Saturday, November 15, 2014

Off The Grid

People who haven’t been here tend to think of all of Haiti as being off the grid, but it’s not at all true.  This is one of the most wired places imaginable.  EVERYONE has a cell phone, and it seems that a great many houses use generators and inverters to ensure that everyone can get online at any moment.

 We start our day at AUBE, where I take pictures.  They’ve actually hung out signs welcoming me like I’m some sort of celebrity.  The funny thing is that the kids remember my name and are thrilled to see me too.  I have no idea why.  I never bring candy or presents, and it seems like an eternity since I brought a photo album and the promise of a family.  But today, I carry hope for several kids.  Albums!  Families!

 The nannies get a huge kick out of one of my adoptive families, who already have three adopted African American children at home and no biological children.  The album has a collage of white Daddy and Mommy and six beautiful little brown people surrounding them.  This is one family that has already been there, done that with interracial adoption.  Now they’ll get to experience international, older sibling group adoption.  Three Haitian siblings will have a family again at last.  The family will arrive for their socialization period the day that I leave, which is a shame.  I’d love to be here when they figure out just how amazingly blessed they truly are by the oldest boy in particular.  I have a feeling he’s going to grow up to be someone very special.

 We are met at AUBE by a professional chauffer in a brightly painted taxi.  Today, Delia and I will be traditional tourists!  I’ve never been to Mirebalais before, so this will be an adventure for me too.  Delia has gotten us an invitation, so off we go.

 The road over the mountain is in excellent condition.  I can see huge improvements in the infrastructure of Haiti since I started coming here almost eleven years ago.  Our ride is long, but quite smooth.  After the usual confusion of locating the exact address, we arrive at Haiti Children’s Home.  The crèche is managed by an Canadian woman and her Haitian husband.  They have a large building, but concerns about its structural stability have caused them to move all sleeping and play areas to a smaller building and various temporary structures.  The facilities are worn and unattractive, and I can tell in about two minutes of watching happy children and loving nannies that this is a top-notch child care facility.  Kids don’t care about matching curtains or fresh paint.  They care about having toys and stimulation and love and attention, and this place radiates those things.  We meet several children with significant special needs who are here long term, and a few who are short-timers.

 Haiti Children’s Home is another fine example of an North American run organization that is doing a whole lot more help than harm.  They put great focus on family preservation through their milk program and medical help for families.  There are two Canadian nurses who live there to help their own kids and the community at large.  The director, Lori, serves us a very American/Canadian and really delicious meal of baked pasta, and then we’re off to see their new facility.

 She tells me she feels like they’re moving to the Hilton, and moment after arriving I can see why.  This is what it looks like if you do it right from day one, with excellent funding.  Haiti Children’s Home has purchase a large tract of land – I’m going to guess around twenty acres – and walled it off.  Inside their compound, they’re building the next best thing to home for a child.

 The compound is powered by an amazing state of the art solar power system.  These guys are going to be truly off the grid, with no reliance on diesel for generators either.  They have their own well, and the site manager tells me the wires that marched over the mountains on our drive here are actually high speed internet cable.  Unbelievable!   HCH is going to have complete solar power, a walk-in freezer, a mechanic training center, an irrigated garden to produce all of their own vegetables, and screaming fast internet.  I’m about ready to move in!

 The kids will live in cottage style homes.  I conclude with Lori that many studies have already shown that this model is the best we can do for children living outside of family care.  The cottages are beautiful, spacious houses arranged around a central play area and kitchen, and I suspect that this will end up being one of the best orphanages in Haiti.  Not only will HCH do everything they can to keep a family intact and avoid taking in a child, but if they have no other option, the children will suffer as little damage as possible growing up with stable caretakers in a beautiful, safe, peaceful environment.  I sure wish all the children living away from their families in Haiti could be so lucky.

 If I suddenly disappear off the grid, I guess everyone will know where to look for me…

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