Dear godparents and friends,
My goodness how I am late with this letter to all of you. The main reason is because our dear Olsen has been very very ill for over three weeks now. Before I get into details, let me tell you that as he is improving and it seems that once again this little miracle man has cheated death. As you might remember Olsen came to us in 2001 and he had hydrocephalus as a result of meningitis. We took him to the US and in September 2001 he had a shunt put into his brain (like a tube) that drained out the excess liquid being created in the brain.
Three weeks ago we discovered that this shunt had an infection. Olsen was becoming very, very, sleepy and not responsive. We noticed a lump on the side of his neck and we took him for a CT scan. It revealed a HUGE abscess in his brain. To make a long scary story a little shorter, he needed to have an operation to remove the shunt. The doctor thought it was going to be a simple job – it took over three hours. It was awful! Norma and I were in there with him – pus flowed out of his brain, flowed out of the lumps on the side of his neck- YUCK.
My friends, Olsen had a SERIOUS infection. The doctors cannot understand how he is still alive, how he is not in a coma, how he is recovering so well, how he is responsive and even smiling at times. He baffles them. He baffles them and personally I have gone through so many emotions these past weeks – exhausting. I am with him most of the time and sneaking up to Kay Christine from time to time to see the rest of the family. Norma and myself are with him pretty much around the clock and we also have the support of the volunteers and of Carmelle and Rosmite.
Carmelle stayed with him last night so I could come to Kay Christine and spend some time with the rest of the family. I tell you honestly this has not been an easy time. I was so worried that we would loose him. I mean I know this is part of the life here but oh my goodness. To love is to suffer – no doubt about that. Anyway, Olsen is a fighter and he seems determined to beat the odds again.
He is on a strong antibiotic – imagine it costs $125US a day for this antibiotic treatment. Imagine if we did not have your support! Imagine if Olsen was not with us! Imagine how many kids/adults in Haiti need this antibiotic but can’t afford it. Sad isn’t it. In fact, we could not even get the drug in Haiti – we had to send to the US for it. Thankfully we have the contacts and the means.
The specialists say that Olsen’s prognosis it is not good according to what they see on the scans. Myself, I truly believe that Olsen himself will figure it out. We will just keep doing what we have to do and hope we always find the strength and means to do so. Keep us in your prayers.
As I am writing this Olivier is sitting on my bed, reading and playing! He loves books. As I told you before, Oliver has serious heart problems and it seems nothing can be done. We had a team of experts examine him and others looked at his files. All agree it would be a very HIGH risk to do anything. We have more doctors coming in January that will again look at him and his case. Meanwhile, he is happy and well and enjoying life. He continues to entertain everyone and gets away with everything due to his happy ways.
Jermima is determined she wants to go live with her family – she has a mother and siblings. We have her with us as they seemed unable to take care of her. Her mother comes regularly to see her and we have told her that Jermima wants to come back home and we don’t think it is fair to keep her here. Her mother is reluctant to take her thought we have promised that we will support her with Jermima. It is a difficult situation. Obviously, we want what is best for the child. In this case she seems consistent and clear that she wants to live with her mom. So for us this is what should happen. We will see.
Right now Yvonne is giving Pascal a hard time. I don’t know why, as Pascal is not bothering her, but sometimes you just have to look at her and she is angry. Other times she is like a beautiful summer sun, all smiles and hugs. I had to laugh the other day when I saw her chasing Shakiro (the now big chicken). Months ago she was ready to spend all day holding the chick and now she has no problem hassling him. Poor Shakiro! I wonder if she even realizes it is the same chick?
Pascal has his days when he is angelic and days when he definitely has made a pact with the devil. I would say 95% of the time Pascal is in good form. On those other days he is impossible and just looking for trouble. Luckily these moments are not often and not long lived. Pascal loves to perform any chance he can get. He loves to dance and has developed his own unique routine. Truly wonderful.
