In Septemeber 2008, I traveled 6000 miles to Haiti's Kenscoff mountains. My mission: to care for some of the orphaned and abandoned, the sick, malnourished and premature infants of this beautiful but beleagured Caribbean nation.

Sunday, 31 January 2010

A Child Who Needs Us

I answered a knock at my door at dinner time. It was Joyce, who works at our toddler house, and she brought 'good' news; I had a new baby she said, a premture girl, and she was waiting for me on the porch.

The baby doesn't have a name yet. She was born 2 months early at 2m this morning. She was very hypodermic when I did my initial assessment of her tonight. Her heart rate was dropping and she was showing signs of an early pneumonia.

I worked with Nicole, one of our volunteer relief nurses, to stabilize this tiny 2lb 13 oz girl. I have just returned from the NICU. The baby is in a incubator and her temperature has come up. She is breathing well and her heart is beating strong. We have started her on IV fluids and antibiotics. The following days will be critical for her. I am definitely guarding my heart. I can't afford to invest too much hope in a miracle baby.

Yet she is a child in need, and we are able to help. That is wonderful in itself. I feel privileged to be here and to be given an opportunity to love her and care for her.

Good For The Soul

The changes in the lives of those of us living in Haiti following the devastating earthquake of January the 12th, have been and remain, rapid and bewildering. In a little over a week, the staff at GLA have said goodbye to 140 children, who have been evacuated to countries of the families who have been in the process of adopting them. We feel a sense of relief; the awesome responsibility of protecting these children and providing for them is no longer ours. We rejoice, knowing that they are safe and secure in loving families. Yet there a deep sense of loss and a gaping emptiness in our lives today.

We had hoped to be able to be able to welcome newly orphaned, sick and displaced children into our orphanage in the Kenscoff mountains. Trained, loving care-givers are twiddling their thumbs. Two Haitian nurses sit with four babies between them, when they could be overseeing sick and traumatized infants. The play area on the third floor balcony lies empty. So do the school rooms. .

We are ready, willing and able to admit a hundred displaced children. However, in the last few days, UNICEF have began moving these children into tent cities. Their motivations for doing this are good. There is a very real risk that in the aftermath of this disaster, thousands of vulnerable children will be trafficked put of Haiti by criminal gangs or paedophile rings. It is crucial that urgent steps be taken to protect these children.

At GLA, the rights of Haitian children are uppermost in our minds. We believe that we served the best interests of the children in out care, by taking steps to expedite their adoptions so that they could join permanent families overseas. We do not believe that a similar plan of action would be in the best interests of those children who appear to have been newly orphaned during the earthquake. For one thing, it is possible that they have merely be separated from their parents. In time, parents or other family members may return in search of these children.

We would like to provide temporary care for children who have been separated from their families. We have a Haitian Social Worker on staff, and we believe that he, together with UNICEF and private investigators could work to find any surviving family members who may be able and willing to care for these children.

It is incredibly discouraging to me, to have all of these resources at our finger-tips, and to be prevented from using them to benefit children who desperately need the kind of care we can provide. In what way will life in a temporary camp better serve the interests of these children than we could, in safe, secure, child-friendly facilities?

It would be all too easy to give in to despair, but there is plenty of work to be done. We have been spring cleaning and we have been organising supplies. We are a nation of broken-hearted and traumatized people. Yet if there is one thing the Haitians have taught me, it is forbearance.

Over the weekend, those of us who escorted the Canadian children out of Haiti spent our time in Miami purchasing relief supplies. We filled 33 large tubs and 10 suitcases with blankets, towels, tents, rice, oil and many other essential items. We packed them and lifted and dragged all of our cargo from the hotel to the airport, off of our flight and into a waiting vehicle. Today the work was even heavier here at the main house. I truly believe that hard work is good for the soul; as good a remedy for a broken heart as any other that is available to me at this time.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Apparently, we are not going to make it to Hispaniola today. The US military say that they cannot guarantee the safety of people who arrive on commercial flights. Frankly, I don't think we need them to guarantee our safety; there are reports that a flight was stormed by looters when it landed a few days ago. However, flights continued to take-off and land after this incident, including the flight that was chartered to evacuate 81 orphans from GLA. As far as I can see, the security situation at Toussaint Louverture Airport has not deteriorated since we left Haiti on Thursday.

Our last hope is that the US Military will allow us to fly in on one of their flights. Dixie Bickel is still working on that. There is a chance - slim to nil - that the US navy will advocate for our return on a military flight so that they can place the premature babies on their Comfort Ship with us.

Frustrated? You bet!


After evacuating 81 of God's Littlest Angels' children to the USA on Thursday, our group is now stranded in Miami. The US military are preventing all commercial flights, including chartered relief flights, from landing at the Port-au-Prince airport.

