Today we had the chance to go to an orphanage and hand out some flip-flops, shorts, and basic toiletry items.Before the quake the orphananage was a building. Now it is a few cinderblock buildings and a large tent that serves as their schoolf the kids did not have shoes and more than one toddler was running around without any pants. There were 90 kids and I saw only 3 or 4 women there to care for them. They were doing their best, but with the limited resources and the large number of new orphans due to the quake, it is difficult. The kids were mostly very affectionate & loving many of the little ones just wanted to be held. All of them wanted me to take their picture and then let them see it on the camera screen. A kiddo would come up and grab my arm and say “Foto! Foto! Foto!”
These two met me at the car & claimed me as theirs for awhile. They wanted to hold my hand and ask me any English question they knew. Of course I wondered if they were wanting attention so they could get something or if they were just hungry for any human interaction. I know that with so many kids and so few caretakers, that these older girls were basically raising themselves. All I could do was pray for their future and that they would actually have one.
In a country where 85% of the population is unemployed, what kind of jobs will these girls be able to have once they are no longer under the care of the orphanage? They do go to some sort of school, but I’m not sure how many skills they will have learned from a few broken chalkboards under a tent. A church in Arkansas (not ours) is building them a new permanent home, and that will be good.
Many of these children don’t have birth certificates for themselves or death certificates for their parents. This makes them unadoptable according to government regulations. But in a place that was so poor before the quake and is now poorer, it is a genuine tragedy that these children do not and cannot have a permanent place. Once the church builds the new orphanage, only those with proper documentation will be able to move there. The rest of the kids will stay with the tent and the cinderblock huts with no possibility of a family taking them in — Haitian or otherwise.
The little boy in my arms is Patico. He’s the same age as Peanut. He kept this angry look on his face the entire morning. He would hold me and hug me, but all the time hisbrow ws furrowed. It’s no wonder — in his 3 years he has known loss and poverty and mud and the concrete walls around his orphanage. My Peanut is a ray of sunshine — but how esy it is for her to be so. She has an abundance of food, family, attention, chances, and more toys than the 90 kids at the orphanage combined. Her room is the size of the huts that many families live in.
I don’t write these things to put you on a guilt trip. There is no benefit to be had from guilt trips. I want to take away from this trip a renewed sense of gratefulness and compassion. The next time I get frustrated that my laundry room is so narrow, I want to stop and realize how fortunate I am to have a washer and dryer and mounds of clothes to choose from. I want to have compassion for these children who were born into another country and another situation from mine and therefore won’t have the choices that my girls will have.
I also really want to be able to do more for people in need than just a baggie with a toothbrush and pencils. I can’t solve Haiti’s problems. This country has been given over 3 billion in aid since the quake, but the only real evidence of change we’ve seen so far are a few building projects and a diplomat’s $130,000 imported diesel Land Rover. The good news is that before the quake unemployment was at 90%. So, there’s actually been a 5% improvement.
Right now, to battle the cynicism that so easily sets in, I’m praying for a leader to be raised up from his people — someone who will enable these kind and strong people to move on and build their country’s infrastructure. It would also be nice if this leader institutes a system for taking away garbage. Imagine an entire country with no garbage trucks and no landfills. Trash piles were everywhere in the city — just sitting there until they rotted down.
I’m also praying for God to show me beauty everywhere I go. It’s too easy to see only the trash and only the mosquitos and only the mud. But this land and these people were created by our mighty Creator and were created in His image the same as I am. He has been faithful to answer this prayer. I honestly didn’t notice the mud and the ick that was surrounding the orphanage until we left. All I saw were the precious lives He has created and their beautiful smiles.