Many thanks for offering to help us. I have been thinking about the question ‘Why is a donation to NPH (Spanish name for Our Little Brothers and Sisters) the best thing to do with my quid?’
I guess it depends on how the person feels about giving money to charity and what expectation s/he has. I would tell the donor that any money given to us goes directly to sustain our programs for children with Special Needs and to others in great need.
Rónán, every single day we meet people desperate for help. Most are looking for work, all without fail have not eaten a meal that day and are lucky if they have eaten a decent meal the day before. If you happen to have money you will always find a way to help a little, while recognising that the best you can do is just to pay for a few meals. We cannot create jobs for everyone, though God knows we try.
Our rehab program provides services to people who are rejected by society. In Haiti, children with severe disabilities are seen as people to be abandoned as it is deemed a waste of money to do anything with them. Parents are humiliated when they are seen out and about with their kids. Our programs not only provide valuable services to this population but we valorize them. Children that come to our school have been rejected by other schools and in our school they learn in a safe, clean, happy environment. We even have school buses on the road to pick them up and take them back home. When they are with us their parents can work and know their kids are in good hands. We provide excellent services. International experts are always amazed at how fast our stroke patients recover due to the excellent physical therapy in which we have trained up. Likewise they are amazed at the quality of therapy and care given to the children coming to our programs.
When they visit our home in Kenscoff – where I live – they find a home filled with love and joy despite so many challenges. We are a family here in Kay Christine. As I am writing this, Yvonne – our oldest resident – has come to sit next to me. She is just sitting quietly. She was found roaming the streets over 30 years ago, eating from the rubbish and not even able to explain anything about herself. Our youngest, Jackie, has just finished bathing downstairs, and earlier, as I was looking at his happy smiling face, I was remembering how he was abandoned in the hospital after his mother died from cholera. He himself also had cholera and was in a near-dead state. When he came to us, he was in a wheelchair and could not even stand up. Now he is well able to walk and is a very happy young man.
We are here a long time now – since 1987. I came in 1993. We have a proven track record and we are committed to those we share life with. We have battled one crisis after another and never faltered. We are a resurrection people. We are an Easter Sunday people. Every day we see the Stations of the Cross played out in the lives of so many people. Sometimes, all we can do is stand, like Mary at the foot of the Cross, wonder why, and still believe things will be better. With support we make things better. With support we become the resurrection.
This is already far too long, Rónán. Tell your friends I have a million reasons why sending money to us is a good bet. However, Haiti does have other good organisations doing great work. So back to the donor and his/her wishes. I am always happy when people support our work. We depend on this support. I am also always happy when people support other good organisations.
On the way down
He is just a baby but somehow he looks older.
I sat behind him, in our minibus,
on the way down to our rehab centre – about a 90 minute trip. Less if no traffic.
His mother held him tight and told me she had not yet dressed him.
“I took him straight from his bed, it is too early to get him dressed, too chilly this early.”
It was 6 a.m. She was right!
On the way down,
it started to get bright and as we left the cool mountain air behind us.
The mother started to get her little man ready for the day.
First came the wipes, then the cute check shirt and cool pants.
With loving hands she wiped away the sleep from his soft face and his cuddly body.
I got to hold him for a few minutes when she was making up his bottle.
I felt honoured to be holding this special little boy.
We chatted and he happily drank his milk.
She told me where she lives and I groaned a little,
as it is far from where we live and even farther from our rehab centre.
I told her I had been there some years back and I never forgot the awful road that was just loose rocks, and how it went down and down and down,
and there seemed to be no end to the road or the rocks,
and really to call it a road was to be very generous.
“The road is much better now,” she said.
She has three other kids. Two are living in Port Au Prince so they can go to secondary school.
“You know we have no secondary school in our area.”
The other is just four and he lives with her and her husband.
They work the land.
It is not easy to make a living.
They borrowed money to plant a plot of leeks.
The harvest was bad – too much rain.
They did not even make enough to pay back what they borrowed.
She does not know how she will pay back her debt.
School is about to start – she has no idea how she will send her kids to school.
The four-year-old was due to start school – he is very smart, she said.
He will have to wait another year.
All her money is spent looking after her baby.
He has many problems.
Since he was born she is up and down to hospital with him.
To go to our rehab she has to leave her house and stay with friends.
She comes to stay with them the day before,
and then she can get a lift up and down in our bus.
The day I spoke to her she had not been home in four days.
I wish you could have seen how lovingly she cared for her little boy.
Everything was done with great skill, and great love. The bus was moving fast enough and the road is very windy – to undress and dress a little baby as we were zipping along – no small feat.
“When he was born he was unable to breast feed – his jaws would not work,” she said.
She told me she never leaves him with neighbours,
she does not want anything to happen to him.
“I never left my kids with others.
Kids are innocent, you need to make sacrifices for them.
I can go hungry, but I will not leave him – a neighbour left her 9-month-old baby with her older kids and she went to sell in the market, she was out the whole day.
When she came back she found her baby dead – he had fallen out of the bed or something.
You should never leave kids to watch over kids. I never did that with mine. I will never do it.”
Her oldest kid has finished secondary school.
I congratulated her.
She worries about what he will do next as she cannot pay further studies and there is no employment to be found.
“When you are brought up a certain way, and your parents were not able to do many things for you,
you yourself have to try to do better for your kids.
So they don’t resent you, when they are older.
Better that they see you did all you could,
even if it was not enough, than they think you did not try.
I believe in education for my kids.”
The little boy was coughing – a lot.
“He has a lot of secretions – it bothers him.
When he is crying, YOU might not notice –
he does not cry like other kids – you have to know him well
to notice when he is crying – the sound does not really come out.”
I wish you could have seen her brush his hair. He has lovely hair. And a lot of it – curly.
The gentle way she did it, making her beautiful 8-month-old baby even more beautiful than he already was.
I was entranced. I was in awe. So much attention to getting it just right.
My tears took me by surprise. Even now, as I write these words, tears have filled my eyes.
If you had been there I bet you would have teared up also.
You know how it is when you witness something so beautiful, so powerful, so intense – and you feel your heart will expand right out of your chest?
Remember that great line from Alison Moyet – ‘I go weak, weak in the presence of beauty.”
‘Tis a good line for how I felt!
Well anyway, I sent them to the hospital instead of physical therapy and some hours later they were back in the minibus,
on their way back up the mountain again – with meds for the cough.
I presume she did not eat at all that day in the hospital.
We gave her therapy appointments for consecutive days so at least she can go home for the rest of the week.
Normally twice a week PT appointments are not on consecutive days.
This morning at 6 a.m. as I was giving something to the driver,
I heard a ‘Bonjou Madam Gena’ – Kreyol for ‘Hello Madame Gena’.
There they were in the darkness.
He was wrapped up and she was holding him tight.
I helped them into the minibus and then handed her her two bags – one maroon colour and one black.
I noticed the colours because to me these were no ordinary bags.
I knew what was inside those bags.
I knew they carried the instruments for the acts of love that would be carried out on the way down.
I lifted them with reverence.
I was not going down today.
She must be at home in her own home tonight.
Holding him tight.
31st August, 2021
Gena Heraty, NPH Special Needs Programs, Haiti.