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Communiqué #078


to the PEOPLE of HAITI

February 15, 2010

As Monday morning arrived, I found myself drawn to the school children who were gathered at 8AM – the time they stand at attention and sing their national anthem.  Something is soothing about normalcy!   This is the beginning of the second week of classes here at the Les Cayes School. The attendance is about 1/8th of what it usually is.  The reasons vary.  For some parents, the children are getting on with their education.  For other parents, they are too afraid to send their children to a building that has not been declared safe to go into.  For the children of the orphanage, this is the case.  They will remain at home until the building has received a professional inspection.  For refugees from the areas hit the hardest by the earthquake, their children will wait at least until the beginning of next school year to resume their education, as most schools do not admit new students mid-year!  Next year, the parents will need to find a school willing to take on additional students.  They will need to find money to pay the tuition.

When I returned to the soccer field where the tents are all staked, I noticed a little baby sitting all alone in the shade, surrounded by clothing that needed to be washed.  “What a perfect photo opportunity. “ I thought.  I love to take candid photos of everyday life here in Haiti, rather than posed shots.  With no one else around, I would have just that chance to take photos of this little baby.  I grabbed my camera from my tent in hopes the baby would still be alone when I returned. Sure enough!  There he was!   I was able to get several shots, but then I started to wonder where in the world his mother was.  As I looked up and across the field, I noticed that a great big huge royal blue tarp had been spread on the ground.  Sacks of, boxes full of, and suitcases of donated clothing were being dumped on the tarp. The people were attracted to the clothes like magnets are to metal.  Obviously, this little guy’s mama was right there in the midst of them grabbing what she could scoop up before someone else did.  I walked over to the tarp with my camera to witness and photograph the joyful chaos.  People were grabbing armfuls and then retreating to their tent to sort out what items they could use and what items they would share with others.  Some were very selective in what they took, being pushed aside by those who were not as choosy.

I returned to find the baby wailing!  It was obvious that his mother in her “shopping frenzy” had totally forgotten about her baby on the other end of the field.  The crackers the baby had been teething on were now ground into the dirt. Snot and tears and flies covered his little face.  I started holding his hand and talking to him in soothing tones.  He looked up and started stifling his cries.  He took little gasps of air for quite some time before he realized that I would stay with him.  I talked to him about how his mama was “shopping” for clothes for him.  He held onto my hand and did not want to let go.  Finally I lifted him, bare bottomand all, onto the stack of soiled clothing. There he let me play little games with him and let me coax a little smile from him.   The sun was pushing the shade away from the area where the baby and I sat.  I moved him into a shadier place.  His little eyes became heavy and he fell fast asleep on the pile of dirty laundry that was covering a dirty, stony place.   There he lay asleep while I went to eat my breakfast.  It was several more minutes before the mother finally returned to rejoin her little son Stanley!

There continues to be remainders of how the earthquake has changed Haiti.  You know things are really grave when you hear that Mardi Gras in Haiti has been canceled.   The “mother country” of Mardi Gras does not have a whole lot to celebrate this year!   How different for the Christians of Haiti!  They still have a faith to cling to – one that is never failing!!

Thank you for keeping the people of Haiti nearby in your thoughts, prayers and deeds!!!

Nora Léon

Missionary to Haiti & the Dominican Republic              Until next time. God willing …………

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