Dixie has been contacted by US naval Doctors. They are caring for several premature infants on their comfort ship and have asked that we admit them to GLA, where we have oxygen, incubators and the capacity to provide IV fluids and IV drugs to the fragile newborns who need the care we can provide.

As soon as we get back to Haiti, we will admit these infants. There is no-where else for them to go. We are doing all we can to get out of Miami. We may have to travel there through the Dominican Republic.

All of you who pray, please ask God to make our path straight back to Haiti. Prayers for our safety and protection would also be appreciated.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

From God's Arms, To My Arms, To Theirs: A Miracle of Prayer

On Thursday night Dixie (GLA Director), myself, Stephanie (the adoption coordinator) and Molly and Joyce (who run toddler house) escorted over 80 of GLA's children out of Haiti and into the United States on Humanitarian visas

In was a mammoth journey in every way: so many children, many of them dependant babies, one critically ill and one on a feeding tube, a further seven who had special needs or disabilities and one infant who needed to have an IV fluid bolus on the flight. Many were sick with fevers, diarrhoea and vomiting, The logistics of organising this evacuation were incredible. It took me over 5 hours to organise all of the medicines and medical supplies we would need for the trip and many of the staff did not sleep at all on the night before the evacuation.

Seven month old Rose-Laure was in a life-threatening condition the day that we evacuated the children from Haiti. She was showing signs of severe pain, and had a fever, rapid and laboured breathing and a fast heart-rate. She had been started on IV fluids, together with high-dose IV antibiotics the night before. Just over an hour before we were due to leave, Rose-Laure began vomiting blood and having seizures.

We were faced with the difficult decision of whether to take her, as planned, or leave her behind. Our Pediatrician advised that she was unlikely to survive if she remained in Haiti, since we probably would not be able to get her admitted to one of the few Port-au-Prince hospitals that are still standing. They are overwhelmed with earthquake victims, understaffed and running out of supplies. Yet we knew that there would be no medical back-up if Rose-Laure stopped breathing on the flight. In the end, we managed to stabilise our little girl and one of our foreign nurse-volunteers escorted her into the USA on the same chartered flight that the rest of our group travelled on.

Rose-Laure has since been diagnosed with bacterial meningitis. She is currently in the PICU of a Miami Children's hospital, where her condition is serious but stable.

After being delayed for several hours at a military airfield adjoining Toussaint Louverture Airport, we boarded the airplane. We arrived in Miami after midnight and spent 8 hours in a brightly lit immigration hall, where our children's Humanitarian Visas were 'processed'. It was a long night. Thankfully, our US board members and the customs and border control staff ensured that we had clean bottles, nappies, snacks, drinks and blankets.

Shortly before 9am, we made it through customs, carrying our precious cargo: our babies. All were tired and dazed by the events of the previous 10 days and by the strange, new world they found themselves in. We were met by a barrage of press and media. Though exhausted and camera shy, I appreciated that the American public needed closure on this story. They have prayed for and rooted for these children for a week and a half. They have petitioned their senators and now, here we were, bearing these children over the threshold, into a new life, full of hope and possibility.

Yes, I was feeling hopeful. I cried for two nights solid before we left, grieving for my children, especially the special needs babies, who, I was told, would be become wards of the state of Florida Then, on Friday morning as I prepared to leave, I received wonderful news; in the past 48 hours, every single one of my special needs children had been matched with permanent adoptive families, and most of these families had been agency-approved to adopt internationally. Some had stepped up to the plate and said yes to my babies with barely a moments thought!

I carried Olantha, my 'Ti Fi', all the way from Haiti. In August, God delivered Olantha into my arms. Now, I have delivered her into the arms of another loving Mother. Though I struggle with feelings of grief and loss, I am in awe at the miracle; on the first of January, I posted my prayer for the new year on this blog.

'I will be praying, as I hope others will, that 2010 will be their year. The year that the families, who are being perfectly prepared for the task of raising our little ones and loving them, whatever may come to pass, will step up to the plate and say yes to these beautiful children of God.'
Now, before the first month of the year is out, all have been set in families. That is a great comfort to me. If the truth be told, I have doubted God's love, his mercy and his compassion several times since the earthquake hit. Now, I am secure in the knowledge that his will is to prosper us, and not to harm us. I have seen time and again that he answers prayer.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Breaking Heart

Today, the children I love most are due to leave Haiti on a flight bound for Florida. Many of the children who will be travelling will be united with their permanent adoptive families when they arrive in the USA. For them, I rejoice, but many of our special needs children have not been matched with families and will become wards of the state, when they arrive in Miami.

