Thursday, March 26, 2015

A Cold Day in Haiti

It's not Disneyland, it's God's Littlest Angels' new facility

To the mountains!  I always love a visit to GLA, particularly when I’m visiting Haiti in the summer.  I live in South Dakota in the US, and it’s hot there, but nothing like Haiti in August.  Every year I vow not to come in July or August, and inevitably some meeting or event is scheduled for which I must be present.  The Haitian mountains are cool and beautiful – tropical green with towering evergreens and brilliant bougainvillea and hibiscus everywhere.

We must stop on the way to GLA as the street is blocked with people all in formal wear.  Everyone is wearing black, white, or both, and I’m confused at first.  Franck explains this is a funeral.  I tell him that we don’t wear white to funerals in my country, and he is surprised.  Dressing all in white for a funeral is quite conventional in Haiti.  There are a lot of other differences between a Haitian funeral and those I’ve been to in my community, and when it’s my turn to go, I want to go out Haitian style!!
Funerals are not generally mournful gatherings in Haiti.  We did see a few people crying, but most were celebrating.  One of the most important parts of the celebration is the marching band.  In Haiti, one departs the Earth with joy and singing and celebration of one’s life.  The band marches, the hearse or coffin bearers follow, and then come all the participants (I can’t quite call them mourners as they march or dance in step, clapping and sometime even singing hymns).  That is how I would like to be remembered too!

My meeting with Dixie is more frustration.  She has many abandoned children in care from the Kenscoff area.  It is necessary for the Mayor of Kenscoff to sign off on their adoptions before the children’s judge.  This is a common theme – certain mayors of the larger cities are trying to extort the equivalent of US $320 PER CHILD from the orphanages for each certificate they sign in court.  In this case, the problem is different but just as maddening.  The previous mayor issued the original abandonment certificates.  Now this one doesn’t want to continue what he started.  This is a perpetual problem in Haitian bureaucracy, even more so than in our own.  Public servants seem to have no concept of their office as a continuous entity.  It makes no difference who the mayor was when the certificates were issued, so long as the office did in fact issue the certificates.  They were not issued by a person, but rather by the position itself.  Dixie has had many children in care for many, many years at this point, and some of them have no other homes to go to.  So difficult.

Playhouse at Ft. Jacques
Finally I get to see GLA’s new facility up in Ft. Jacques.  It is amazing!  They have almost five acres at the very top of a mountain.  You can see forever from here.  The construction is just what I would have expected from a group that has dedicated their whole lives to the service of children.  It is beautiful, cozy, and comfortable.  The kids live in delightful cottages adjoining their playground.  The spacious school building even has a computer lab and classes in English.  GLA older kids come home with the ability to communicate and to participate in school very quickly.  They are very fortunate children to have ended up here.  I am too.  I just wish I'd brought a sweater, because it's a cold day in Haiti!!

My final appointment of the day would also have been in the mountains, but today Dr. Bernard is downtown in his office.  At least we beat most of the traffic as it is only midafternoon when I arrive.  We discuss a few of our cases together, including a really complicated situation involving a child who is in the US on a medical Visa and cannot return.  Dr. Bernard is even more of a cynic than I am, but I persuade him that we really do need to keep all relevant government officials completely in the loop, even though I agree that he is surely correct and that they have forgotten all about the child and her medical needs.  We will do every single step by the book.  That policy has served ABI very well over the years, and we’re sticking to it!

I’m very happy to learn that New Life Link has in fact gotten multiple referrals, not just the one for the twin girls going to an ABI family.  Dr. Bernard’s young employee Emmanuel is doing an excellent job, and I make sure to tell Dr. Bernard that he is.  Really dedicated, competent help is hard to find.

Finally, back to the guest house.  I missed lunch again.  Bedtime at eight o’ clock, I hope.

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