One night a few weeks ago, I was in my room when I heard Clothaire complaining. I went to see what was going on. Pascal was causing trouble. While Clothaire was getting ready to shower, Pascal came and dumped out the hot water and turned out the light. Then when he was afraid he would be reprimanded he ran out of the house and came back later quiet as a mouse.
Clothaire is back in special education school one day a week and doing very well. He goes to work three days a week in our rehab program, goes horseback riding once a week, and is home on the weekends. Earlier in the year, he entered in the “Miss/Mister of St. Helene competition and he was (and we were) very, very proud that he came in second. He has not had a seizure in months and he tells us that “God has cured him”. He used to have at least one seizure a week, so this is a wonderful change in his health. Clothaire is always very prayerful, so if indeed God has cured him we are all delighted.
Innocent showered me with kisses when he saw me this morning. Amazing how he never tires of kissing me – true love eh? He has been in great health all year long and has made many new friends each time visitors have come. Everyone loves Innocent. The “war” between he and Daniel is ongoing! Though all of us blame Daniel as truly Innocent does not hassle Daniel. You should see Daniel during mass – he is just fixated on Innocent. Innocent is usually concentrating on the priest and not even noticing Daniel, but Daniel will turn around in his chair and stare angrily at Innocent. We can only laugh. Daniel has also been very healthy so we are lucky.
Kensy really enjoys working in the art workshop. He would happily stay there all day once he has toys to play with. He also gave me a big kiss this morning. I notice Kensy more interested in helping with some chores these past few years. Mind you, if he is not in the mood, he will completely ignore you. Completely.
Today is James’s birthday and it was very cute this morning because when I told the kids, they all wanted to give him a big kiss. He was happy also and he has been telling everyone. James is adorable! So gentle and so kind, loves school, mass, horseback riding and the swimming pool.
Roberto looks like a convicted prisoner in his Christmas photo this year. First of all, he would not sit down. Then when he did sit, he just sat there like as if he was frozen. I tried very hard with those photos, but sometimes it is impossible. If ever you want to send a present for Roberto, send some chocolate as he loves it. He had a tummy bug the last few days but he did not suffer with it and is fine again. He loves going on the bus.
Yvenson surprised us all one day when he suddenly started crying. We had no idea why and he had no symptoms of being sick or having pain. He just cried. I felt so bad because I could not figure out why. In the end, he just stopped crying after a while and was back to his happy smiling self. One day a few weeks ago I was giving Yvenson some mandarin. It was so funny because I was unsure if he would chew it properly, he does have difficulties with chewing. So I was giving him tiny bites and he was looking at me as if to say, “ I can do this no worry”. But I did worry because once years ago, I gave him a peanut M and M and he nearly choked. I nearly died from the experience. Anyway, he demolished the mandarin no problem and I was so happy that such a small gesture could make him so happy.
Xiomala and Solina went to stay with their sister for a week during the summer. This was great for them. Solina continues to love working with Mme Maxime. Both the girls are hard workers. Xiomala is still very shy and when you give her a compliment she is embarrassed and bends her head while she is saying “thanks”. Now if you bend your head and get a close look at her face you will see the beautiful smile that comes as a result of the complement. Both girls are terrible for stirring up trouble. Truly brutal. Always hassling someone.
Estamania has made a big effort to improve her temper. Compared to last year, she is really, really doing a super job. She herself is aware of this and even said to me “Gena, you see, I don’t cause problems anymore.” Estamania has a super sense of humor and is very, very sociable with everyone – especially the boys. She knows the names of all the older boys and they are all her friends. In the house she is great with the little ones and now that Olsen is in hospital, she is always asking me how he is doing. Her family come to visit her and she loves that. Last night she told me her dad has a sore foot and cant walk. She is doing well in school and we are proud of her achievements.
