The Mother’s Tap Tap Journey

mothers_Sometimes I wonder why they come. Why do they bother to make that difficult journey every day? I imagine them in their tiny homes, getting their kids ready in the morning and that in itself, no small feat as twisted bodies are not easy to dress. Twisted bodies do not bend and turn with ease as you try and pull on a beautiful dress or snazzy shirt. Most people have no idea how difficult it is to dress a body that is different. How careful you have to be so that the tiny bones do not snap when you try and force that arm into a shirt. Try putting on your shirt without bending your arms or head and you will quickly figure out what I am talking about. Twisted bodies of these beautiful boys and girls and these beautiful children make up our rehab programs in Haiti.

Still I am imagining them in their tiny homes. All dressed up and ready to go. Heave the heavy child in your arms and try and figure out the best way to have you and her comfortable. Gently cover the head so the hot sun does not bother your precious charge. No taxi waiting blowing his horn to take you to the clinic! A crowded Tap Tap – (covered pick up truck) is your taxi and here you must be agile to get in without either of you falling. Now the interrogation begins! What is wrong with your child? Why are you wasting your time with this useless thing? Are you stupid? Can’t you see it will never be any good? What about your life? Are you going to be a slave to this thing? Madam, keep away from me with your handicapped child. Why don’t you just leave it somewhere? It’s not worth your effort to do anything……….Father forgive them for they know not what they are saying. So you sit there with your child and you sit in silence because who will ever understand your love for this child. Let them talk, let them humiliate you and your child, let them! The tap tap has stopped and you must get out. Yippee! You get to repeat this whole experience because you must take another tap tap. In fact you will need three tap taps in all before you get to your destination and even then you will have to walk through the busy market area for about twenty minutes. Then you will have arrived. Imagine all the compliments you will have received before you have reached our door!

So it is you who come to our clinic and so it is that we get to know your stories. Stories of courage and determination! Stories of desperation and desolation! Stories of Love because for sure, only Love could withstand all you have encountered! Your precious children, eyes bright and bubbly, eyes that see far more than people realize. See them in the class room, singing and playing and learning – getting in trouble, fighting, screaming – all the things that children
should do.

Good for you! Emily – for years now your mother has struggled and struggled and look at you now! You are so much better. In fact we all thought you would die and how we rejoice in your life. Another will look at you and just see all that you cannot do. But we know different. We know you wanted to live and your mother Dieusimose wanted you to live. We know all her sacrifices – just for you. She calls you Laza (as in Lazarus) because she knows you came back from being almost dead.

Dear God in heaven, these mothers have it tough! This is why I am amazed that they keep coming because for sure the progress is slow. I started by saying that I sometimes wonder why they come. Of course I do know the answer but still I am amazed. No matter how well I try to write, no matter how well I try and tell their stories, I will NEVER be able to do justice to the difficulties of these mothers. I cannot find words to explain the gentle sigh of Mama Christopher when I ask her how things are for her. She will not complain because she knows that her sigh says it all. Or the absolute expression of joy and gratitude that swept the face of Mama Farah when I gave her $200 Haitian (approximately $28US), or the knowing nod of Mama Ricardo’s head when I asked her if she had gone back to the doctor. (She did not go because she had no money – she knew I knew as soon as I asked!)

Still they come and this is what counts. They come and we try very, very hard to help their kids and support them. We do what we can do; they do what they can do. It will never be enough. But we will keep on doing it because we have undertaken this journey and together we will go as far as we can!

Gena Heraty
Special Needs Director

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A Reason to Celebrate!

Today is the The International Day of the Disabled and today we celebrated in Kay Germaine. Our gift to day is as promised a front row seat to the party of the year. Thanks again for supporting us and enjoy the pictures!

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Seeing God’s Eyes


James and his wonderful smile.

I am sitting here in the sun with James. I asked him what season we are in now and he said “Advent.”

“What does Advent means James?”

“Advent means Sharing, Penance–universal penance.”

“What should we do during Advent James?”

“We should pray, we should pray to God to ask him to give us strength and courage so that the baby does not die in our arms.”

Let me explain a little bit. During mass this morning Father Rick Frechette was telling us about an 18-year old girl that was pregnant. Her father and boyfriend wanted her to abort the child. She did not want to. She was afraid of her father and boyfriend, so she told them she would abort the child and go live in the countryside. But she didn’t, as she didn’t want to get rid of her child, she went somewhere else and hid from her father and boyfriend. She had her baby but had no way to take care of it. The baby was two weeks old and she was desperate. She decided to bring the baby to our hospital and abandon the baby there and then maybe someone would take care of the baby.

But then she realised that once she got inside the hospital she would not be able to abandon the baby because the security would not let her leave without the baby. So she came up with another plan. In the middle of the night she would come and once she got in the first gate she would hide her baby in the grounds. In the night time it would be easy to do this once she got in the main gate. She would leave the baby there and in the morning someone would find the baby.

She stuck to her new plan. However she was too young to consider all the dangers that went with this plan. In the morning, they did indeed find the baby. But the baby was almost dead due to the cold and even though they did their best in the hospital, the baby did indeed die.

