Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Hoping for Action

You’d think after dozens of government meetings, I would worry less over them…  But here I am again, anxious and nervous and wishing it was already over.

I’m meeting with two people at IBESR today, and I’ve met with one of them many, many times before.  First Margarette and I meet with the individual who has just been assigned to cleaning up a very large mess made by an orphanage which has since lost its license.  We’re trying to get four of their old cases out of IBESR.  It’s been an exercise in frustration.  We were very specifically given permission to work on the stalled cases many months ago, but as often happens when something falls outside the conventional process, it’s been uphill work.

I’ve seen this IBESR worker many times in the past, although I didn’t know his name.  Sadly for him, Margarette and I are very aware of him now.  I almost feel sorry for him.  My partner now has a specific person to ask about our cases, and she’s at IBESR a LOT.  And she is a very persistent woman.  I suspect he’ll find himself highly motivated to do whatever it takes to get our repair cases signed out of IBESR as quickly as possible.
Next we meet with Me. Guillaume, Chief Legal Counsel to IBESR.  Sonia has arrived to join us.  Poor Me. Guillaume.  The look on his face when he realizes that once again he’s trapped with the three tiger women is priceless. Tactfully, he keeps his dread to himself.

It is my personal opinion that if there are two specific individuals to whom credit should be given that Haiti successfully transitioned to a Hague compliant nation, he is certainly one of them.  Andolphe Guillaume is intelligent, thoughtful, measured, careful, and precise.  These qualities ensured that all laws and policies were Hague compliant, intentional, and planned. 
Unfortunately, the wheels of government turn far too slowly for children who have been in care for more than two years.  They don’t have time to wait for him to change and write procedures as deliberately as he would like.  They need action NOW.  And so do I.  I’m pushing Me. Guillaume as hard as I dare, reminding him of the damage that every month in an institution causes.

He discusses specific plans for increasing IBESR’s capacity and completing the crafting of their new procedures regarding Children’s Judges and referrals, but I don’t want discussion.  I’m too pressed by the children I serve to listen anymore.  I want referral letters.  Now.
Another skeptic
I leave the meeting satisfied that there is a distinct plan and direction, but still frustrated because even if I’m told a date, I’ve become a skeptic over the years.  I’ll believe the letters are coming when I’m holding them.

In the reception area I’m pleased to meet Ms. Sawadogo, the representative sent by the Hague permanent bureau who has returned to Haiti to assist with the transition.  Ms. Sawadogo speaks a variety of African languages and French.  I speak English and Kreyol, and I can still understand Spanish but I can’t talk anymore.  We smile at each other, but are at a loss until the agency representative for a number of the French and German agencies and her husband offer to help.
Our conversation is amazingly convoluted.  I speak in English to the husband, who repeats what I say to his wife in Spanish.  Then she passes my words to Ms. Sawadogo in French.  Ms. Sawadogo responds in French, which is translated into Spanish.  I can understand, but I can’t answer except for in English.  So my replies go from husband to wife and back to Mrs. Sawadogo.  Danielle stands by watching this scaling of the tower of Babel and giggling.  I can’t blame her.  It’s pretty silly, but it works.  I beg Ms. Sawadogo for expediency for the sake of the waiting children.  She tells me she thinks they’re getting close, and issues are being solved.  My colleagues who are actually able to speak to this woman all really like and respect her, and I like her too.  Kindness radiates from her.  I believe she understands our urgency.

We drive over to AUBE at last.  All this time in Haiti and at last I can do as I please, and that is being with the children I’m here to serve.
Sonia has new children that IBESR has asked her to take.  As usual they’re easy to spot.  Red hair, papery skin, no muscle tone.  They’ll be different children in a few months with feeding and love.

Almost everyone either already had Chikungunya or they’re just getting over it now.  It’s like a dozen different diseases in one.  I seen what one might expect – high fevers, aches and pains, but also a rash that looks like a scabies epidemic and one poor little guy who is recovering from huge boils that burst on his forehead and the back of his skull.  Some children had stomach upset, some had hugely swollen glands that distorted their throats, cheeks, and voices.  Regular dosing with acetaminophen and ibuprofen and lots of fluids made the virus more of a misery than a danger.  No AUBE child had to be hospitalized.
Next we go to BRESMA, where hear similar reports on the disease, see lots of recovered children, and hear the question I’ve come to dread.  All of the older kids want to know when they will go to America.  When will they have a family?  And the hardest one of all; doesn’t anybody want to adopt me?  It is heartbreaking.  It’s also frustrating, because somebody with a waiting dossier wants to adopt almost every single child we have here, and IBESR has approved almost every single one of them for adoption, and yet here they are, waiting. 

I want to bring the IBESR staff here and let them hear these questions for themselves.  But I don’t know if it would do any good.  These children are healthy and fairly happy.  They’re watching the World Cup on television and playing with their dolls.  Supper is cooking upstairs, and they’ll sleep in their beds under their pretty matching sheets and blankets.  The nannies will bring in the fans if it’s hot to cool them as they sleep.  After the horrors that IBESR sees, it’s hard to get them excited about the plight of ‘my’ kids.  It’s all relative, I guess.

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