Yesterday morning was spent at the Sisters of Charity orphanage in Jacmel,
Haiti. I was told going in that they follow the “Mother Teresa” model
– in other words, they only take the poorest of the poor and the sickest
of the sick. We were going specifically to hold babies.
The babies we were visiting were supposed to be between up to two years
old, but it’s really impossible to tell how old they are. They’re so
malnourished that the two-year-olds look as if they could be nine months. We
had to judge based on their teeth and their eyes –- really, we guessed.
One little girl lying on her back in the crib looked older to me –- she
had a full set of teeth, and her feet were much larger. We guessed her
around two-and-a-half. I started wondering if she could walk, so I picked
her up and put her on the ground. She toddled around hesitantly –- clearly
not used to the freedom.
I took her hand and walked her to the door, ready to take her into the
courtyard. She stopped at the door and just stared out. The contrast to the
children I’m familiar with was amazing –- the reckless abandon of a
toddler learning to walk was nowhere to be found in this little girl.
I brought her outside into the sunlight and let go of her hand. She just
stood. She didn’t cry or laugh or smile or anything at all. She just
stood in the sun. I wanted her to run toward me or try to escape or get me
to chase her.
The sisters that run the orphanage are clearly good women. They did their
job well -– they kept the place pretty clean, and I think the kids were
fed enough. They clearly made most of the clothes -– most of the babies
wore matching checked shirts, all sewn from the same fabric.
I tried for a minute to put myself in their shoes. They clearly didn’t
have the resources or the knowledge to give extensive medical treatment.
They treated for scabies and did what they could. Babies still die all the
time. There aren’t enough women to give the babies the attention they
need. The babies are mostly two to a crib, and like the little girl, there
is little attention paid to anything but keeping them alive. After all,
what else can you do? When you’re charged with keeping that many children
alive, how can you really do anything else?
The answer is that you really can’t. Especially after a disaster like
this, you just have to go on autopilot and do what you can. My heart goes
out to the sisters who live with this day in and out.
Pink Elephant Pundit blogs at TabithaHale.com and she will be bringing us stories of the women of Haiti during her trip.
BlogHer is helping "Write Women Back Into History" by participating in Women's History Month 2010. We are showcasing the stories of women in Haiti in the wake of the January earthquake. You can read more from BlogHer's Women of Haiti series throughout the month.
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