Rose Therlie is happy that it is FINALLY December and she can have her birthday and Christmas! We have been on the count down since January (again!!). Sometimes when I look at Rose Therlie I cant believe she is the same child as the mischievous little toddler we had some years ago. She is a beautiful young teenager and is mature in many ways. She LOVES sports and dance. She also loves singing. Adorable is our Rose Therlie.
Here comes Mania. I hear her outside my door. She came to tell me that she wanted some money to go shopping.
“What would you like to buy Mania?”
“I would like to buy a nice t-shirt”.
“Well your birthday is coming in January so you can go shopping then – ok?
“Ok. In January, with Cleevens?”
“Yes Mania, in January, with Cleevens. Cleevens has his birthday also in January too.”
Speaking of Cleevens, he is in super form. Very tall and sociable. Cleevens is friends with everyone. He has a story for everyone and is forever changing girlfriends. His latest is Winnie, one of the girls in the orphanage. Indeed several of the girls come to visit him and they all love him. I told him that next year I would like to take him to the Equestrian event in Florida. All year he is telling us he is going “overseas.” We are in the process of getting a passport for him, so hopefully it will work out. Can you imagine the excitement getting Cleevens on an airplane?
Verlanta is still one of the happiest girls on the planet! Always with a dance in her, always with a smile and always wanting to help everyone and anyone. She works hard in school and her handwriting has really improved. She also seems to be doing well in mathematics. Her mom comes regularly and it is lovely to see how much they love each other and how proud the mom is of Verlanta.
We were able to reestablish contact with two aunts of Fabienne and when they came to visit her she was very, very happy. Fabienne is another that loves to dance and is usually happy. She has her moments when she is fighting with everyone but overall she is great. She loves to help out and anticipates what you might need and then gets it for you. She has a great big smile!
Darlene spends most of her time in Tabarre doing her embroidery. At the moment there are more volunteers down there with her so it is nice to see her interact and have fun with them. She is fond of Olivier and when she is home on the weekends she likes to spend a lot of time with him. It is mutual as he loves Darlene a well. Darlene continues to improve at horseback riding and is a great dancer. Darlene often suffers a lot at the hands of Solina and Xiomala and Fabienne as often when she comes home they are hassling her. Luckily she mostly ignores them.
Sadly Nadege is not as wise as Darlene and oh boy, have we had our troubles with her. The latest thing is that when she reaches the age of 52, she will leave us because she needs to have her own life. She will meet with everyone and thank them and then move out because she can’t spend her whole life with us and we should give another child the chance to live with us. You know what is so sad for me is that for Nadege it is impossible to accept that she has no family but us. She sees other youths in the orphanage going home when they finish 9th grade and for sure she would like to have family elsewhere. She has the most brutal fiery temper you ever saw! She just blows up at people. I have to say that the past few weeks we have had a respite so maybe she is moving to a new phase because it has been so difficult for all of us.
She created so many problems with the staff in Tabarre at St. Germaine program, that we brought her back to St. Helene in Kenscoff. She is now helping us in the Special Needs School in the orphanage. So far so good. On a positive note, she has been and is a BIG help to the St. Helene staff by making the beds every morning. Don’t ask me how she can do it so well with the use of only one hand, but somehow she does. When Nadege is happy we are all happy. When she is not – oh boy.
Indira was having a lot of pain in her hips early in the year. Thankfully she is doing fine now. We moved her (Cleevens and Yves) from the pre-school to the art therapy workshop where the teachers do one-on-one work with her. She loves it. In the morning she goes to assembly with all the kids in the primary school, spends 30 minutes in regular classroom and the remaining time in the Special Ed program. She was involved in making milk for the cornflakes one morning when I popped in the classroom. Another day she was sitting pretty listening to music with some snazzy ear phones on.
Mister Yves has a HUGE mouth and when you take his picture he is happy to show it and wants you to see all his teeth also. BUT when the dentist was here, do you think we could get him to open that mouth? No way! Truly, he clamped it shut and was terrified to open it. Once the dentists had finished with him, it was back to the open mouthed million dollar smile. I would say his mouth has not closed since. Yves is in great form and always happy and keeping an eye on everyone.