I don't know what will become of the children after the leave us. I am extremely attached to two of them, in particular. They are about to lose everything they have. I can't prepare them for what is coming, any more than I could prepare them for anything that has happened over the last 9 days. I have had little warning that they will be going and I am not willing or happy to open my arms and release these precious babies of mine to be scattered by the winds. Please do not write and tell me that they will be better off in America or that they are in God's hands. It is my greatest hope that will find permanent homes soon, with families that will love and cherish them at least as much as I do. I hope that somehow, in the midst of this unspeakable tragedy, they will rise from the ashes, and soar.

As we struggle with bewildering changes and profound losses, we stand poised for an influx of sick, injured and orphaned children. Four volunteer nurses arrived here two days ago. Some medical supplies have also gotten through to us. We are in a position, like never before to reach out to some of Haiti's suffering children. I will do that in honour of the children who are about to leave us. Loving them has made my heart whole and good.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

A 6.1 Magnitude 'Aftershock' Rocks Haiti

Shortly after 6am, we were hit by a 6.1 magnitude aftershock that rocked the orphanage all over again.

Understandably, everyone is on edge again. This is the biggest shock we have experienced since last Tuesday's earthquake. At this point, it doesn't look as though GLA has sustained any structural damage. The staff and children are all outside again. Several male volunteers arrived yesterday to help with our relief efforts. The have erected tarpaulins outside, to shelter the children from the sun and any rain that may come. We are waiting to hear how much damage this latest aftershock has done in Port-au-Priince.

Your continued prayers for the safety of our staff and children and the stability of our buildings would be appreciated.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

So Many Reasons to Be Grateful

We were visited by an ITN (British) film crew this morning. Since the night of the earthquake, I have spoken to several Journalists, from all over the United Kingdom. This has involved dozens of telephone conversations and e-mails. Anyone who knows me will understand that 'spotlights' are incredibly uncomfortable places for me.

During that first sleepless night, though, I spent a lot of time reflecting on whether or not I could actually cope with the responsibility and the exposure that would come from speaking to the media, especially at this stressful time. By the following morning, when I walked into Dixie's office at 6:30 am, I had concluded that Haiti was far away, remote and obscure to the British public. I felt that by telling my story, I might be able to make the disaster personal for them. I hoped this would encourage them to give. I hear that people back at home really are responding to the aid appeals and it is so encouraging to know that.

I remain nervous and anxious at each interview, and always pray for wisdom; that the right words would be on my lips at the right time. I felt especially uncomfortable to be face-to-face with my interviewer today; to be seen as well as heard for the first time. Thankfully, the team who came today were sensitive in their approach. Most of the journalists I have spoken to have been, and that makes my job easier.

GLA has a high profile in the US and European media at the moment. This has helped a great deal in terms of raising funds for our disaster relief appeal. It has also resulted in two missions, based in the Dominican Republic, bringing fuel and water at a time when we had enough supplies of each to last just two days.

Today was a wonderful day in terms of getting supplies through to the orphanage. Shortly before mid-day, we celebrated the arrival of a WATER TRUCK. Yes, thousands of gallons of life giving, thirst quenching, cleansing water made it to our gate and into our water tanks around mid-day. If we chose to, we could launder clothes and take showers as normal for a couple of days. I don't imagine we will; a gallon of diesel currently costs 12 USD in Port-au-Prince. It is possible that in the not too distant future, the water trucks will run out of fuel. Our water supply is far less critical today than it was yesterday, but who knows what the next few weeks will bring.
We were also visited by the Dutch consular general, who, with the assistance of the Dutch military, delivered a substantial amount of UHT milk, fruit juice, drinking water, nappies and rice. What a blessing!

This afternoon was marked by a rapid deterioration in the condition of one of our babies with gastroenteritis. After producing two large, watery stools, this young infant, became, pale, floppy and unresponsive, He was on an IV at the weekend but recovered to the point that the IV was removed. Today he relapsed. We started an antibiotic this morning but it did not kick in in time to prevent Baby W from becoming very ill and dangerously dehydrated.

At this point, GLA has no back-up from our Paediatrician, who hasn't been able to visit since the earthquake. We were very concerned about Baby W. It was very difficult to site an IV line - his veins were very fine due to the dehydration. Thankfully, we did manage to site a line, and, after a large bolus of IV fluids and a dose of a broad spectrum antibiotic, our little man quickly regained consciousness.

I have never been so grateful, so often or for so many things as I have this week. I was overwhelmedthis evening to hear that a Doctor and Nurse had travelled here with the Dutch navy. The Doctor reviewed Baby W and approved our treatment plan. He also saw some other sick children for us and gave us a small supply of drugs, including antibiotics that we are either very low on, or have ran out of.
I thanked the team several times for coming and for their wonderful donations. Baby W is a timely reminder of the fragile position of Haitian children in the aftermath of this disaster. How many will die for lack of food, water and basic medical supplies over the coming weeks and months? I suspect thousands of tiny lives will be lost this way.

