I walked down a dirt road that intersected a small creek mostly filled with trash that only has water during the rainy season. Hopping over the garbage, I continued on past the men sitting on the corner playing cards and making catcalls and then across a tiny handmade foot bridge into a little part of the world called Clerville. It is where many of our artisans live. A small corridor between cement huts with tin roofs led me to an open black iron door with a curtain blowing in the window. There is always a see- through lacey curtain blowing in the wind. I entered into the muggy darkness behind the curtain and first saw Guerline sitting there.
Guerline was one of our first four jewelry makers. When I first met her, her newborn baby boy, Guervens was in the ICU at St. Damiens because of malnutrition. I believe it was the second time he had to be hospitalized and Guerline had heard about this opportunity for a possible job making jewelry. She started working two days a week in the afternoon and would go see her baby boy daily in the hospital while he was brought back to health. Guerline is a very creative and talented young lady and she quickly excelled to be one of our best jewelry makers- always selling the most out of everyone with her eye for color and design.
The day came that Guervens got discharged from the hospital. I remember when she brought him to work with her. He was about the same age as Jackson, so we had two baby boys in the house in playpens while the artisans were working.
It seemed like a perfect solution. Guerline had a job, her baby was healthy again, but Guerline was terrified. She knew how hard it had been to take care of him and she had lost all confidence in herself as a mother. She didn’t want him to get sick again and she wasn’t making enough money yet to be able to ensure she could properly take care of him. She asked me if I knew of any good orphanages that she could take him to. My heart was so heavy as I walked with her through her decisions.
I could see this mother struggling to make the best decisions she could for her son. I could see how much she truly loved him. And I knew that if she wanted to leave him at an orphanage, it really was out of her protectiveness of him. Thankfully, I knew a great orphanage that I trusted to take care of children well and so we went down there, just to check it out. Three Angel’s Children’s Relief had a smaller orphanage with a good staff to child ratio, good food, play toys, a clean environment and only about thirty children. We stopped by to check it out and Guerline confirmed that it was her decision that she wanted to place him here. She knew he would be listed as adoptable and she agreed.
Later that week, I packed up Guerline and her baby boy into my car and made the trekk over to Three Angels. It was the only time I have ever done this, and afterwards, I vowed that I would never do it again. Watching the tears roll down her face as she handed over her baby to complete strangers, was the hardest, most gut wrenching thing I could have imagined. I could not even fathom being in a situation where I had to do that AS the most loving thing for my child.
Guerline lost her baby that day.
All was not lost though. While an adoption process takes several years usually, the earthquake expedited it for Guervens and just about four months later, he was with his forever family in the Midwest. Even better is that I am Facebook friends with his adoptive mother and she sends pictures and updates for Guerline to see on a regular basis. It is fun watching this little boy grow up on Facebook and see Guerline’s eyes and nose and smile on his face.
Guerline was sitting in the dark and muggy room yesterday as I walked in. Her eyes were filled with tears again.
Her little sister Clivia has also been working with us since about the time of the earthquake. Clivia came to us as a spunky and talented flirty teenager and we saw here grow into a young lady, settle down and start a family. About a year and a half ago she told me she was expecting her first child.
It is so much fun to see our artisans grow up and take care of their families. Every time they have a baby, I feel like a new grandmother again and again. These little ones that get to be raised with food on the table, and shelter, and a chance to go to school. It makes my heart so happy.
Clivia had her first child- a baby girl, that she named Valerie. Valerie had become a regular in our daycare. Her mother would take her breaks and come down to nurse her regularly. She was doing well.
Now at almost 10 months old, she had a slight fever and a cold. It was getting harder for her to breathe, so Clivia had taken her to the doctor on Wednesday. The medical care for the poor is often exploitative and dismissive at best when you have no connections at the hospital, the doctors are all on strike because of the current political situation, and even if they were there, basic equipment and medicine is hard to find. Clivia left empty handed. Her child did not get the care that she needed.
Still, she was hopeful that she would get better.
On Thursday, this week it was a holiday in Haiti. Clivia was lying down with Valerie taking a nap at around 10am. She woke up to find that she wasn’t breathing and blood was coming out of her nose.
On Friday they buried her.
I walk into her house and Guerline, her sister was sitting in that chair. Clivia was lying on the tiny mattress on the side of the room. The same bed where she had just lost her daughter. She was crying. So many tears for these two sisters at the loss of their children. I sat down in a plastic chair beside the bed in the muggy heat and patted her hair and kissed her forehead. I told her that I couldn’t imagine her pain. Her body convulsed in sobs. “M pa jamn ap we li anko.”
“I will never see her again.”
A mother’s heart. So vulnerable and tender and fragile. I hugged and kissed her again, hugged and kissed Guerline and told them to tell me if there was anything I could do. I walked back through the corridor and over the bridge.. back up through the trash creek and the dusty unpaved road to my house where I have money to take care of my kids and people I can call when they are sick and need help. It is not fair that my kids get to live while her child dies simply because she couldn’t find help.
My heart always comes back to the same thing that I fight daily. Poverty is evil. Poverty destroys. It makes people do things they wouldn’t do, and it kills. Every day of my life I will fight it. We were not meant to live in poverty.
Clivia and Guerline.
Both have lost a child. I stand for them when I say I am committed to finding solutions for mothers in poverty to not have to lose their children any more.