Jean is doing well. He loves kisses and loves to be included. Usually he falls asleep during mass but with a kiss he will awaken and give a sleepy smile. If he is uncomfortable, it is easy to see the little furrowed brow and usually it is a burp or a wet diaper that is the cause. Jean is another miracle child. His body is so twisted and he has so little movement, yet it is amazing that he is so healthy. He is a strong boy and is never sick. We are so lucky.
Tifle the giggler is giggly as every. December 3rd was the International day of the disabled and we always have a BIG party at our rehab center, St. Germaine, in Tabarre. We bring all the Kay Christine kids down for this day and of course we get them all dressed up. So Carmelle was picking out and measuring nice clothes for the kids. She found a nice, slinky dress for Tifle and it fit her. Now Carmelle thought that maybe it was a little bit low in the front so she was trying on something else. Well our Tifle was having none of it. She loved the dress and was all smiles. As soon as Carmelle put on something else she was all angry and made it very clear what she wanted to wear! Good for her right?
Cedline laughed all her way to the party on Monday and then when she got there she decided she preferred to lie down for the day! So we put a mattress on the ground for she and Jean and they both were happy. Cedline is definitely the most inflexible of our kids. When she wants something she wants it NOW and it doesn’t matter if it makes sense or not. She likes to be taken for a walk in the mornings – a few of them go in front of the school and spend some time there. I tell the staff our kids are tired of looking at our faces all day so we need to give them a chance to see other people. On Sundays if there is no mass in the orphanage, we have prayer all together in front of our house. Well, do you think Cedline wants that? Of course not. She wants to go on her walk. In the end, I just put her chair to the side of everyone else, in the sun and she was happy with that. Cedline is funny in so many ways. I love how she watches me very shyly. I notice her looking at me from under her eyes and when I go to her I get a big smile. Many would think that she is in her own world but no way. She is very aware of all going on about her.
Alexis has loved peanut butter all these years but we had to stop letting him eat it as it seemed to give him digestion problems. He is now a lot more comfortable. The other day I was showing photos of Olsen after his operation and he was very interested to see them. You know he and Olsen are always the fist two up in the mornings so I am sure he misses him a lot. He is sleeping well and in general is in good form. He loves a bit of fun and mischief and so gets a lot of laughs watching Olivier.
Joseph is a quiet presence in the house. If you interact with him he will sing and dance but on his own he can sit quietly in a group and not say a thing – unless you come with candy or cookies. Then he becomes alive. Like now, he is sitting there with all the others and some are singing (Olivier is bouncing up and down on the footrest of Tifles’s chair – to the delight of Tifle), Innocent is making a racket and Indira is laughing at them all. I went over to Joe and gave him a big hug and got a lovely smile and laugh. Did I tell you before that Joe has a HUGE appetite? To see him eat you would think he was half starved. He eats a lot but is always quite slim. Thankfully he has been very healthy all year. I think his photo is very nice but I had to work for it as he was bouncing all over the place and looking everywhere except at the camera.
Marie Anje is always quite the character. If any bit of news is going on, she is always the first to tell me everything. She is making more of an effort to do the house chores and always comes to tell me when she is finished. At the same time, she will tell me who did not do their work. She LOVES food. When we are eating she will always appear and then you say “what do you want Marie Anje?” She then always says that something is wrong. A pain in the tummy, head – always a pain somewhere and in reality there is no pain at all because when you challenge her on it she laughs and runs away. Tis the food.
Belizaire is Belizaire! One day he is good and the next he is driving us crazy. At the party he was at his worst. Hassling people, hitting people, screaming – the classic Belizaire. This morning he started it again for my benefit. After his “time out” he was fine and I have not heard from him since. I had promised him I would take him to the DR for a trip. I even made the passport for him. He went and told EVERYONE he was going to the DR to visit Kieran and Susana. I hope we can do it for him. Out of his environment he would be fine.
