Marg and I drive up into the mountains to visit yet another foreign funded orphanage – this one supported by Canadians. It’s beautiful up here. The house is large and well provisioned, and the children in care are obviously healthy and content. They even show off on their bicycles for us. The orphanage sends then alternate years to a school to learn English and then to a Haitian school to catch up on the basics.
I am told that all of the children here have biological families living. These families are allowed to visit them a few times each year. Many more families would like to place their children in the orphanage.
This is so common in Haiti. These children are getting a fine education, food, medical care. They live in health and safety. They’ll leave this place at eighteen knowing how to read and write in three languages, perform mathematical operations, and have a background in science and social studies. I wonder how they will possibly know how to actually function in Haitian society? How to be a wife, and husband, a mother a father? How to find a job, when most jobs in Haiti come from personal connections and they won’t have any? Are they better off in this isolated, idealized house so separated from Haitian reality than they would have been in desperate poverty but real families? I don’t know. But I do worry. I just can’t see how orphanages such as this, that strive to break family connections instead of functioning as a charitable boarding house while children go to school and go home for summers and weekends, is helping them for the future as well as the present.
I’m stepping off my soap box now. Thousands of American, European, and Canadian sponsored orphanages aren’t listening anyway. But hopefully they are thinking hard about what will become of the children they take in as they grow into adults and must find a way to survive in the Haitian economy.