Update from Haiti: For Another Day
By our third day in Haiti, we had met with organizations and individuals throughout Port au Prince. Here’s just a few – Haitian Roots, New Life Children’s Home, volunteers from the University of Utah, a local LDS Church, the Ministry of Social Welfare, the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. There is a lot going in Haiti.
Actually there is so much going on that our report could run into 10 pages or more. It could easily be filled with statistics, policy recommendations and program assessments. But the reality is that Haiti is not a bunch of statistics, it is 9 million individual human beings. Too often we talk about serving populations, of policies that will serve children or of laws that will protect them. But the reality is not ‘populations’, ‘policies’ or ‘programs’. – it is one person caring about another. It’s about Roberto, a single father loving his newborn son; Karla, a Haitian volunteer, carrying an amputee on her back while volunteering at the make-shift hospital; and Shannon, a child welfare professional, caressing the hand of a child with cerebral palsy.
That comprehensive report, it’s for another day.
Roberto – Prior to the quake, Roberto worked at the Kinom Hotel in Petionville. With business being slow at the hotel, Roberto lost his job. Around the same time, his son Thomas was born and a few weeks later his wife left the family.
We first met Roberto at the LDS Church early on Sunday morning. Roberto cradled his son in his left arm while giving
shade from the blazing sun with an umbrella carefully held in his right hand. Roberto’s gorgeous smile belies his struggle. With no job, no wife and no plan other than to get through the day, no one could blame Roberto if he placed his child into an orphanage.
But for Roberto, and for so many others, there are the unsung heroes, the untold stories of Haitian’s helping Haitian’s. Roberto’s church community rallied around him, providing him with spiritual support, with food and clothing and perhaps most importantly, with the strength to love his son, care for him and keep his family together.
Shannon – Haitian Roots had its origins in adoption, in finding families for children. Now it is a dynamic organization who through partnerships with the University of Utah and Common Grounds, is building a multi-faceted community center that not only meets proper building codes but will provide job training, child care, medical clinic and education. There overriding goal is to ensure that families stay together, children are not abandoned and the children without a family find one.
Shannon is one of the leaders of Haitian Roots. We spent some time with her while visiting New Life orphanage, which
cares for children with severe disabilities. As we moved through the compound we came upon Sampson who struggled to communicate to us from his curled position in his wheelchair. I have seen many orphanages, many children and many who care for them. But watching Shannon was something I had never done.
The love she has for each child, not for children, but for the child in front of her, was for a lack of proper description, simply amazing. Her love was seen in her eyes, was heard in her voice and was felt in her touch. Shannon’s not about serving populations of kids, she’s about caring for the singular unique child that she held in her hands. At that moment, it was all about Sampson.
Linda, Pious and Paul – Sometimes Haiti is about one person helping another. And sometimes it is about one person helping thousands – one at a time.
Linda, Pious and Paul work for the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. In one ninety-day period, they and their American and Haitian colleagues, executed the largest evacuation since World War II. And they helped 1,100 children find a family (eleven times a normal ninety-day period).
Struggling to ensure the safety of their own families, fighting off fatigue and PTSD, Linda, Pious and Paul served each person not with callous bureaucracy but with tears, with empathy, with caring and yes, with love. They served thousands, but did it one person at a time.
Today – Today we move on to another exhausting day. More meetings, more policy, more programs. But today, like our first three, we will try to bring comfort, service and leadership – and we will try, just like Roberto, Shannon, Linda, Pious and Paul, to do it one person at a time.