I always have mixed feelings when I leave Haiti. On the one hand, I look forward to my regular life, where things are in “semi-order”, where I tentatively control aspects of my day … but… I leave the kids behind… still so much to be done to give them a good future. On my last morning when I went downstairs I was greeted by the loving hug of Kervens, who had just woken up and who rushed into my arms with a big happy grin on his face. How can it not tug at my heart strings?
This was a very short trip and it triggered misgivings… was the flight cost, money well spent? Wouldn’t it be better if I had simply sent Maud the price of the airline ticket? I was asked to join Cecilia Dowd and Keith Orpheus in Haiti to help by telling the stories imbedded in the future documentary. They are the young journalists who are ambitiously devoting countless hours and their own resources to filming the children’s story. Everyone’s hope is that it will raise the remaining funds needed to finish the construction of the vocational center, truly launch the bakery and fix some loose ends in the large complex.
Of course this couldn’t be the sole focus of my trip. I also wanted to bring back new samples of the boys painting talents, letters written back to my students and more importantly a plan for the next step towards making the Foyer self-sufficient. The success of the Zanmi bands means that the children needed to produce more of them. They like earning the cash I give them for their efforts.
Time flew by; Angelo did make one painting, Samuel is still working on another and Gary produced beautiful cards for the first time: he too showed what he could do. The little ones got to make beaded necklaces and bracelets which is always an interesting activity for me as it allows me to discover their various personalities. Some children are so driven: 3 year old Wawa finished before everybody else and didn’t fuss or act out, satisfied with his accomplishment he simply sat there watching his friends complete their own. Then there is Evania who kept fussing about the length of the string I cut for her, and would start crying again and again as she would change her mind about the color of the start-up bead. It made me wonder about the deep hurts that surface in all those frustrated tears? Could they ever be healed? It is sometimes hard to remember, when seeing the carefree playfulness of so many of the children that live at the Foyer Notre Dame de Lourdes that they have at their young age, such a troubled painful past.
All the children are now housed in the new facility, not all of them have mattresses yet, many still sleep on the floor, but their Canadian friends have recently raised enough to cover the cost of the remaining mattresses. The ground at the new complex is spacious and airy, with future mango trees in the center. The classrooms are neat, well ventilated and the large common room finally enables all the children to be fed at the same time. A new routine has been established of each child doing his own dish: they each have one now, and a spoon and cup as well.
The biggest struggle currently is the lack of electricity: it gets dark by 7 pm in Haiti and the children have until bedtime, nothing to do in the pitch-black darkness. One has to battle the fierce onslaught of overabundant mosquitoes. The rainstorms of October are turning potholes into sometimes huge puddles and mosquitoes thrive in this warm moist environment. Is malaria or dengue fever hiding in those itchy bites the children can’t escape?