GLA will impact this situation the only way we can; assisting one child at a time, and giving our full attention to the little ones who are directly in front of us. Four nurses arrived at GLA today on a flight that had been chartered by our US board. The flight also contained important medical supplies. With staff and supplies in place, we have the capacity to begin accepting sick and injured children for temporary care, as soon as our children who are currently in the process of being adopted can be evacuated out of Haiti. We expect that some of these children will leave GLA over the next 48 hours.

Monday, 18 January 2010

A Knock At My Door

Today, 23 of our children were due to be evacuated on a Belgian relief flight. These children are being adopted by families in the Netherlands and will be leaving Haiti, to join their adoptive families in Holland. In the end, the necessary paperwork was not completed on time, so these children will now be leaving tomorrow. It is possible that a further 13 children, who are in the process of being adopted by Luxembourgian families, will leave on the same flight.

God's Littlest Angels is working very hard to evacuate as many of our children as we possibly can. Although a limited amount of water and diesel have been brought through to us by missionaries in the Dominican public, there are very real concerns about our ability to obtain consistent supplies of essential items such baby milk and medicines over the following weeks and months. While the situation at our orphanage is not critical at this point, it is thought that many infants and young children in Haiti will die from illness and starvation in the aftermath of this disaster. We don't want a single one of our little ones to perish.

Later in the day, we received news that the US Department of Homeland Security were going to issue a statement indicating that they would be allowing orphaned Haitian children to enter the United States, temporarily, on humanitarian parole. This opens up the possibility that all of the children currently being cared for by God's Littlest Angels, could be leaving in the next week.

It is incredibly difficult to come to terms with the possibility of being separated from so many of our children, so suddenly. I am particularly attached to some of our medically fragile children and it will be particularly upsetting for me to have to say good bye to them.

During my lunch break this afternoon, as I was sitting in my room, struggling with the reality of the incredible emotional upheaval that is coming, there was a knock at my door; a teenage boy had fallen and hurt his arm. There was also a little girl with a burn who needed to be assessed. These children could not access medical care at the closest hospital, which, is overwhelmed by earthquake victims.

A man came to our gate. He told our Director about an orphanage that had collapsed. The people who ran it had died, leaving 80 children, without food or shelter. It is likely that as soon as tomorrow, we will be admitting at least 20 children, under the age of two, to our main orphanage building.

The message is not lost on me; there will be little time to dwell on our sorrow. There are too many children who need us.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Day 5

I haven't showered in days, and I haven't slept in a week. Our orphanage is in disaray and many of us are working 15 and 16 hour days, so this morning, when I got a call from a British Television network, asking if they could come to God's Littlest Angels later today, it was all I could do to hold it together.

For three of of the five days since the earthquake hit, I have been the sole nurse working with the babies at the main house. For two of those days, I was the only staff member in the NICU. The pace of life here at GLA shows no signs of slowing. Today, with no other nursing support, I was overseeing the care of 85 babies. One of them is on IV fluids and another has a nasogastric feeding tube. Several others are sick with gastroenteritis. I found four infants who were very dehydrated when I started work this morning. One of them has crackles on his right lung, which may indicate a pneumonia. We are running low on the first-line antibiotic I used to treat him. We are also low on IV fluids, particularly those containing sodium and potassium. These minerals are needed to replace salts that are lost by children who have gastroenteritis. Hopefully, some of these essential medical supplies will reach us via one of the aid flights that will be coming in over the next week or so.

We heard today that 23 of GLA's children may be leaving for the Netherlands tomorrow. The Dutch government has agreed to admit all Haitian children who are in the process of being adopted by Dutch families. For them to leave Haiti without the usual paperwork, the Haitian Prime minister must sign a paper, waiving the typical immigration requirements.

It will be an emotional day tomorrow when we wave these children off. We all know that it is in the children's best interests to go; we cannot guarantee that we will have food or baby milk for them a month from now. This kind of parting though, from such a large group of children, leaving the orphanage in such a manner, is unprecendented for us. Usually, we know when a child is nearing the end of the adoption process, and we prepare our-selves for their departure.

I have been wondering what our Haitian staff, and Haitians generally would think, when they heard that several hundred orphaned children would be evacuated out of Haiti. Would it make them sad or would they rejoice? Would they be offended and say that foreigners were 'stealing' their children.
So far, whenever I have spoken about this, our Haitian staff have responded in the same way; 'Sa bon! Pa gen anyen pou yo isit' (meaning, that's good, there is nothing for them here in Haiti.)

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Brought to My knees

At 4:53 on Tuesday afternoon, with the floor shifting beneath my feet, and the entire house shaking and rocking violently, glass shattering and equipment crashing from the NICU shelves, there was just enough time to lift the baby in the cot in front of me. It was Impossible to stay upright. I dropped to my knees.

