We were amazingly blessed in the earthquake. We lost not a single child or staff member to the quake itself, and the one building actually belonging to BRESMA was minimally damaged. It turns out the couple that built it were engineers, and they designed their own house to seismic standards. Decades later, their forethought saved the lives of dozens of children.
|front of the new building|
The new building is specifically designed with health and safety of the children put first. Even diaper changing in a sanitary environment was considered. And it would take a far greater earthquake than that we already suffered to tumble this building. I suspect the End of Days alone could destroy it.
The first floor has an office/reception space. Incoming Haitian families will come here first so that we can discuss their options with them. As always, the main part of our intake process will be trying to talk parents out of adoption for their children. Margarette wants to impose a three month waiting period on any family whose child is not at obvious and immediate risk of death. Families must very carefully consider all other options before making an adoption plan for their children.
|isolation/medical care area|
|second floor playroom, looking into chaging area|
Above the third floor, on the roof, will be our rooftop terrace. This idea came straight from God's Littlest Angels, which has such a playground. It will give our children a very large, flat, clean area in which to play. I hope to collect all sorts of riding and pushing toys so the kids can work on gross motor skills on their playground.
|new paint and cribs|
So we have this huge facility - why is it empty? Money, of course. We used up over $200,000 US and it's not quite finished. If you'd like to read about the expenditures in detail, please see the Narrative Report the Haitian staff has prepared. The third floor isn't done - but that can wait. What we must do now is finish the roof. I was alarmed to stains on the brand new tiles caused by roof leakage. The project is late and over budget. Those of you who have done any construction in the US know how that goes. Personally, I am amazed at how far our $200,000 has gone. I know it would not have been possible to build what we already have for that amount here in the US, even if we weren't paying for seismic engineering and the fact that most materials are substantially more expensive in Haiti. We need to come up with $23,000 US to finish the roof, complete with playground railing. Then it will be safe to move children in. We'll still be scrambling for a way to pay the staff for a bit, until we can refer some of the children to adoptive families, but we just can't wait.
What is the hurry to bring children into care when we are so focused on family preservation? Even before the earthquake we really didn't have many good options to offer desperate Haitian families. We could and did and continue to offer short-term emergency assistance. Thousands of pounds of donated food, formula, and medicine walks out our doors with Haitian families to help them keep their children safe at home. But long-term solutions were always difficult in Haiti. Now, after the earthquake, things are much worse. It used to be that we could provide a newly widowed father of an infant with formula for a few months, and he could leave his baby with a neighbor or relative while he looked for work. But now, the family and all their relatives may be living in a cholera - infested tent camp where temperatures under the tarps are well above 100 degrees every day, and there is no clean water available to mix the formula we gave them.
BRESMA is faced with more children at risk of needless death than ever before. We simply must take them in, share our food and space, and pray for the money for the staff while we wait for permanent families. Once the roof is complete, we will accept about twenty of the children we judge to be at the most risk from our long list of families who want to place their children with us. Some of the children now on the list will die before the project is completed, even though we hope that will be only a few weeks from now. We need your help again. Please visit our website to make a tax-deductible donation to our Haiti project fund. This building matters. It's not enough, but it will be everything to the twenty or so children it will first shelter.
After our visit to the construction site, Margarette took me to the school to see some of the need for the orphanage completion first hand. The school looks great! Donations primarily from the French have built a second story, and their sponsorship supports over 250 students' tuition, uniforms, and two meals per day. The school employs dozens of Haitian staff and is the site of nutrition and education programs for the community as well.
But I am here for a darker purpose. The beginning of every adoption is loss. Today I met with a young father who lost his wife in December. She was only 22 years old, and they had been together since she was 18. From the father's description, I am guessing the mother of his children died of cholera. It wasn't quick and it wasn't easy. And it also wasn't necessary. But this is Haiti, and there was no medical care to save her in the tent camp where she died.
She left behind her grieving husband and two sons, ages six and two. I was grateful for the chance to speak with him directly, and hear from his own lips the assurance that adoption is really what he wants for his small sons. There is no friend or neighbor living in an actual building with a roof who can watch his children during the day. Not one. The smaller boy appears to be sick, but not sick enough for me to insist on medical care today. It sounds like a case of a cold that is just not going away due to constant stress and exposure. The father is informed and committed. He wants his children to have two parents, and education, and a place to sleep indoors. I will refer his children for adoption to a family who will cherish them, and cherish their memory of a father who loves them with a selflessness we Americans and Europeans will never have to contemplate.
The boys will come to live at BRESMA, roof or not, on June first. We cannot leave them in the tents any longer, and their birth father is desperate with fear. We can't save them all, but we will save these two. I just wish I could feel better about the only solution I have to offer.