Thursday, May 5, 2011

Notre Maison

'home' to several families in Port-au-Prince
My guests left very early this morning to fly to Ft. Liberte.  They are very excited to discuss the ideas they saw Lucien and Gina Duncan putting to use in their community with the Ft. Liberte constituents.

I went to visit Notre Maison this morning.  Notre Maison is an orphanage that primarily permanently houses children with special needs.  Some are relinquished by their parents, and others are placed here by IBESR.  Most of the children living here will never be able to live independently.  They are developmentally disabled and/or have substantial physical disabilities.  These challenges are very often difficult for American families to manage - for an impoverished Haitian family, they can mean the starvation of the whole family.  Relinquishment of children with disabilities is high.

Gertrude Azor cares for her children as best she can.  She has managed to obtain dozens of wheelchairs- quite a feat in Haiti - and has nannies who are trained to care for the children.  Culturally, it is quite challenging to train staff to value people with disabilities.  There are some superstitious fears regarding disabled people, and many seem to consider them as less than human.

Notre Maison was more profoundly affected by the earthquake than any of the other orphanages with which we cooperate.  For many years, the orphanage was supported in part by revenue from the guest house.  The guest house is no more.  Gertrude has managed to complete the upper story of the orphanage with donations collected following the earthquake, and she now houses a smaller number of guests in these rooms.  Many missionaries stay here, where they can see exactly where the dollars collected from their stay will go.  The kids love the extra attention!

Next I was off to buy a new Voila phone for a friend.  Voila now has a service where I can buy minutes for this phone online, so we'll be able to speak whenever we like!

After my errands I spent a while catching up on email and attempting to schedule meeting with people for my last day in Haiti. 

My final appointment of the day was to conduct a job interview with a young woman for our birth family contact program.  For years, we've wanted to have an organized way to keep our kids in touch with their Haitian families through a safe third party.  I believe Joudline may be just the right person for  the task.  BRESMA families will have the first opportunity to use the Pale a Ke'm program (that is Kreyol for "Speak to My Heart"), but we hope someday to offer the service to all adoptive families of Haitian born children.  Birth family contact is almost always very beneficial for birth parents and the children.  It's good to know where you came from, and how dearly you were loved.  The hard part is always survivor's guilt.  The birth families are usually in desperate conditions, but to send them any financial aid at all will jeopardize the future of all Haitian adoptions.  It looks like American parents paying Haitian families for their children.  Catch-22.

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