Then, grabbing the only other baby within reach, I looked around in despair. There were another 8 infants in the room and I knew I couldn't save them. I shielded the two I had with me as best I could. The babies were crying, terrified care givers were screaming. Too afraid to compose an eloquent prayer to my God, I leaned upon the familiar words of a well known prayer.

'Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name....'

I am still on my knees, we all are, and we are relying in God as utterly and completely as we did during the 40 seconds of that earthquake.

I have never had to wonder where I will eat next week, or if there will be water to drink Now, I pray daily for these things. And I am thankful, in a way I have never been before that we have them. We can't take any of it for granted anymore.

There is hopeful news: Our driver saw a water truck on the road today. Tomorrow he is going off in search of one of these trucks. Remember that there is no piped water in our area. All of our water must be transported along the mountain road. I really, really want to see one of those trucks at out gate!

Adeline, a nanny who works in the urgence B nursery, for children who aren't quite walking, came into work today. We hadn't seen her since before the disaster. That leaves two staff members still unaccounted for them. While we are anxious about their safety, it is amazing to me that not one of our Haitian workers have been seriously hurt or killed up to this point.

We managed to get 5 of our children out of Haiti today. The left on a chartered flight, bound for the Netherlands. All are in the process of being adopted by families in Holland. One did not have a visa or passport, but she was allowed to board the flight; the Dutch government today agreed to admit all Haitian children children into the Netherlands, who are in the process of being adopted by families in that country. Provisional plans are in place to evacuate 23 children next week. It is wonderful news for these children and while, I for one, rejoice for these children because it is a given that all of their needs will be provided for in Holland, it will be difficult to say good bye to so many children, all at once, and with very little warning. It does however mean that almost 30 beds will be freed-up for newly orphaned children.

It is slowly dawning on us, that our lives in Haiti, and the lives of everyone around us have changed forever.

'My boyfriend wont have work now! one nanny exclaimed. 'His work place has been destroyed!'

'It will be the same way for everyone in this country,' her friend replied. 'Haiti is finished! It has crumbled to dust!'

Haiti is a country in which so many people had nothing, and yet now, these people have lost everything. The Haitian staff tell me that schools, universities and workplaces have been obliterated. The government buildings have all been damaged or completely destroyed. None of the government ministers can be located. When all is said and done, there will be no return to normal in Haiti.

'The rich and the poor, the Black and the Mulatto (mixed race) are all sleeping side by side on the street,' said a staff member, who, has just returned from the city. 'We are all the same now. Our little houses have fallen, along with their expensive homes, and their businesses are destroyed..... we are all the same today.'

The entire country has been brought to its knees.

Friday, 15 January 2010

Good News

Our day began with good news: Jocelyn had managed to contact her sister in Port-au-prince, who reported that both of Jocelyn's children, two little boys - a 13 month old and a 10 year old - had survived the earth quake. She was told that her oldest son was unhurt. A 13 year old girl with learning difficulties, who had been been in the house, with the family, when it collapsed had sustained an injury to her shoulder. The baby was sick had profuse diarrhoea and was very dehydrated. There was no food or water in the area and they had been unable to find medical care of any kind.

Jocelyn asked for permission to go in search of her children and bring them to God's Littlest Angels. She was sent with a small amount of pain medicine and oral rehydration salts. I insisted that Jocelyn should not carry anything she could not concealed - there are reports of violent muggings in Port-au-Prince. The people down there are getting desperate now.

Our day passed with far fewer after shocks. We no longer feel as though we are constantly moving, although the ground is still vibrating and over the afternoon, we again felt as though we were swaying. There was also more good news. We have managed to contact several of our missing staff members. It is so good to know that they are alive. We still have not heard from one of our nurses. We are all amazed that so far, none of our staff members have died as a result of this disaster.

We learned today that displaced people have began arriving in our area, from Port-au-Prince, in the hope of finding food and water. They are sleeping on a nearby football field. Local people are organising what ever supplies they are able to find to help those who have fled survive through the coming days and weeks. It is likely that the mainstream relief organisations will focus their efforts in and around Port-au-Prince. God's Littlest Angels will ensure that Aid supplies that reach us are distributed to the earthquake survivors in the more remote mountain areas.

We are also gearing up to admit sick and injured children, as well as those who have been orphaned by the disaster. Many of the hospitals in Port-au-Prince have collapsed. There is a critical shortage of basic medical supplies and medical personnel. Over the course of today, two local hospitals have contacted God's Littlest Angels, requesting that we send what ever we can spare to them. Our Director anticipate that people will begin arriving at our gate, as soon as they hear that we have nurses and medical supplies here. We are talking about setting up a room at the orphanage as a makeshift clinic.

