Mme. Bastien and her kids run an orphanage for some of the most defenseless of Haiti's people, the children. The orphanage started in 1999 in response to general tough times in her neighbourhood. Families who couldn't afford to feed their kids often would leave the kids with a relative and go in search of work. Sometimes they came back, sometimes they didn't.
Some families were lost due to violence.
Others to AIDS.
And many, many others to the earthquake.
Mme. Bastien says that "God loves the kids. If I say I love God, I should also love the kids." So she took in one kid, another, and another.
Currently, there are 45 kids.
Mme. and Mr. Bastien at his 80th birthday party
I first heard about this orphanage while at Hopital Adventiste. Frantz - the head translator and son of Mme. Bastien - works essentially around the clock, translating, supervising the younger/newer translators, assists with other patient care issues (supplies, arranging transport, finding facilities willing to accept patients that need different/higher level of care than HAH is equipped to provide, etc.), and that's all within the normal hours of his workday. I'd typically see Frantz up, dressed, and working when I got up to do pushups (around 5.30 - 6a) and when I was trying to finish emails, work on the blog a bit at night (12am or later)!
Every couple days, Frantz or one of his sisters would show up at HAH with one or two kids, who'd hang out at the hospital, interact with the staff, sometimes be seen by one of us for a wide array of problems, ranging from a routine cold or diarrhea to more serious problems (in the case of one of the newest kids, assault!). It was so busy all day, every day, that I didn't really think too much about where these kids were coming from - until I met Junior.
I was sitting in the break room eating our daily rice plate and sat next to this kid. THE happiest, most smiling kid I think I've ever seen in my life! He was eating his lunch and I plowed through the half-plate I got (that day there were fewer lunches than people, so CJ split his with me). Junior grabbed his plate, started scooping rice onto my plate and said to me - IN ENGLISH - "You are hungry? Eat more rice."
I was shocked.
How many 10-year-olds have you met who'd a) ask if you were hungry or b) give you food to make SURE you weren't hungry?!
That's when I knew that someone had to be taking very good care of these kids. I started asking questions.
A short interview with Mme. Bastien. The (fallen) sign at the entrance to the orphanage reads "Orphenlinat venez l'enfants vivez mieux" ("Orphanage: Come children and live better"). Yes, the orphanage is knocked down now - but Mme. Bastien says "The kids here may be hungry, but at least they're safe and hungry. Better here than outside."
This was at Frantz' Dad's 80th birthday party. What struck me the most - apart from the amazing party the family threw - was that many of the kids from the orphanage were incorporated into the party. No "us and them." Only "us." In the end, I think that's what will start to make kids whole again after whatever series of hardships they've been through: being treated like valuable and noticeable people. Bringing them to parties. Making them "one of us."
Frantz and one of his sisters, Frantzcesse (AKA Fra Fra and Fifi)
The school room. Reminds me of a Dave Matthews song "Make the Best of What's Around:"
Whatever tears at us
Whatever holds us down
And if nothing can be done
We'll make the best of what's around
CRNA extraordinaire Mariah with some of the kids who came to visit. The kids just gravitated to her everywhere she went!
Frantz and his daughter helping!
Couple of the kids who came to the ortho clinic
Frantz' sister Marie Carlyne with some of the kids at the birthday party. The party was at the home of Frantz' older sister (background) and her husband.
Again, the kids having a BLAST at the party. I know it may not seem like much, but you saw the pictures above. Sometimes, normalcy is the best medicine...
Fun with balloons!
One of the things I most love about Capoeira is that it arose from stuggle. People took the nothing they had and it grew into a complex martial art that gave them freedom. AND it's fun! We busted some capoeira moves on the front patio.
I love this. Junior started teaching Rais how to count in Creole. It quickly turned into a back-and-forth game of shout-outs! ("Une. UNE! De. DE! Twa. TWA!"). To me, the most important part of all of this is seeing the immediate, self-perpetuating results of giving love and structure to kids. Junior - who had given me his food earlier in the week - was teaching Rais to count in his language and making it into a fun game!
This is proof that giving kids love makes them loving.
Giving them education makes them teachers!
Rais with the kids
Rais and Junior
Mme. Bastien cannot do it alone. While she makes the most of her (limited) resources, it takes a lot to house, clothe, feed, and educate 45 kids.
PLEASE consider donating - anything helps; clothes, shoes, pencils/pens/notebooks, hair clips for girls, fun age-appropriate toys...
For more information email HaitiMedicalAidProject@gmail.com
T H A N K Y O U
M E S I A N P I L