Letter From Haiti: Visiting an Orphanage

Madeleine Philbin is regional director for CRS-Midwest. She is based in Chicago. You can read previously published sections of this series here.

Hospice St Joseph was one of the places I visited with Farid (and Scott). We have also been to meet with Sr. Mary Finnick at Matthew 25 Guest House, to meet with Sr. Maryse Georges at the Conference Haiteinne des Religieux.

Madeleine Philbin

Madeleine Philbin. Photo by Richard Anderson for CRS

We visited an orphanage today, which was sad, although I don’t use that word very often. Part of the orphanage had been damaged and CRS is helping them to repair through a cash-for-work program. It wasn’t sad so much as it was quite small and cheerless. Right now he says all the girls (72 of them) are sleeping on the floor or the roof or wherever while waiting to have their living quarters repaired.

The girls range from 3 to 23. (“Yes, they grow up, but they have no place to go. What can we do? We can’t throw them out.”) “Are they all orphans,” Farid asks. Most are brought by their mother, we have never seen a father. So most are not orphans, says Farid. They are orphans, says our host. They have no contact information for any of their families. Farid and I were checking this place out because a donor asked us to look at it. And yes, they are recovering okay. Farid and the gentleman taking us around realized they had known each other in school. It must have been long ago because back in the car Farid said, “you know when you haven’t seen someone in a long time—how old he’s become! Of course, he’s probably thinking the same thing about me.”

Only once did Farid sigh after pointing out a tumbled building and telling me what used to be, so I asked him how he copes, this being his hometown. He said, “I can’t let it get to me, because if I let it get to me, I would have to leave. And I don’t want to leave.”

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