This was our first full day in Haiti. The 8 of us arrived at Eden Garden Orphanage first thing in the morning, and we divided into our 2 teams (medical and maintenance/repairs) and got right to work. The medical team (Erin Yoder, Elizabeth & Caryn Wooster) spent the day in the clinic unpacking and organizing the boxes of medical supplies that we had shipped over in a school bus about one month ago. The maintenance team, consisting of Scott Kramer, Rob Freeman and Larry Wooster, spent the day replacing unsafe wiring and electrical panels in the kitchen and main utility room. They also ran electrical wire to the 2nd floor of the dormitory. Due to poor infrastructure, the orphanage only has access to power from the city for about 1-2 hours per week. This is the reason we are planning a solar project for our next trip so that the orphanage can have a more reliable power source.
An interesting phenomenon in the community of Montrouis (where Eden Garden is located) is that there are over 40 orphanages operating in this town with a population of 13,000 people. Approximately 50% of the children at E.G.O. actually do have parents, but their parents cannot afford to care for them and it is a culturally common practice to give up your children because you are not able to care for them. Dave Wooster, leader of this trip and member/former director of New Hope church’s International Missions Ministry, “Sharing Our Strength”, also serves as board chair of the Eden Garden Orphanage and handles the administrative, organizational and operational issues. He spent his day meeting with various employees of the orphanage as well as 2 mothers that came off the street to see him to ask for the children to be taken in by the orphanage. With 37 children already living at E.G.O., we are just not able to accept any more kids. We also believe that children belong with their parents, so we would rather work with these parents to find an alternative solution to giving up their kids if at all possible.
The first mother was a lady with 5 kids whose husband recently died. She came to the orphanage proposing to “sell” her baby to us so that she could use the money to take care of her other 4 children. Dave explained to her that we are not in the baby-buying business and spent the next hour asking questions, trying to understand her living situation and motivation behind wanting to sell her baby. In the end, it was all a matter of being unable to financially support her family. The solution was to help her set up a micro-business where we give her money to buy produce up in the mountains (where it is less costly) then sell them on the street in town so that she can make a profit. She will be reporting back to E.G.O. on a monthly basis to let us know how this new plan is working out.
The second mother was a young girl with a 2 month old baby as well. Her intention was to drop off her newborn for a few years, and then come back and pick her baby up when he was a little older, hoping she would be in a better financial situation to take care of her child. When Dave explained to her that her child could potentially be adopted and she would not be able to get him back, she was surprised by this news and changed her mind, deciding to keep the baby. She will be returning on Monday to discuss a possible micro-business that we would help her with so that she can earn an income to support her and her baby boy.
This was ONE day. This happens ALL the time. Can most of us even imagine living in conditions so desperate that we would be willing to give up our children in order for them to survive, and for the rest of the family to survive? What if it was the most logical thing we could do, the only solution that might permit a better life for your kids? These are questions that we ask ourselves as we try to put ourselves in the shoes of a Haitian. As a mother, the very thought of it makes my heart sick as I imagine what a sacrifice of love that would be –what if giving up my baby was the most loving thing I could do?