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New York Post Sandy

New York Post Sandy

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Sibling Parents

Today a child at the orphanage told me within seconds of meeting me that his father died in the earthquake and his mother is very ill. Many of us have encountered this experience over the past few days. Although this reality is overwhelmingly heartbreaking, I have observed positive consequences resulting from profound tragedy and would like to share a few of these moments.

To fill the void of losing their parents, Haitian children have learned to adapt in inspiring ways--they have become each other's parents. This morning I saw an 8 year old boy carrying his crying, sick baby brother. It was early in the morning; breakfast was being served and the children, as usual, were rushing to the food table in an organized chaos. This one little boy was waiting off to the side consoling his brother, resisting what I'm sure was an eager desire to finally eat. He assumed the role of a parent to his little brother and had no doubts that it was more important to be there for him than eat at the moment. The intense loyalty and responsibility these children have for their siblings and each other is admirable and has made a lasting impact on me. When I relieved the boy of his parental "duties," by taking the baby so he could eat and have a few minutes to be a kid again, there was a short and simple moment in which our eyes met. He flashed an unforgettable smile--transcending all language barriers to say thank you--and ran into the swarm of kids to stand his ground in an intense game of kickball.

After breakfast, one of our Voices for Haiti leaders called me over and said a mother of a child at camp wanted to give me something she bought at the market. She handed me a few peanut butter cookies, thanking me for being her daughter's friend. Even in a desperate time when her basic food, water, and shelter needs are all compromised, this selfless woman wanted to give instead of receive. The children have also shown their gratitude by giving us mangos their families sell at the market. These victims have so little, yet their culture and values guide them to share and provide for one another and to express thankfulness and gratitude at all times.

After running soccer camp in the scorching sun all morning, the children were getting thirsty and hungry. I divided those cookies from the market among the soccer kids, but the last piece was hard and unbreakable. There were two children left who had not yet received a piece and the only way to share was for one to bite the piece in half and give the other half to the last child. Since my extensive Creole consists of "what's up" and "I'm burning," (translated as "not much"), I wasn't sure if the boy understood he had to share. Sure enough though, he bit a small piece off and gave the rest to the last kid. It was very possible he had never met this kid before the soccer game today. This was not my first time witnessing a situation like this here and I know it will not be my last. After, I thought of my childhood memories with my brother and friends; I don't think any one of us would have thought to share. In fact, I know we would have been bickering about who got the largest cookie piece. This experience today gave me some perspective to bring back home.

Although these few moments are precious, I can't even begin to describe the overall experience here in a blog post. The Fordham Law DRN group here is one of the most impressive and unique groups of people I have ever worked with, along with the Voices for Haiti volunteers. There are certainly miles upon miles of progress and work needed in the near and long-term future in Haiti, but every journey of a thousands miles requires small steps. We have taken this step here together. In the midst of complete devastation and tragedy, these children still manifest hope through their smiles. In the face of adversity, these children manifest resilience and love. Yesterday, a camper told me that he will never forget me. Before I leave, I will be sure to tell him and the other campers that I will never forget them either. Peace and love. -Shara

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