Tuesday, May 1, 2012

My latest job in Haiti

Donations for Notre Maison
Today is a Haitian holiday, celebrating agriculture. Everything is closed. We make it from the guesthouse to the orphanage and then to the airport in about thirty minutes. It's at least an hour and a half many days, just sitting in exhaust fumes and crushing heat. I'm along for the ride as a parent goes home from visiting his children because one of my next stops is near the airport.

I'm headed to Notre Maison, a creche that mostly takes in disabled children. I have a duffle bag full of pillowcase dresses, which are perfect for kids in wheel chairs. Margarette and Sonia always want them, but they don't really need them. Notre Maison does.

Director Gertrude Azor has made enormous progress since my last visit here on a new building in the back yard. It's one story and wheelchair accessible, and will be a huge improvement for all of her kids with mobility issues.

We're placing three kids who live here. Because today is a holiday, I get to see the two boys. I usually miss them because they're at school. These are great kids, and they've been in institutional care for far, far too many years. Everyone is very eager for them to get home to their family, whom they have met and talk about non-stop.

Back at BRESMA, Margarette does an admissions interview for the Haitian family of a pre-identified child. This is always tricky. We have to make absolutely sure that they understand what is going to happen. I'm feeling doubtful about this one. We asked them to bring the child with them, and have her live a BRESMA. She's a little one, and she's not getting adequate nutrition where she is. But they didn't bring her, worrying that the orphanage is too far away from them. If Port-au-Prince is too far, this family may not be at all ready to actually place their child for international adoption. Our job is to try to talk them out of it, as usually the birth family is the best place for a child.

After lunch we want to go over to BRESMA. The Argentineans want to come, and so does the whole birth family of the child. Margarette says they won’t all fit in the minibus, which is now running. I ask why we don’t just take the big van. Margarette tells me she doesn’t drive the big van, and of course since it’s a holiday, none of our drivers are here.

It’s my first time driving in Port-au-Prince. I wouldn’t try this on a regular day. I can drive just about anything – I am a South Dakota ranch wife after all. I can even run a tractor with a loader. But big city traffic? Forget it! Margarette and I crack lots of jokes in English and Kreyol about how she’s so rich she’s hired a white chauffer.

Serious silliness at BRESMA
We spend a few happy, relaxed hours with our kids. I’m not getting to do enough of this sort of thing this trip. I signed up for this job for the kids, not to play politics. But sometimes we don’t get to choose our own paths, and we have to go where we are sent. God works in mysterious ways, but He knows that for this particular flawed creation of His, it takes a sledgehammer upside the head to get the point across. So until I get other instructions, I will remain a somewhat reluctant member of the diplomatic corps operating between governments and fight for the right of every child to grow up in a safe, permanent, loving family.

Tomorrow I’ll have to leave early for a last-hour meeting at the airport itself with another orphanage’s directors. I’ll have to remind Franck to slide the seat back. Or maybe I won’t, and I’ll just let him wonder who drove ‘his’ van on his day off.