Strength and Courage–the life of Garvenson

Garevenson

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!

Kay Christine Update

The summer holidays are almost over and it’s hard to believe we are almost back to school. Here in Kay Christine we have been very busy going from one crisis to the next, but thankfully we are all well and getting ready for a new school year. Back in May we had Marcus* sick again and for most of June he was not well. With good antibiotics he once again made a super recovery and he is doing great! Last night he was singing in his bed right up to 10 o clock! As Marcus was recovering, Binjanie* became sick and we were all worried about her.

Binjanie needed an operation to relieve the pressure in her brain due to the excess fluid. We wondered when and where we could do this. Imagine how lucky we were that within two weeks there was a top class neurosurgeon coming to do exactly these operations (in a hospital very close to us)! We were put on a list for this doctor to see and when he saw Binjanie he said he would operate the next day! So our little princess had her operation and has been doing great ever since. She is such a happy little girl and always singing and laughing. She keeps everyone entertained and her happy disposition ensures she is always surrounded by people.

Solina and Xiomala have been with their sister Jertha for the holidays. Jertha works with us in our rehab center (Kay Ste. Germaine) and both girls have been coming to work there each day. As they are both already in their mid twenties we want to continue this arrangement. When they are at Kay Christine, they tend to behave like kids and are always in fights with the others. They don’t seem to grow and develop anymore – which is to be understood as they have spent all their lives at the St. Helene home. During the summer we have seen big changes in them. They come to work each day and work very well and they behave very well. They are happy and they enjoy living with Jertha. So we will now keep this arrangement and will help Jertha build a small house so they can all live more comfortably together. Each month we will give Solina and Xiomala a salary and in this way they will be able to contribute to their living expenses and they will have more “normal” lives. From time to time they will come to Kay Christine for a “weekend” and they will thus keep contact with us. It’s a big change for them but they seem to be doing fine. Here in Kay Christine things are a lot quieter as we do not have the constant battles and the younger ones – assume more responsibilities. So it is working well for all!

Jenny has been wanting to go back to her family for over a year now. In fact she has created all kinds of problems in order that we would send her back. We started to have her go home every weekend – she has a Mom and siblings. She was spending the week longing for the weekend. She was not interested in school or anything. She just wanted to go back home. We had several talks with her Mom and our social workers. We felt that it was best for Jenny to go back home because she was not learning anything with us and she had a very close relationship with her Mom. She had initially come to us at a time when the family was having a hard time and were unable to manage her. As she got older and she saw other older kids going back to their families, she also decided that it was time she moved on. Once we saw that she was no longer benefiting from being with us, it made more sense to have her live at home and to help her there. So after many, many discussions and much to Jenny’s delight, she went back home. She goes horse riding with our kids every Wednesday and we keep in close contact with the mother and Jenny. We will be organizing a visit to her very soon and for sure she will love that. She will also come to visit from time to time.

So you see another big change! Since Jenny left, we have a free bed and as you know there is always a list of kids waiting to come to us. In the NPH Haiti St. Damien hospital, there is a room for abandoned children and most are severely handicapped. So I took a visit and there I met Veronica,* who will be nine in September and was abandoned in our hospital in March of 2013. She had been admitted suffering from severe malutrition, epilepsy and she was in a coma. After a few weeks of good medical care, she recovered but no one ever came back for her so she stayed in that room. My first impression was that she was a smart girl that had suffered a lot and was not trusting of many. She seemed to understand everything but seemed to be indifferent. I noticed that she listened very well and that she observed very well. I asked her if she wanted to come and live with me and the other kids- with Jerry* and Binjanie (I knew she knew them because last year she was there in the hospital when I brought them to Kay Christine). At no time did she give any sign that she wanted to come with me, but I felt that she was very aware what I was saying her! So anyway I kept going for little visits weekly so she would know who I was and I kept telling her she would be coming to live with us. The social workers were preparing the legal papers and in Kay Christine everyone was waiting excitedly for the new arrival. Arrival day finally arrived and flowers and toys were placed on the bed awaiting Veronica. It was August 14th! The picture below was taken that day!

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Now Kay Christine kids are ALWAYS happy to welcome a new visitor to the house. So you can imagine how excited they were to welcome a new sister! Sadly for the house and the staff our dear Veronica was not one bit interested in the welcome. She ignored everyone and just followed me about the place. In fact, for the first few days, she never let me out of her sight BUT it was obvious she was settling in and she was so much enjoying the space and being able to run around. Limits were difficult for her and when you said “no” she had a big, big temper tantrum and we got to hear her language very well!! In fact while she refused to talk to anyone, if she was angry she spoke very clearly!

So now after 12 days I am happy to say that she is doing very well. Her sad face has relaxed into a happy face. She is more used to the routine of the house and is talking with the kids and with me. She is becoming very sociable and she is enjoying to be kissed and cuddled. It’s really amazing to see and when you consider the awful life she had before coming here it makes me all the more greatful for Father Wasson and NPH. Because here Veronica has found a loving home where she will never be hurt and where she will be able to enjoy her childhood and grow and develop. In the hospital they told us that she never wanted to be cuddled and in a very short time here we see that she not only likes it, but she seeks it out. In Kay Christine we are very good at loving our kids and in a very short time we can see Veronica starting to respond to this unconditional love. We are firm with her temper tantrums. It is very clear to her what we will accept and that it’s all a part of loving her. She likes to help out and has already helped with the peanut butter! She is now interacting with the other kids and she has a special love for Jerry and Bmaking peanut butterinjanie. The first day she heard Binjanie singing she looked at me with a big smile on her face! Then she got all excited when Binjanie called her name! She quickly responded by saying “ Bonswa Binjanie”. So many truly beautiful moments all the time here in Kay Christine! (Mind you this morning when almost every one of the older kids were driving me bananas I was not at all interested in looking for the beautiful moments!! I just wanted a few quick minutes to drink my coffee!!!)

 

Anyway we are very happy with our little girl! We are all determined to give her a great life! Please do keep her and us in your prayers!

I think that about covers all my news for now! We have to get the uniforms ready now for school and sure once school starts it feels like the year is over! For sure a lot will happen between now and the year end.

I thank all of you for all your continued love and support! Please continue to support us so we can continue to give these kids a great home.

Love,
Gena Heraty
Special Needs Director

*Names changed to protect privacy.

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