Now to the “three musketeers”, Thoniel, Dieusinord and Deristin. These three boys always make me smile. They are so full of every trick in the book. Do you know they were stealing bread from us? Imagine, all the food in the house is for them. They can ask for anything they want. They can have second helpings during meal times. An employee saw Thoniel putting several pieces of bread into his school bag. (we had noticed the bread was missing some pieces for weeks but had no idea where it was going). When he confronted Thoniel he denied having anything in his bag. So when he had to hand it over the truth came out. They were taking it to eat later and to give to some of the other kids.
Dieusinord always makes me laugh with his honest questions and his eagerness to learn more. Right now he is so anxious for us to put up the Christmas decorations but lord knows I am struggling to keep on top of many other things so it will be early next week before I get to it. The other day he said he hopes that the “sadness” will not have an affect on the house decorations. I said, “what sadness?” (I knew what he meant but I wanted him to say it).
“The sadness because Olsen is sick,” was his reply.
“O don’t worry. We will decorate soon and nicely’ I said.
“I’m so glad because I wouldn’t like if the decorations were not so good on account of Olsen being sick”.
Funny eh? So yesterday I went and bought some more decorations just so he is happy. In school he is a bit lazy so we are keeping a close watch on him because he is very intelligent.
Deristin is such a wise boy – probably too serious for his age- but adorable. He is the solid one amongst them all and sure someone needs to be a bit like this to keep an eye on the other two. This year Deristin is in the special ed class and he is doing very well. He is also learning gardening skills, painting skills, camera skills, cooking and recycling. He continues to be an older brother to Olivier – just now he came in to bring Olivier to his meal. So cute to see them together!
Thoniel is very affectionate and needs a lot of affection. He is very loving and so many times I think of how much his mother loved him and he his mother. He has a wicked sense of humor and I just adore him. He always escapes from doing the dishes and has an excuse for everything. He is full of life and is a joy to watch. A great kid. He is doing well in school despite his limitations.
Again, I thank those of you who take the time to write to me. I always like to read your letters. I am going to be bold now and ask those of you that have one of the girls as a godchild to send a small scarf with your letter the next time you write. A scarf is very light and it does not even have to be new. They will LOVE it and you know they all sleep with a scarf each night.
Some of the kids took part in a dance for the opening of the first Irish pub in Haiti. An Irish volunteer worked with them for a few weeks and then they performed last week. They were so so proud and did so well. Not only that but they behaved like true professionals – I was so proud of them – Jermima, Nadege, Rose Therlie, Verlanta, Fabienne and Deristin. Deristin was the camera man!
I wish all of you a very Merry Christmas. Last year I was here for Christmas day and went to my Irish family right after Christmas. This year I will be here in Haiti with the kids and I know we will do our best to have a wonderful Christmas together. Please pray that we have Olsen home with us because without him our home is not the same. He has a BIG presence in the home and even when I come up to St. Helene for a night I miss him a lot here.
I truly thank you all for your support. I enjoy writing to you and I imagine you all happily reading about your children – actually most are young adults right now.
The economic crisis world wide continues to put a lot of pressure on us and our work as we never have enough money to do all we should do. So if you can, do encourage others to join our family. We truly work hard to make a difference and thanks to you and others like you, we can do a lot. The country itself is crippled by poverty. Every night we were in the St. Damien Pediatric Hospital at least one child died. Many died just as they arrived, as they came in too late. Day in and day out the hospital roared out the mournful cries of the wailing mothers. So awful. So sad.
I hope you are all healthy and if you or loved ones are not I pray you will have the strength and courage you need to fight whatever it is that ails you.
God Bless you all and those you love. May the hope of the Christmas season wrap you in a cocoon of hope, love and charity.
P.S. Shakiro the chicken is doing great. He is still an active part of the family and enjoys the attention of many of us!