Father told us that the reason he found out the details about this mother and this baby is because the next day the young mother came to see how her baby was. Her motivation for leaving her baby was so her baby could have a chance to live. When she found out the baby was dead, she screamed and cried and told her story.

This is the baby James was talking about just now. This is a very sad story to contemplate as we begin our journey to Bethlehem. I asked James, where this baby is now. “Li nan men Bondye”. He is with God.

Our world is filled with sad stories and Mary and Joseph set out on their journey during very difficult times. Take a minute and go back in time and imagine what it was like. Then switch to the reality facing so many pregnant women today all around the world and you will see that sadly in our world today, so many babies are born into very difficult circumstances. I am sure most of you reading this have a ton of worries and stresses. But you know, in order for us to have hope we have to give hope. We have to be the one that reaches out to the one in need. Imagine if that young mother had met just one person that offered to help her with her baby? Imagine how different the story would have been if one person had acted differently! Imagine how many situations we can change just by reaching out to people around us.

James will be 23 on December 6th. For most of his life he has been confined to a wheelchair. James is ALWAYS happy. James is ALWAYS quick to smile and quick to laugh. He is a quiet presence in our home. You rarely hear him say much unless he is laughing at someone or something. He loves to interact with people but he will not seek you out. He loves to sing. When he was small he used to sing along during mass. As he has become older he has become more limited in what he can do. Never once have I heard him complain. Even when he is not feeling well, he will tell you very matter of factly what he feels. He always says thank you when you do something for him or give him something.

“James, what are you thankful to God for?”

“I am thankful to God because he loves me.”

“He loves you? How do you know he loves you James?”

“I know he loves me because he does a lot of things for me.”

“What does he do for you?”

“He plays with me, he plays ball with me, he gives me music on the radio. He gives me presents.”

“Do you love God James? Yes I do.”

“Why? Because he looks at me in my eyes.”

“In your eyes James?”

“Yes he looks at me in my eyes.”

“Do you look at him in his eyes too James?”

“Yes I do.”

“What do the eyes of God look like James?”

Here James laughs, and says… “They are normal!”

Lets make SIGHT our gift for today. Let’s see if we can get everyone to really look at situations around us, to really see how we can help make things better. Let’s move away from feeling powerless and let’s see each person around us as family. Let’s really SEE! Imagine how different would be the story of that mother and baby if someone close to her really looked at her and saw her agony. If someone saw that she was trying to save her baby. If someone had offered to help because in that mother that someone could see herself. Imagine if we could really look at the world and see, really see the many ways we can make a difference.

Most of all, let’s try and be like James. Let’s see God in the everyday activities in our lives. Let’s see Gods eyes as normal. Because if the eyes of God are normal, then we can be sure that the eyes of God are looking at you and me from the normal eyes of every person you meet!

We have stopped looking for God. We are surrounded by God. Let’s start SEEING!

Contributed by Gena Heraty
Special Needs Director

As promised, a few more child updates from Kay Christine…

Ryme* has had a great year. He is now able to walk if you hold his hands and he enjoys it a lot. In the last two weeks he has been walking holding just one hand! So little by little he is improving. His language is still very slow though when he is with the other kids he makes more of an effort to say words. He is a very loving little boy and very affectionate. He loves to play and especially enjoys playing with Innocent – probably because Innocent always makes so much noise and Ryme finds this very funny. Rome enjoys school and the teachers say he is doing well. He is a fast learner and is always interested to try something new.

 Veronica* was in the abandoned room in the St. Damien Pediatric Hospital with Ryme and Binjanie. Since August she has been with us and she is settling in well. Veronica is very fond of Ryme and Binjanie and Ryme is crazy about her. He watches everything she does and imitates her all the time. When she first came Veronica did not like to talk at all though we knew she could talk perfectly well. Slowly but surely she is talking more and more. Veronica is responding to our love very much like a flower responds to the warmth of the sun on a spring day. We see her change daily as she becomes more used to our home and as she becomes more secure in the love that surrounds her. She has many issues – especially related to discipline- but little by little she is improving and learning. Veronica is another perfect example of how love heals. It is very beautiful to watch her heal and also to watch her become loving. Veronica likes to help and to do chores. She is very smart and will quickly see what you need and get it for you if possible. She enjoys the horseback riding every week (Ryme also goes!) and in general she is a very happy young girl.

Germina (Dieunie/Jennie) is doing well back at home with her mother and siblings. She goes horseback riding with us every week and so she keeps in touch with us. I hope to go visit her this week. Her mother says she is doing fine and so it seems to be a good situation for everyone.

*Names changed due to privacy purposes.

Kay Christine Child Update

I hope this letter finds you all well and getting ready for another Christmas season. It’s a sunny Sunday here at St. Helene –it is very hot but indoors it is very chilly. We had a nice mass here this morning and now for the most part everyone is having a lazy Sunday. As I write this the “kids” are finishing up their lunch which is really their dinner, as we have the main meal at lunch time. Each one has a big plate filled with rice and beans, fried plantains (cooked bananas), beetroot, and a spicy cabbage and carrot mix. And of course a piece of chicken. You would be amazed and delighted to see the amount of food they can eat!! They have HUGE appetites which is wonderful.

