Since Haiti's devastating earthquake two years ago, WWO has been in the process of adapting our current program models to fit the needs of children who have been affected by the horrific tragedy. Our successful program models of physical and mental health and education support are all desperately needed and relevant in Haiti.
Melissa Willock, WWO's Program Coordinator in Haiti, shared the story of WWO's impact in a Haitian community through her reflections on a recent encounter with a young Haitian mother, who spent her most of her life as a restavek, a child who serves as a domestic servant.
Recently, a 19-year-old girl was given 25 gourdes (Haitian currency worth about 50 cents) and was told of an orphanage in Kenscoff, a mountainous town some two hours from the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince, where she could drop her kids. She had never been to Kenscoff and didn't know what to expect. She got on a tap-tap (local van) and arrived in the market of Kenscoff. She had been told of an orphanage where WWO serves and started asking some local people if there was an orphanage nearby.
At that moment, the street vendors saw Djimy, one of the WWO volunteers, and identified him as someone who works with orphans and vulnerable children and called him over. (Our volunteers are impacting the community of Kenscoff!)
Djimy brought the young mother and her two children -- a three-year-old and six month old --- over to the WWO office. When they arrived, I brought out some cookies and bananas and water for the mother and babies and started asking her some questions about how she got to Kenscoff and why she was about to leave her children in an orphanage.
She explained that her mother died when she was young and her father had left her in the care of her uncle's wife. She has been a restavek child living at the mercy of people who do not want her or care about her. [A restavek is a child living in a household as a domestic servant.] Her youngest child was born out of rape and when she got pregnant she was kicked out of the aunt's home. She has been living in a tent with her children in Carrefour-Feuille, near Port-au-Prince.
Thankfully, Restavek Freedom Foundation has programming in this area and we were able to refer her to their organization for follow-up and intervention.
Melissa's experience demonstrates how WWO is viewed a valuable resource in this Haitian community: a WWO volunteer took the time to listen to a young girl in need and prevented the orphaning of two children, and was identified by the community as someone who cares. This special moment makes me so proud of WWO's growing reputation in this community -- and indeed, in Haiti.
Follow Dr. Jane Aronson on Twitter: www.twitter.com/wworphans