A Day in Haiti

A boy came to the orphanage today, with his 2 yr old son. He was just 21. He wanted us to take the little boy because he could not manage to take care of him. Our social worker told him that we do not take cases like this, there is a process, a procedure- what’s the difference? For sure we can’t accept every case like this. I gave him a ride back down the mountain. I noticed how lovingly he held his child. I noticed that for the whole journey, 60 minutes long, the child made not a sound and the child was awake. I noticed the child did not smile or did not react in any way other than to tightly hold his father. I noticed that the child had two small fingers in his mouth the whole time. I noticed we could not help.  I noticed that he is one of so so many seeking our help that we have to turn away. I noticed that I felt like crap when they got out of the car. I slipped some money into the young father’s hand as I wished him well and I saved my tears for now!

We went to visit Wilfo after that. He is a twenty nine year old university student that was working in the adult hospital right next to our Rehab Centre. Last week he was shot and robbed right outside our gate as he walked from the hospital to the admin building. Now he is paralyzed- he can only move his right arm. He can talk and smile politely and thank us for coming to see him and thank us for our prayers. He can tell us that he cannot move his legs and that he is in pain and cannot sleep at night. His aunt showed us the tube coming from his lung, the bandages that cover so much and yet offer so little protection from the harsh reality that haunts his sleepless hours. What hope has he now? His only hope is that Father Rick might be able to airlift him out of here to a hospital that will give him a better chance. So far no such hospital has been found. On paper, his seems like a hopeless case. In a hospital bed, he is a gentle young man with sad eyes that deserves every chance.

My day started in my house with the laughter and joy of the kids I live with. It is ending now with my head filled with wonderings.  It is ending with the faces of a nameless father and son and a 29 yrd old paralysed boy close to my closing eyes. As always I wonder, what if it was my brothers,my little nephew, my family. As always I feel they are my family. Because we are all family.
This is our Ayiti Cheri-our dear Haiti!

Contributed by Gena Heraty, Director Special Needs Program

When life gives you a hundred reasons to cry, show life that you have a thousand reasons to smile.

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Last Wednesday on June 18th, Kay St. Germaine ended the school year with a wonderful farewell party for our two wonderful volunteers Liz Lawne and Kristine Kronin.

What a beautiful day we had! Children, parents and staff all found a way to show Liz and Kristine just how much they have brought to the the lives of all of us involved with children with disabilities. Children from Kay Christine, Kay Elaine and Kay St. Germaine proved once again that they know how to put on a party! Mothers and children were dressed in Sunday best and the place was a sea of smiling faces.

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Kristine and Liz

For the past two years Liz and Kristine have worked very hard to transform our school into a Special Needs School. Thanks to their love and their talents they have had brought our school to a first world standard and we are very proud of their work and very thankful for all they have done for us. We hate to say goodbye but we know they will continue to be in touch with us and will continue to help us with our work.

As I looked around last Wednesday, I felt so, so happy for all these kids and their parents. Because Kay St. Germaine is a beautiful place. The children receive wonderful care. Our school is a fantastic school, and we have a wonderful therapy program. The children bring out the best in each of us. Many of them come from tiny overcrowded rooms where there is not even room to put a wheelchair. Some are still in tents. Many are humiliated over and over again. Many Tap Taps (public transport) refuse to take a mother with her severely handicapped child. Many continue to have seizures because their parents cannot afford to buy the medicines to control the seizures. Many have brothers and sisters that go hungry so that mom can buy those medicines. Many have brothers and sisters that go hungry so they can eat well – very few families can afford more than one meal a day and yet somehow these mothers manage to take such good care of their special needs children! It is so easy to imagine the sacrifices being silently made all the time.

I have said it before and it’s worth saying it again: We are an Easter people, we are a people that believe we must always have hope that things can be better. From this hope comes the energy and the commitment to work hard, to move mountains, to make a beautiful program like Kay St. Germaine. We started this part of our work in 2004- with one child in the slum Wharf Jeremy. Surrounded by dirt and squalor, desperation and despair and with gunshots ringing in the air (it was just before Aristide left), we focused on one child and we dreamed of ways to reach so many more.

