have let me down… UNICEF, Save the Children and the UN have all proven a huge disappointment in the reality that is Haiti and I didn’t expect much more from this group. Thankfully, and for once, I was pleasantly surprised. After a brief wait we were ushered into what is considered a “nice” hospital. By Haitiain standards that is. We were put in a long, narrow room with 5 other people. Two were a result of a car accident. The woman unconscious and on a morphine drip, the man unfortunately conscious and in a huge amount of pain. Both of them graphically injured. In the bed in between them lie a elderly woman who looked to be already dead, every few moments she drew a ragged breath that proved that she still clung to life. Among the three were two other young women who needed stitched because of a motorcycle accident. They cried and carried on as our little Jeankencia watched with wide eyes.
When it was our turn I answered a few simple questions and it was decided that Jeankencia needed a medical procedure that would allow her body to begin to heal. They explained what they were about to do and my heart broke. I tried to keep my composure as they prepared, doing nothing to save her dignity other than place a broken room divider in the doorway. As the doctor began I tried to explain to this precious little girl what was going on. Her eyes widened as she nodded yes, she understood. She tried to be brave, she was braver than you or I could possibly imagine but as the seconds passed she began to falter. First one tear and then another, finally giving way to cries and screams. “Mama mwen, mama mwen” she cried, calling out for a mother she barely remembered. Her eyes were blank as I tried to whisper reassuring words in her ear. I only lasted seconds and when she started begging me to take her home I lost it. Instead Stephanie and I both held her as our own tears fell. I was 100% helpless. There was nothing I could do but hold her. In moments like that, it’s not nearly enough.
As the doctor finished and we prepared to take our little girl home I was hit with a huge amount of doubt and fear. Who was I to think I could possibly be enough to heal the hurt of these children, or this country. Who was I to think I could stay here and take this on. Then again, who was I to think I would ever have the strength to turn and walk away…