Jocelyn, returned to the orphanage 2 hours ago. One of our drivers dropped her off and collected her again at the presidential palace. Beyond that point, the roads are impassable for vehicles. The family were were unable to bring the 13 year old; she is in a lot of pain and unable to walk. We assessed Jocelyn's 5 year old nice. She was trapped inside a building for several hours and has a swollen leg. We will send her for x-rays in the morning.

The 13 month old baby is moderately dehydrated. Considering he is a young toddler, suffering from gastroenteritis who hasn't eaten or drank for over 48 hours, he is in remarkably good shape.. He is alert, if slightly weak, and he is very eager to drink. Seeing him fills me with hope. There is still plenty of time, for so many lives to be saved.

What God's Littlest Angels is Doing and How You can Help

God's Littlest Angels are collecting donations now and will be sending a shipping container to Haiti as soon as we can. For the orphanage, we always need powdered formula, nappies, baby wipes, baby cereal, infant Tylenol (paracetamol suspension), infant and children's vitamins, and baby care items such as lotion, powder, baby shampoo. We also hope to be able to assist the surrounding community with clothing, medical supplies, household items, hygiene items such as soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste, blankets and towels. We have also set up a fund for earthquake relief for our staff and surrounding community. Many of our staff will need assistance with home repair and funeral expenses.

Donations should be sent to:
God's Littlest Angels, 2085 Crystal River Dr., Colorado Springs, CO 80915
Financial donations for earthquake relief can be sent to the above address, or via Paypal on our web site, (Canadian donors should use the Canadian Paypal button at or through the following link: and click the "Chip in" button.

The earth quake is likely to leave several thousand orphaned children. We at God's Littlest Angels are preparing to take in as many of these children as we possibly can. We are asking adoptive parents overseas to petition their governments to allow children who are in the process of being adopted to enter the countries of the families who are adopting the on humanitarian visas. Their adoptions could then be completed in their home countries, If all of our children who are currently matched with families who are been approved to adopt could be evacuated, we would be able to admit at least a hundred of the children who have been orphaned by this disaster.

After shocks

The after shocks have lessened significantly in frequency and severity over the past 24 hours and especially overnight. It is 5:30am in the morning here in Haiti and we have just had two large shocks that rumbled through our orphanage, shaking us awake in our beds.

Two nannies and two nurses arrived for work last night. Claudia's Aunt is still trapped under rubble in the Delmas district of Port-au-Prince. We heard last night that Christella, one of our NICU nannies, has lost a sister. Christella's sister was in Church at the time the earthquake hit, just before 5pm on Tuesday night.

The Haitian staff are showing signs of stress. Many of us here are experiencing loss of appetite, nausea and headaches. The constant movement of the ground makes our buildings sway and that is causing motion sickness, as well as high levels of anxiety. The children are fairing remarkably well. Our international volunteers have been taking them upstairs to a play area during the day. We have a little girl who has Sickle cell disease and she gets very upset during the stronger after shocks. Her loud cries are heard by everyone on the first floor of the orphanage, which, is were our nurseries are located. A two year old boy, who is HIV positive developed a stress rash on the night of the earth quake. Everyone who is here is doing their level best to maintain the children's routine, despite significant staff shortages here at God's Littlest Angels. As a result, our children are fed, clothed, changed and supervised.

Our foreign staff and many of our Haitian staff have a strong Christian faith. We draw our strength from that faith. We know that it is by God's grace that we have all survived this catastrophe. His love is eternal and he is with the poor and the broken hearted during these difficult days.

'Blessed are those who weep, for they will be comforted.'

Last night as I finally drifted off to sleep, our neighbours were singing Kreyol gospel songs, and praising God for his goodness.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Great is Thy Faithfullness

As the shock subsides, reality sinks in. Our three story orphanage building might have collapsed, with us all inside. They would have been digging us out for weeks. During the earthquake, which lasted for 35-40 seconds, our house shook violently, and rocked from side to side and appeared to lean towards the ground.. The house did not crumble. It did not fall.

A neighbour's collapsed hut

Our beautiful and beleaguered country has been devastated. Port-au-Prince lies in ruins. Water, food and fuel are in short supply. We run an orphanage with 150 children. Where will we get these basic necessities from?

The day has brought some answers. Our board in the USA is gathering supplies for the orphanage, to be delivered on a relief flight, and later by shipping container. We are hopeful that people overseas will donate baby milk, infant cereal, non-perishable food and hygiene supplies, blankets, clothes, food and medicine; items desperately needed at the orphanage and by our staff members and neighbours who have lost their homes and loved ones.

