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

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.

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