Friday, August 5, 2011

A Sort of Homecoming

Fretnel, Simone, Miracia, Wislande, and Fanni
The house is empty and silent no more!!

This morning I visited BRESMA orphanage and passed a few happy hours with our seven children in care.  We have four full time nannies and a cleaner, so they are just as indulged and well tended as one could possibly hope for.

The nannies include a few familiar faces.  Manmi Fanni has worked for us for about nine years.  Those of you who know and love her will be pleased to hear that she is not and will not be doing any laundry at all!  The kids will benefit enormously from Fanni's kindness, patience, and wisdom.

Wislande is a very beautiful young lady who worked at BRESMA I before.  I credit her personally with saving the life of the child who had the worst case of  wet malnutrition I have ever seen.  He was so edemic that he was losing skin all over his body, particularly on his hands, feet, and genitals.  I took photos to record the disease, but I've never been able to bear showing them to anybody.  Wislande.decided that he was her personal responsibility.  She couldn't touch him much - it was too painful for him - but she would stand or sit by his crib for hours, talking to him and loving him and never letting him give up.  It worked.  She is young and fun and enthusiastic and is a great companion for the kids.

Miracia has worked at BRESMA on and off for several years.  She is one of the most patient human beings I know, and I have never seen her angry or even irritated.  She loves nothing more than playing with small children.  She's an absolutely terrible disciplinarian, so I'm very glad she's not there alone.  Every child in her care without a balancing influence is sure to turn out too spoiled for his own good.

I don't know Simone or Fretznel yet, but Wislande and Fanni approve.  That's a very good sign.\

The children arrived in BRESMA starting on July 6th.  That was a very big day for us.  A year and a half after the earthquake, BRESMA was ready to shelter children under her own roof.  These toddlers and preschoolers are being housed in the old building, which was undamaged.  It's been freshened up with new paint and we have new appliances care of Answered Prayers.  The kids are eating a lot of meat!  And manners are a focus.  As they were busy feeding the kids, Fanni, Simone, and Wislande each had Aslin and Bodelais say Grace for the same meal, unaware that the others had done so.  Everyone has to say thank you and take turns with toys too.

The twins
A few of the kids will go to Argentina, but most will come to the US until France or Holland reopens adoptions for their citizens.  I'm amazed at the resilience of a pair of boy/girl twins who just arrived yesterday.  They actually seem quite happy here, despite all that they have lost.  They are getting a great deal of attention, and we have all sorts of fascinating toys, but they have lost their family.  I suppose that having each other helps too.

I'm delighted to spend some time with Aslin.  He and his brother came into care first, after their mother died of what I believe to be cholera.  He deep in grief when I met him in May.  What a changed child he is!  Once he decided I was okay, he invited me to participate in car races and all sorts of games, chattering away and grinning like the clever and happy little boy he deserves to be.  We've already made a positive difference for him.  He is visibly content and happy, even in the orphanage.

Bodelais has also had great loss in his life.  He's a very serious little guy.  He had nothing to say to a stranger, but the nannies say he knows every word of many of the hymns they like to sing with the kids.  He eventually allowed me to pull him up onto my lap, and once there, he snuggled in and agreed to stay.  I asked him if he enjoyed playing with any of the kids, but he denied having any friends at BRESMA.  Good thing that's not true - he and Aslin are obviously best buddies.  But the only person he says he wants to play with is his sister, Loutiana.  She is somewhere on the streets in Cabaret.  Margarette is going to try to find her.  I'm going to pray that she can, and that if she does, that Loutiana is not hardened by what she has experienced and that we can find the right family for the two of them together.  An enthusiastic young Red Cross worker said that it must be very rewarding working with real, individual people rather than big programs as she does.  She's right; it is. But on the other hand, she does not have the image of one lost little girl to haunt her.  We fail at least as often as we succeed.

I had an early afternoon meeting with the Adoptions Officer at the US Consulate.  She has been very good to work with, and I'm sorry that she is leaving in November.  I had a few questions for her this meeting, and she introduced me to her successor.  It would seem we're in luck.  Kim also seems like a very kind person.  She's been in Haiti for over a year, and she seems to want to be here.  She also seems pretty excited about working on orphan Visas.  I gave her my traditional one minute lecture that I habitually give to all of the new Adoptions Officers when they start.  She is the very last protection against human trafficking, and she must never let down her guard when protecting Haitian children and Haitian families.  Adoptions must be safe and legal if they are to continue to exist.

An aside about how our government works: we're always complaining that the Haitian government is inefficient and full of red tape.  DOS wants to investigate one of my right now.  However, somehow the formal approval of the forms I600 did not come through from the NVC - just the forms and scans of the kids' documents.  Emily has an email from me from before, which includes scans of those letters of approval, and she's been working with me for years and has confidence that I would not have forged those letters.  However, she can't accept the scans that I or my clients made of the letters.  Only scans made by the NVC are acceptable.  She and I will both remind the NVC about the case until the letters are sent to her from their office.  Once before, years ago, scans of notarized Powers of Attorney that were sent from USCIS proved inadequate for DOS to allow me to attend a Visa interview for a family.  We do seem to have quite enough problems with red tape in our own government.

The gang at Notre Maison
Final stop for the day was Notre Maison, an orphanage which houses children with disabilities as well as standard abandonment cases.  I found the orphanage looking well.  Gertrude has been taking guests in on the second story of the house, which used to be supported financially by her large guest house.  That building was destroyed in the earthquake.

Gertrude told me a truly ironic story.  A few months ago, her kids were invited to a special party hosted by IBESR for the children of various orphanages.  At six a.m., a bus arrived to take them to the party.  They hadn't had breakfast yet, but off they went to a very exciting day.  Sadly, the real excitement was just beginning after they came home. 

Gertrude was awoken in the wee hours be a nanny, who said that the children who had been at the party had diarrhea.

"Which children?" asked Gertrude.

"All of them," answered the nanny.  Yep, all thirty of them.  Gertrude tried Pepto Bismol and Immodium, but in the end 17 of the children were so sick they had to be hospitalized.  Gertrude kept calling IBESR, which kept wanting to know exactly which of the kids were sick.  Eventually it came out that all of the children at the party had gotten food poisoning.  Neither IBESR nor UNICEF offered to help pay the medical bills, or for the extra nannies Gertrude had to hire to watch the kids still at home while their familiar nannies went to stay with the kids at the hospital.  Fortunately she was able to move them all to Doctors Without Borders' facility, which is very near her orphanage and did not charge her for caring for the children.  Gertrude says that if she'd hospitalized 17 children from her house from food poisoning that had happened at home, there would have been an inspection and consequences.  But she paid all the consequences in this case alone.

We agreed that it had been a very expensive party.  But the kids still thought it was really fun!

After I finished my visit with Gertrude, at around 4:30, I got back in the van and told Franck that I needed to go to Sonia's house, which is on the other side of town.  Much to his credit, he said nothing and just started the van with a frozen look on his face. 

"I'm kidding," I told him.  "That's enough work for one day."

He just shook his head and smiled.  Poor Franck.  He must just dread my trips here.

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