I can still imagine the stifling heat, singed with tropical breezes and the beautiful, friendly smiles; images of the resilient island of Haiti. I think back to people I knew; productive, innovative and appreciate people, now surrounded by a horrid suffering that our minds can’t begin to comprehend. During our trip to Haiti, we saw land that was being considered for a hopeful orphanage. It was wonderful to watch Americans and Haitians come together to better serve the children in one of the most poverty-ravaged areas. The children, barefoot and constantly yelling, “Blancs, blancs,” to get our attention, were a joy to be around. Although their needs were great, they clamored for our attention, they loved playing games with us, and they enjoyed teasing us. All of it caused each and every one of us to fall in love with the children of Haiti.
January 18, 2010
I had seen poverty before. I had been in slums in Mexico and tiny villages of Central America, but I had never seen wretched suffering like I witnessed in Haiti. Especially in the far-out villages, children didn’t have clothes, let alone enough to keep them fed. Their resources were so limited, yet they did the best they could with what they had; always striving for a better life. They were also some of the happiest people I had ever met; they always seemed to be smiling, friendly, and helpful.
Now I watch images on TV of the devastation left by the earthquake, appalling scenes of human limbs sticking out from underneath the rubble; young children alone with painful wounds; elderly in the hot sun, so weak they cannot move; homes, business, and lives in ruin. One can only imagine the scenes played back behind the empty, lost stares. I am sickened by the thought of suffering. I am overtaken by the thought of those who are perhaps still alive, breathing in or choking on dust and praying that someone will finally remove enough debris to get to them before they too, are buried in a mass tomb.
Over and over again, I keep thinking about the children. What about the orphans that were already orphans? What about the orphans that have lost their families in the past week? What will become of these precious, little ones? It is hard to sit still and wait. What can we do? Until the immediate relief supplies and medical aid is doled out and some order is restored, we can donate our money and offer up our prayers. But, what about the long-term? What about all the children who will need families. How will it be possible, given that so much of the infra-structure is destroyed for the usual necessary paperwork for adoptions? Hundreds of families would open their homes and hearts to these children, but how long will that take and will it even be an option for awhile? Questions linger as we begin to process what this might look like long-term.
Perhaps we need to consider what it means to care for orphans. Perhaps caring for orphans, at least in this situation, means taking a look at the big picture. Although we desperately want to swoop down and rescue those kids, maybe right now, we need to concentrate on simply helping in whatever way we can. For now, the need is life-sustaining supplies, medical help, and safety. Soon it will be manpower to clear away the ruble and build any type of structures that at least provides basic shelter. It is hard to imagine the magnitude of loss of possessions, provisions, daily basic necessities that will need to be handed out for months to come. The emotional wreckage from the trauma these people have sustained will surely be felt for years to come.
Who knows when and if more Haitian children will become available for adoption by Americans. Until then, we need to consider how we can be a part of Haiti’s healing. No doubt, the opportunities will be vast for years to come. What a wonderful gift to consider though, if children are made available for adoption, if those adopting consider giving back to their homeland. What would it look like for you and your family to serve this child’s birthplace? How could you first help those, who helped that child? As the images and wounds are still fresh, there is much to consider.One thing is certain; the people of Haiti are a resilient and faithful people. Although it might be a long time, there will come a day when the barefoot children of Haiti will play games again, flashing beautiful smiles and yelling those familiar words, “Blancs, blancs,” to those of us who commit to love on a nation and her children.