A Mennonite mission, based in Fond-Parisiene, close to the Dominican boarder is delivering drinking water and diesel to us tomorrow. We have enough food to last through two weeks - although we have been told our diet is likely to be very basic. We will not be able to take showers or use the washing machines until the water trucks begin bringing water; this usually comes from a reservoir on a near-by mountain. Part of that mountain-side, which, has been heavily quarried, collapsed during the earthquake. It is unclear whether whether the reservoir remains accessible.

We are a Christian mission. Even so, I for one find myself questioning, 'Why God?' Why in a country so impoverished, with so much suffering? How will we survive in the aftermath of this?

I was asking just these questions on Tuesday night after the eathquake hit, as I watched our babies, sleeping on mattresses on the ground. And then, our nannies broke into song, and among the rising and falling harmonies, I recognised familiar words, sung to a familiar tune.

'Great is thy faithfulness,
Great is thy faithfulness,
Morning by morning, new mercies I see.
All I have needed, thy hand has provided.
Great is thy faithfulness, Lord unto me.'

City of Sorrows

Djenie collapsed in my arms. She was wild-eyed, hoarse and trembling. Tears coarsed down her cheeks. 'Susan' she howled.' 'Susan, they are all dead. Three people! Three People! My babies! My babies are gone!'

That was yesterday, 18 hours after the devastating magnitude 7 earth quake that struck Haiti.

Djenie is in her early twenties and had just been told that her Mother and two children had died when their house collapsed. Words fail. There is no comfort to give. This is the Grief of a nation.

'I am so, so sorry. Go with God, sister.'

We later learnt that Djenie's family had in fact survived the disaster. The family in the neighbouring house did not.

No family is untouched. A niece. An uncle and his immediate family. A brother. Tonight, one of the night nurses told me she attended 3 funerals today. Six members of her husband's family have died. 'I haven't finished counting.' she told me. I have family in Delmas......'

Claudia went on to tell me that her Aunt was trapped under rubble in the Delmas area of Port-au-Prince. There do not appear to be any search and rescue teams in the area. There is no co-ordinated relief effort, because there is no functioning government. The Parliament building has been obliterated. Many of the senators are dead. Ordinary Haitians are digging through the rubble of the city with their bare hands. They pile dead bodies, side by side and one on top of the other. Blood runs out of many of the crumbling houses, flowing into gutters and down the streets. One of our foreign staff members was in Port-au-Prince today. She had to step over the bodies of earth quake victims in order to get into the American Embassy building. The smell of decomposing flesh is thick in the air in Port-au-Prince today. People are beginning to burn the corpses.

Claudia's Aunt has been calling relatives, from beneath the rubble, on her cell phone throughout the past 48 hours. She wont survive much longer without water, but I have told Claudia not to lose hope. Foreign relief teams are arriving. We all hope that they get here in time to save Claudia's Aunt, and others trapped under the rubble of this devastated city.

We have yet to hear from four of our staff members, including a Haitian nurse, in her 30's, who is heavily pregnant. Many of the cellular networks are down and there is no power in Power in Port--au-Prince, so cell phones are discharging.

There is some good news. Jocelyn, a nanny who has worked with Dixie for 17 years has heard that her sons, aged 1 and 10 have survived. She is desperate to know whether they have food or water.

Our Haitian staff are saying that Haiti is suffering under the wrath of God, for wide spread devil worship. I can't believe that. This looks apocalyptic, but I cannot believe that God has forsaken this country. I cannot.

The words of a song we sing at my church back home in Scotland have been drifting to me throughout the day:

'Though the mountains may fall, and the hills turn to dust,
Yet the love of the lord will stand.'

(Isaiah 54:10)

Our God has not forsaken us.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Breath. Life. Hope

For anyone who doesn't know, the British Isles and much of Northern Europe is currently experiencing a big freeze; the coldest winter since 1981. Last Wednesday, as I sat at Edinburgh airport, it really looked as though I was going to be 'grounded' by heavy snow and ice.

It was a great encouragement to me that I made it to Haiti, as scheduled. In the end, mine was the last flight that ran between Edinburgh and London. It definitely felt as though my plans were being guarded. It is always nice to be favoured!

Back at GLA, the babies at the main house were exceptionally warm and enthusiastic in their welcomes. It was so good to be back!

Baby girl A needed immediate attention. For a horrible moment, as I gazed down at my new little charge, so still and so pale in her bassinet, I thought she was dead. I put my hand on her chest and watched. After a few seconds, with great relief, I felt her chest rise and fall under my palm, and I exhaled. She was cold and very dehydrated but there was breath in her body; life and hope.

This little one is thought to be around 9 months old. She came via another orphanage, and has been very sick since she arrived. With profuse diarrhoea, terrible stomach cramps, vomiting that makes it very difficult to hold anything down, sores in her mouth and in her nappy area from thrush, and, an ear infection, this little one is truly stricken.