Our kids and their parents have lived through so many terrifying experiences and yet they dare to get up each morning and make the trek to our program because they dare to dream of a better life for their kids. Good for them! Many of these kids will NEVER utter one word, will NEVER take one step, will NEVER be independent. But you know what- the moms know that. The mom’s know what the kids have been saying (without words), that there is much, much more to life than listing all the things we can do. That the light within each of these beautiful children is a light that with little shelter and care, is strong enough and bright enough to guide each of us through the important things in life!

When life gives you a hundred reasons to cry, show life that you have a thousand reasons to smile.

Contributed by Gena Heraty, Specials Needs Director

Photos credits: Gena Heraty and Liz Lawne

People of Hope-swimming at Kay Germaine

Recent photo of Kay Germaine pool.

Recent photo of Kay Germaine pool.

Story from previous nph.org post from November 2010.

I suppose when people think of Haiti these days the last thing they think of is a nice swimming pool – even more unlikely, of handicapped children in Haiti swimming in that pool. Yet the pictures attached show some of our most severely disabled children from Kay Christine, a home in the Ste. Helene orphanage, enjoying the warm water in our pool in Kay Ste. Germaine.

You might try and imagine the excitement this morning when they realized they were going on a trip – getting all dressed up, getting into our brand new mini bus (kindly donated by a generous donor in Switzerland) and then the long trek down the mountain until we got to the rehab centre. By the time we got here (it took two hours) everyone was ready.

Yves could not wait – gesturing with his hands for us to move along and get him in the water. Indira had to have physical therapy beforehand so she had to be more patient than the others. Yvenson, usually bouncing about the place, was unusually quiet as he seemed to understand that he was in a new place and about to have a new experience. Xiomala was like a professional – she knew what to expect.

Once in the water, kids and helpers alike were soon very comfortable and I, sweating on deck, was wondering why the heck I was also not swimming. Well someone had to stay out and organize I reckoned, but….

Before the January earthquake, Molly Hightower, a wonderful young American volunteer, worked with kids in the pool. After her death (due to the earthquake), it was strange to think of getting back into “her” pool as we all missed her too much. Amy, another American volunteer who worked with us in March, had offered to help us with the swimming program. Then it was too early for us, but when she offered to come again, we decided to take her up on her offer – it was time. Amy, on this particular morning as on others, was the guide as she was able to explain to all the best way to make the therapy effective for the kids. She herself was very happy to have a captive audience in the staff so hopefully when she leaves, some of her techniques will be continued. I think that Molly is happy to see kids back in the pool and while we miss her a lot, I feel for sure that she is not too far from us!

Haiti is full of problems. Haiti is full of promise. When I watched these kids today and thought of all the people who made it possible for them to be there, I realized again that we must always be people of hope! In times of trouble it is easy to give up hope. I always think that one of the greatest blessings in my life is the fact that I live with the kids in Kay Christine. Time and time again, they give me strength. Time and time again, they smile their smiles of love on me and encourage me to keep working to try and make life better for other kids like them in Haiti. It is a big job but with them behind me, and a wonderful staff (local and international) beside me, we will keep going – one smile at a time!

Contributed by Gena Heraty, Special Needs Program Director

 

NPH Haiti Kay Germaine is Happy!

NPH Haiti children and staff are Happy! Special thanks to the following NPH Programs — Fr. Wasson Angels of Light, Kay Germaine, St. Damien Pediatric Hospital and Don Bosco. NPH has been in Haiti for more than 25 years, addressing the social needs of the poorest of the poor, raising children in a loving environment and creating future leaders. The NPH programs are vast and include multiple homes for children, healthcare campuses and various educational facilities in Port-au-Prince and Kenscoff, Haiti.