Today was a day of amazing firsts. My son stood with his classmates of the class of 2010 to receive his high school diploma. As the oldest, he is the first of our children to graduate. As the first member of his birth family to attend school, he was the first one to be able to read and write in any language. And as the oldest child placed by BRESMA orphanage, he is the first BRESMA alumni to finish school and enter into adulthood.
Garlise fit in very well with his class. He was well liked by his classmates, who helped him overcome his shyness and learned to understand English spoken with a strong Haitian accent. They appreciated his kindness, his superb tackling skills on the football field, and his help in French class.
His teachers found Garlise inspirational. He started school at age 14. He was able to read and write a bit in Kreyol, could add and subtract double digits, so long as there was no carrying or borrowing involved, and understood the concept of multiplication. He had never heard of world war II and did not know how many continents there were. But he was classically Haitian, and his absolute dedication to performance in school, attention to dressing nicely, and the polite manners to teachers ingrained since birth inspired them to go to extraordinary efforts to help the immigrant student pack 13 years’ worth of learning into just four. They all stayed late with him after school and modified assignments when necessary. Our tiny high school’s Special Education room and teachers had to convert themselves into an English as a Learning Language program overnight. Teacher Bonnie Dowling served as Garlise’s personal tutor and must have spent hundreds of hours helping him catch up.
Usually when a child graduates, he has a long list of people to thank. Garlise does as well, and he’s done an excellent job of thanking, even without too much prompting from Mom and Dad. But in our situation, we have some thanking to do as well.
We’d like to thank Garlise’s birth family for the honor of trusting us raising our mutual child for the last four years. We do not take your sacrifice for his welfare for granted for one moment of our lives. We’d like to thank the nannies of BRESMA who raised our son for almost two years, during one of the longest and most difficult adoptions of that time period. And finally, we’d like to thank Margarette Saint-Fleur. None of this could have happened without your endless determination to bring Garlise out of Haiti and into our home, where he would have opportunities that every child deserves, but which are still a very distant dream for Haiti.
Garlise is the first, but many more will follow. Around the world, in Holland, France, Spain, the UK, Canada, and here in the US, the children of BRESMA will finish school, graduate, and begin adulthood.
They are all very fortunate, and the world is wide open to them. They have all been given an opportunity which will be denied to their fellow Haitian children, even though it should have been their right. They will be able to go as far and as free as their abilities and temperaments will let them. They are probably not going to be grateful, because no one should have to be grateful for what we all deserve – love, permanency, family, freedom, opportunity to pursue our dreams. But we should be. We have all been given the gift of trust and faith of those who allowed us to raise their children as our very own. It’s grace, or Grace, and we are blessed. I am more aware of that then ever today. What a miracle. My cup runneth over.