Some questions that have been asked:
Is this an orphanage? How do you ensure that the child will stay healthy when it returns home? What do you give them when they go home?
The Rescue Center is not an orphanage. It is a place where we take in children that are severely malnourished and sick. Most of these children would not make it if they did not get help. Help from us, or their parent or family or another hospital. There have been sick children that have gone to the main general hospital here in Haiti. When their only problem is malnutrition they will NOT admit them. They will send them home and tell them to give them vitamins and feed their child better. We offer an in between place for them to get help. When a child first comes into the clinic, if they are not near death, we try to educate the family on what to do to make the child better. Most do not believe it is just food. They believe many different things cause their child to be this way. It could be a curse someone is putting on them, it could be worms, it could be the dad’s fault, or it could be because they drank bad breast milk. Again, very rarely will they come in and say my child is this way because of lack of food. We talk with them and explain this the best we know how. If we have peanut butter, or milk, or food we will try to give this to them. But this will only put a baid-aid on the problem. If we think the child will die within the next few weeks unless it eats more we will try to find a place in the rescue center. We do the best we can with the resources that we have.
Many children do not make it. Many die. Many suffer. It hurts. It is not fair. It is not right. But…there are so many more that live. That recover. That get well. You can ask anyone in the village about this. They will tell you “Before you came there were little white caskets that went to the grave yard every week. We saw them pass down the road, but now we do not hardly see them.” After being here for so many years change is happening. Imagine a child that had kwashiorkor. The parents believe it was a curse that someone put on their child. They take the child to the vo– do– people to remove the curse. The child get worse. They decide to bring the child to the clinic. The child recovers. They ask me what medicine I gave their child. I say I fed you child, I loved your child, I pray for your child. Jesus helped your child get better. They are amazed. They are happy. They take the child back up to the village. They tell the neighbors that come to see the child what happened. No one needs to say much. They know that God had something to do with it. Many families have accepted Christ this way. That have burned their vo-do- items and turned to Christ.
When the child is well, I send them home. I need room and beds for others that are sicker. I give the parents the education on what to feed their child. I tell them everything I can think of to just get them to feed them. Even if they can only find one eggs every other day. You have to sit and talk and find out where they live, what they have. What produce they can find. It does not make much sense to tell someone to buy cheese, PB and meat for the child when this is something that they have never been able to find. Do we ensure that a child remain healthy. NO, these are not our children. We love them, we do what we can. If a parent wants to take there child home and let it die in front of them. They have that right—it is THEIR child not mine. That is not what I want but it has happened. I cannot call child protective services on them. They do not have that here. Sometimes we think that “our ways” are better and we have more “knowledge”. We can give this child more. I have heard many say that. But just cause someone is “poor” in our eyes does not mean they are poor. They are not poor in their eyes. It does not mean that you need to “save” them by giving them money or things like that. That is not the solution. I have found over the 15 years that I have been here that people watch you. They watch to see how you treat people. They watch to see how you live. They watch to see if you live and follow Christ. They have had foreigners come for years here. But many are in and out. It hard to believe someone when they tell you one way to live and they live another. I could tell those parents of malnourished children what to do to save their child. What food to feed them, how to care for them, etc. But the point where I began to see change is when I got on their level. Talking to them, loving them for who they are NOT what “we” think they should be. I could say, you need to give your child meat, it has good protein in it for them. But they might be thinking, yeah white lady, I have never been able to buy meat for my kids…ever. So instead you ask them how things are where they live. What food they usually eat. If it is one meal of plain white rice a day (sometimes only every other day) then start there. Ask them what things they grow in there area. Spinach, beans, eggplant, leafy greens? Okay so now ask them if they would consider taking a pack of spinach that they grow in their garden for the family and not taking it to sell. Ask them to add the spinach to the rice. They say okay. Then push a little more and see if they would consider adding a cup of beans. These two small things will improve the child’s health. You tell them that and say it will be good for them and the whole family. Then ask if they have a chicken. If yes, then would they be willing to keep an egg every other day to feed the child. Little things like this make a big difference. Remember many that we see each day are in survival mood. If they can take their produce and sell it to buy some rice then that is what they will do. Many times it is not because they are uneducated, it is because they are thinking I could feed my 5 children these 5 eggs or I could take these 5 eggs and sell them to buy some white rice. They amount of rice that they could buy would fill the kids up more and that is what they are thinking. How can they stretch the money farther to fill their bellies.
I believe that change is happening in our area. People are learning that a kid is swollen and sick with kwashiorkor because they need to eat more foods with proteins. They need to eat a balanced diet. When they see this with their own eyes they believe it. Telling them is one thing but showing them is another. Giving them “hand out” of food or things is okay. But it does not fix the problem it just makes them more dependent on you. They need to understand what food to feed their kids. They need to care and they need to do it. Not me. We do what we can with the resources that we have. We would LOVE, LOVE, LOVE to have a larger place for the RC. A place where we could separate the sick from the well kids. A place for them to play outside. More toys, disposable diapers, cute little outfits, running water. But that is not what we have right now. We are doing what we can with what we have. If there is room to lay a bed down on the floor for a child to lay on we have room. Several months ago I went and put the supplies out at night and when I walked out of the supply room we put the beds down where I had just walked. That was getting full for me. We wish that we could fix everything and that there would be no hungry, pain and suffering. But that is not going to happen. The wonderful Haitian people that we serve have to BEGIN to do it. They have to and they are. A little at a time things are improving.
Is it hard to send the kids home? YES! Many times it is. But I am used to it I guess. Really it is not about me, or a host family, or a visitor that falls in love with a child. It is about the child and HIS family. What is best for them and what makes them happy and healthy. No strings attached, I do this for them because that is what I am supposed to do, that is what I am called to do. Many kids I do not see again ever. I might hear news about them. But many times I do not. That is okay with me. A parent would have to take a day out to come and see us. They would lose a day in the garden or a day selling produce in the markets. They would have to walk many hours. Sometimes when we are walking someone will walk by and ask if we remember them. Then they tell us they are the mother, father, uncle, aunt etc. of a child that was in the RC. They tell us how much they appreciate all we did. A few weeks back we had a child that was in the RC many years ago come up to us. I did not even know who they were, they looked great, they were healthy and smiling from ear to ear. They said “I will never forget what you did for me”. That my friends is enough to keep me going for years to come.
Psalm 117:2 (NIV)
2 For great is his love toward us,
and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever.
Praise the LORD.