As I am writing, Belizaire is screaming his head off–he was hassling Yvonne and Innocent. For sure he did this to get my attention. Belizaire is with us since he was 5 years old and in all those years he has been very consistent in his behavior – he so often misbehaves to get attention. Often he is worse when I have been away and come back. Last night I stayed in our rehab center and came back this morning. While I was away, he was quiet as a mouse but once he knew I was back, he had to find a way to see if he could get me to react. Sadly for him, I completely ignored him and I left him with the staff. He is quiet now so hopefully he has got it out of his system. Remember last year Belizaire was very busy making and selling small benches? He almost drove us crazy as he was stealing chairs, tables and other pieces of wood to make these benches!

Thankfully that phase seems to be gone now and he has a new passion – cleaning the cars of visitors, for a fee of course! Now before you go thinking how wonderful this is let me tell you that our dear Belizaire is FOREVER tearing up perfectly good t-shirts or sheets in order to clean those cars. He sneaks into the laundry room and like all good thieves, is rarely spotted and the next thing he is happily cleaning the car of some unsuspecting driver. You should see him – the picture of goodness and innocence, all smiles and cleaning away. Of course no one knows that not only has he torn up a sheet but he has dumped a whole jar of washing powder into the bucket of water. Our dear darling Belizaire is quite the man. Another thing, he LOVES to do is to steal vegetables and then go off and cook them, so he is forever stealing the matches from the kitchen. You just have to laugh at him because he is so so unique and we know he will never change!

MarcosI can hear Marcus* singing at the top of his voice. Oh my goodness – this boy is doing so well these past months. What a joy! He was very sick at the end of the summer but make a super recovery and he is enjoying great health at the moment. Thank God!

Not only is Marcus enjoying great health but he is more responsive. If you put your check close to his mouth and you ask him for a kiss he will do so. Or if you say “Olsen, where is my kiss?” then he will respond and give you one. And then he will giggle- as if you to say, “see I can do it”! I wonder if you can imagine how wonderful it is for us when all the kids are well. I mean, we know the kids are fragile, we know we have to expect everything and anything. BUT – when they are all well, what a blessing! What a joy! Marcus has taught us all the importance of celebrating all that is good in our lives. He has taught us not to take anything for granted. He has taught us to be grateful. He has taught us that with great love so many things are possible.

fernandaBinjanie* is another huge presence in our home. This little woman is so funny! Always singing and laughing and now she is speaking more and repeating what she hears. Since her shunt operation in July she has been very, very, well and she keeps everyone happy in the house.

Additional child updates will be published each week…stay tuned.

Contributed by Gena Heraty
Director, Special Needs Programs

Strength and Courage–the life of Garvenson


Garvenson held by his father.

This little boy died this am- he had a high temperature and seizures. His name was Garvenson and he was born in 2004. He first came to our rehab centre in April of 2005 and he has been coming daily since then. His father adored him and did everything possible to give his son the best life possible. Garvenson attended our school daily and was loved by all. One of the older students, Genet was a great friend to him and called him “ti Joe” . Today Genet was devastated to learn his young friend had died. Genet sat with his head down most of the day and it was heart breaking.  As I reflect on Garvenson’s life I am happy to say that in his 10 yrs he was surrounded by love. His father was the most tender loving, patient father one could be. No child could ask for a better father.

In our organization, Garvenson found another loving family and we all feel our lives were enriched by this adorable little boy. He inspired us all and the devotion of his father to him was a daily lesson offered to us for free each day- a lesson on how to love unconditionally. A lesson on how true love can call on us to make huge sacrifices, how true love can force us to reach deep inside ourselves and pull out some mighty stuff. Papa Garvenson pulled out some mighty stuff all those years when he made trip after trip to the hospital in an effort to keep his young son alive. When he came every day to school with Garvenson and stayed so he could feed him and take care of him during the school day.

You know in Haiti, not everyone understands that children like Garvenson are just as much a person as an able bodied person. In fact Papa Garvenson was humiliated many times by ignorant people that told him he should not waste his time with this child that would never walk or never talk.

Lao Tzu said ” being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage”. I think that beautifully sums up the love between Garvenson and his Dad. I give thanks to God for this beautiful boy we were honored to know and love, honored to have in our centre, in our school, in our hearts. I give thanks to God for his grieving Father – his love for his son was an unbelievable testimony to the beauty of unconditional love. I give thanks to God for his heartbroken mother who had her only son taken from her at the tender age of 10 years.

Thanks to the organization I work for NPH- thanks to NPH we were able to give Garvenson a beautiful school environment and a loving second family.

We believe Garvenson is gone now to enjoy eternal life in a body free from limitations.

“May The Lord open to him the gates of paradise, that he may return to that homeland, where there is no death, where eternal joy endures. May the angels lead you into paradise.” Garvenson. We miss you already!