She was so dehydrated that our Nurse director was unable to find a vein anywhere in Baby A's body. Thankfully, she still had good circulation to her head and Dixie managed to site an IV line in a large vessel in the baby's scalp. She has needed several litres of IV serum, 3 antibiotics to treat her various infections, and miconazole for the thrush.

Today she looks better, and for the first time, I dare to not just hope, but believe she might live. She is interested in her surroundings. She likes to be held and hugged, and, this morning, when I leaned over to kiss her, I got that all important smile that signifies joy and strength. Where there is joy and strength, there is the will to live. That is a given.

Baby A is not out of danger yet. She is showing signs of acute malnutrition. Her skin is loose around her stomach and she has dermatitis from zinc deficiency. Her feet are also swollen. That is a sign of protein deficiency and protein deficiency is an emergency. It is critical that this baby begins to tolerate nutrition so that her body can fight infection. Unfortunately, She is in pain from her infections and is unable to suck or swallow because of the thrush. Her gut has also been damaged by chronic diarrhoea and so she feels nauseated and has no appetite. We have put an NG feeding tube down and we are using that to give Baby A small frequent volumes of a hypoallergenic milk formula. We are also giving medications to control her vomiting. And we are praying

I am so thankful that we have been given this baby. She came with a very poor prognosis. She had days to live without basic emergency treatment. With an IV she might have lived a month. We hope to change that.

Friday, 1 January 2010

On My Heart

A little someone has been on my heart this Christmas, and up until yesterday, I wasn't exactly sure why. She is a year and a half old, and she has a debilitating illness called Sickle Cell Disease.

'Lovely' (not her real name) did not catch sickle cell disease. Rather, she inherited it from her parents, both of whom, if not actually sick themselves, would have been 'carriers' for the condition.

It is because she has two defective copies of the gene that is responsible for producing haemoglobin, that Lovely is sick; she is not able to produce normal haemoglobin - the protein in red blood cells that contains iron and that binds to oxygen. Instead, she produces abnormal haemoglobin, and this abnormal haemoglobin makes her red blood cells jagged or sickle shaped.

These sickle shaped cells are very fragile and rupture easily. As a result, they have a short life span, and because of this, Lovely is constantly anaemic and sometimes jaundiced as well, from the constant destruction of large amounts of haemoglobin.

Due to their abnormal shape, her red blood cells also 'sickle' (get stuck together) and block her smallest blood vessels, especially those in her bones, in her liver, her spleen and lungs. This can be very painful. It also predisposes Lovely to severe, life-threatening infections; her spleen, which plays a very important role in responding to disease causing microbes, is largely non functioning and Lovely is immuno-compromised as a result.

Children with Sickle Cell Disease suffer from crises (episodes of pain and anemia) aswell as from infections such as pneumonia. There is also an increased chance that children with sickle cell disease will experience stokes. These stokes can cause brain damage. Sometimes that brain damage is permanent. The outlook just is not good for children with Sickle Cell Disease.

At GLA, Lovely is observed constantly. She must drink plenty of fluids to prevent 'sickling crises' and she needs nourishing food, extra vitamins and preventative antibiotics every day. Stomach pain, fever and breathing problems have to be promptly identified and investigated. We cannot allow her to become dehydrated and so when she is unwell, we have a very low threshold for doing blood draws and for starting IV's and strong antibiotics.

I have searched my heart, wondering why Lovely has been on it for the past two weeks. Is it because I am away on holiday, and she is fragile, and my watchful eyes are not upon her? That may be part of the reason, but there is more to it than that....

As I contemplated the question of why Lovely was prominent in my thoughts, I re-called an earlier conversation I'd had with GLA's Director. During that conversation, I learned that it is difficult to find families who are willing to adopt children with sickle cell disease. The prospect of watching them suffer, and knowing that there is no cure for this horrible disease that can lead to brain damage or sudden death is simply too much for most families to bear.

Yes, that's it. Lovely is a baby, just like all the others at GLA, and she is with us for the same reason the other babies are. Waiting. Each baby waits for a family, because we believe it is every child's right to live in a secure home, with loving parents. I know that Lovely will probably wait longer than most of our babies for her 'forever family', and, somewhere deep inside, I feel the injustice of this, especially at Christmas. After all, every child needs and deserves to be held and rocked and loved and cared for, and sick babies need these things more, not less.

There are a number of special needs children at GLA, awaiting families. Lovely, and our two little boys who are HIV positive will be the most 'difficult to place'. That is on my mind just now, so I will be praying, as I hope others will, that 2010 will be their year. The year that the families, who are being perfectly prepared for the task of raising our little ones and loving them, whatever may come to pass, will step up to the plate and say yes to these beautiful children of God.