Thursday morning, walking down the road away from the Respire Haiti Café I heard a scream and some yelling. I turned around and saw the typical scene of a few discombobulated Haitians yelling about something. Then I saw her jetting across the busy street towards me. No shoes, ripped clothing, face in a panic, and eyes FILLED with fear.
As I told the Haitians throwing rocks at her to calm down, they yelled out, “She’s a crazy person.” Again, I insisted they calm down and I began to walk toward her. Wringing her hands together she looked at me and without saying a word she grabbed my hand.
Asking her questions, her eyes hit the floor and she wouldn’t respond to anything. People continued to yell at her. I asked if they knew her and they all said, “No, she’s a crazy person.” so I just gave them the evil eye and turned around.
We began walking toward my house having every other person stop, stare and continue to yell out, “Megan, she’s a crazy person.”
After about the 5th person to stop and yell this out…I turned around and yelled out….”She’s a CHILD, A CHILD, A CHILD of God….Do you see that?” and then further mumbled…”Stop staring, if you’re not going to help, keep walking.” Okay, maybe not one of my most gentle moments, but with just those 5 minutes of people yelling and throwing rocks I had about had it.
When we finally got to the house, I stood outside the gate…the staring continued and people literally stopped and gawked at the “Crazy person”…Precious FiFi who works at our house came outside and stated clearly, “She’s a Zombie.” I looked at Fifi and told her, “Fifi, she’s a child, and if you don’t have anything nice to say, go inside.” Fifi covered up her mouth, said sorry and stayed put.
As the gawking continued, I brought her inside of our gate. Darline gave her a peanut butter sandwich and some water and she proceeded to scarf this down and drink every bit of water. She then proceeded to start running around outside, touching and grabbing everything.
My first instinct was to pray. I had no idea where she had come from, where she had been, how she got here.
I sent out a mass text to our staff and within minutes everyone arrived (Shout out to Mark Langham who ran down the mountain in a record time of 3 minutes).
As everyone arrived we began praying for her, she sat down and was miraculously quiet and willing to pray with us.
Not knowing what to do next, but knowing that it is quite illegal to just keep a child with us, Bernard and some of the team headed to the police station. As Bernard drove, he was put on a wild goose chase, going to the Gressier Police Station to only be directed to the Leogane Police Station and then to a “Child Officer” in Leogane who then ironically said the only one who could help was a woman officer in Gressier, who after calling her, was actually the first officer at the Gressier Police Station that said she couldn’t do anything.
Yes, confusion and mission NOT accomplished.
Talking with a few other friends we thought that we might have some information about her family. As we waited a few hours for this information, it never came.
As evening came, Sharon, Stephanie and I (yes it took 3 people), began to bathe this precious 12 year old. Covered in filth and dirt, she got a glance of herself in the bathroom mirror. “SARAH!” she exclaimed.
After putting on clean clothes, we made a bed for her and all huddled in a room downstairs watching her and playing with her. She looked again at another mirror on a cabinet, opened the cabinet looking behind it, and closed it again and tapped on the mirror. She smiled.
Sitting on her bed, she began picking at her feet, as we took a closer look we saw she had tons of splinters, cuts and stuff in her feet, from walking around without shoes on. As Sharon huddled near her foot she tried her best to take out whatever was bothering her in her foot.
As we sang some Will Regan (love his music), Sarah began to calm down and slowly gave in to sleep.
All exhausted, we discussed who would stay with her, as Mark said he would, we all left and showered and tried to get some sleep.
As I laid down, my mind was spinning and the thoughts came flying out….”Why will no one help us?” “What are we supposed to do?” “It SO easy to just turn the other way, she’s a CHILD, how can they not see that?”
No one slept.
Sarah slept for over 12 hours and awoke in a tizzy, our new intern Andre who just arrived a few days earlier, was sitting in her room reading and watching her sleep. He said she literally popped right up and started running around, I glanced over the balcony and saw him using his few Creole words, running behind her and trying to get her not to touch everything.
Making a few more phone calls we were told that we should not have her without any information or paperwork, yet no one in Gressier could help us with this. Our friend suggested we go to IBESR, basically Social Services, (my worst nightmare) in Port au Prince.
What happened next is only how it’s been told to me, I know Sharon will write about it when she can and explain the difficulties. Sharon and Bernard then proceeded to try and figure things out, but basically it was the same run around. Arriving at IBESR, they took one look and said, we can’t take any child without paperwork. And didn’t give her a second thought. In fact one of the awesomely kind workers at IBESR, looked at her and stated, “This is an office. Get THAT out of here.”
All I can say is thank God that I wasn’t there…I might have puffed up my feathers and punched somebody 🙂
Finally, we were told to bring her to BCPJ (Basically the children’s police station), they said that they were the ones who were going to write up paperwork, and bring her back to IBESR where then she could be placed somewhere.
I had already drawn up a list of every Special Needs Orphanage, Home or Organization I knew of with matching contact numbers, hoping to do as MUCH of the police and IBESR’s job as possible, knowing that they wouldn’t 1- know what to do and 2- actually do it.
The officers at BCPJ looked at Sarah and literally did not know what to do. As I called the Inspector again trying to explain that if they write up paperwork that they can call these places to place her, he seemed generally confused. Simultaneously all of these places were telling me that they couldn’t take a child without paperwork (understandably) and the only division with authority to give paperwork was IBESR (but IBESR couldn’t take a child without paperwork…hmmm…)
Our brains spinning, our team split between Port au Prince and Gressier, we were exhausted.
Who knows what the right thing to do was? The Gressier Police were telling us that we are NOT able to keep her with us without papers. But then no one would take her or direct us.
The day ended with Sarah staying at the Port au Prince Children’s Police Division, and some of our tired, saddened team headed back to Gressier, with our Gressier team simultaneously praying, crying and frustrated at how broken and disgusting this world can be.
The endless circles and games of Haiti can be so discouraging, so challenging. The broken systems, exhausting.
We are PRAYING for Sarah, our hearts broken, our minds asking questions of what we should have or could have done. We are PRAYING that the police were able to take her to one of the places on our list, we are PRAYING that she is SAFE.
Please pray with us.