You can’t run from bullets in a straight skirt!

I told her she looked lovely in her matching skirt and blouse.

She told me that in the morning, she chose a skirt that was not too straight, because it is hard to run from gun fire if you are wearing a straight skirt!

She frequently has to run from gun fire. She is a valued staff member and is the mother of a seriously disabled child.

I will never look at a skirt in the same way again.

“Gena, I will be late to work this morning – the road is blocked with burning tyres so the bus can’t get by and we are all on foot”.

She sent a video – blazing tyres right across the road and people on foot making their way through the flames.

Despite the dangers, she came to work as did another employee.

Bonswa Madam Gena – I am walking in the grounds when I hear the friendly greeting.

I turn and see the mother carrying her tall gangly son – he is almost as long as her and I wondered how she can carry him. His great big smile hides all the misery he has known and her tired frame is hidden by her gratitude to be out of hospital after three weeks.

“Did ye get blood? says I and she happily tells me that, yes, he got blood.

You can not imagine how difficult it is to get blood in Haiti!

How he is still alive I do not know. He is supporting his family, as the stipend we give his mom every month is her only stable income. A stipend is hardly an income but it sure does help!

While in the office making a photo copy, I hear a gentle, Bonswa Mme. Gena, and I turn to see a mother I have known for years. When I first met her, she was a strong young mother, proudly holding her little girl that was immaculately dressed and was having seizures due to a damaged brain and a condition called microcephaly.

At the time, I could not help thinking that the road ahead would not be easy for her and her beautiful daughter.

Several years have gone by-armed gangs forced her from her home. She had twins – one died and the other one also has a severe disability.

She herself is now very skinny and how tough it is for her! The light that shone bright in her eyes is dulled now by the daily struggles but her love for her children carries her through each day. That unwavering love is inspiring!Our humble support ends up being a hugh help – when you have so little any help is a big help!

I was in the hospital when I bumped into one of our employees.

‘How is your mother – I know she had an operation for hernia”?

Oh she is not good. She has a problem with her heart and she is getting worse. She is on oxygen.

Oh no, can I ask everyone to pray for her?

Oh yes. Please do.

That was in the morning.

In the afternoon the phone rang.

Madam Gena – I lost my mam. She is after dying.

The sports hall is looking beautiful-decorated in blue and yellow-royal blue and dark yellow. Tomorrow we have a celebration – we will celebrate all those with disabilities that come to our school and therapy program.

We will have a mass and after the mass there will a show.The children have been practicing for weeks and are really excited.

Tomorrow is their day to be center stage.

As I watched them rehearse – dance, and play and laugh – I thought Thank God!

Thank God they have this space – to learn and to have fun.

Thank God for the specialized services they can receive inside our walls.

Thank God they have this safe place to come to every day!

Thank God for their parents that work extremely hard to provide for them.

My heart is heavy with all the effort of not falling to pieces in the face of all the suffering.

My heart is overflowing with gratitiude for all the miracles I get to witness every single day.

Gena
30 November 2023

Haiti these days

Haiti these days
It’s hard to write about Haiti these days.
It’s hard to tell the stories – they are hard stories, terrifying stories.
Stories of burnt bodies – bodies of men and women, just like you and I.
Men and woman, going about their business, not bothering anyone, getting on a bus in the morning and being burnt alive in that bus.
Why?
Who knows?
Wrong place, wrong time?
A gang leader inflicting terror on the population?
It’s hard to talk about the mother of three kids, that went to the market last week and got killed on her way home.
She was in the tap tap (local transportation), the bandits stopped it. They robbed the passengers, trampled on the vegetables they were bringing home.
The mother of three, had a bag of rice.
They opened it, emptied it out and stomped all over it.
She cried out- “O Jesus, I have three kids, what will I give them to eat?”.
They shot her dead.
It’s hard to talk about the school children wearing helmets to school, wearing helmets inside the classroom, in the hope of protecting themselves from stray bullets.
Hard to talk about the teacher that got hit by a bullet, in his neck, while he was in the classroom teaching.
Hard to talk about the small kids lying on the ground under the school benches while massive gunfire can be heard all around them.
Not easy to talk about all children that cannot go to school because it is too dangerous for them to go on the road.
In the first two weeks of March, the UN say that at least 277 people have been murdered and 101 kidnappings have been reported.
Since January, UN staff have counted 531 killings. You can be sure the actual numbers are even higher. They say that many of those shootings were random shootings, where snipers shot into crowds of people.
It is heart breaking to talk to staff that have no idea what to do.
They are surrounded by bandits and gun fire.
They are prisoners in their own homes. Sleeping under their beds while the bullets rain down outside.
One lady, was forced to leave her home in August.
She rented a house in Sept and now seven months later, she has to move again as she is once more surrounded by gunfire and gangs.
Another asked me yesterday for a mattress – when you leave your house, you can’t take things with you – just a few small things. She and her son are staying with a friend.
Chances are, once you leave your house, the bandits will come and steal everything.
This happened to two members of our staff. Everything taken. 30 years of hard work – all gone.
Three of our teachers were attacked while on their way to work.
Three brave women.
I get so angry when I see the suffering.
When I see people fleeing from their homes.
When I see the videos of homes burnt to the ground.
Angry when I see how good people are living in terror.
Angry when every conversation is about who has been kidnapped and who has been killed.
Angry when the gangs publish videos of their massive assault weapons,
when they send out videos of themselves killing or raping their victims.
Videos where they make fun of the police trying to establish some law and order.
Videos that show them counting hugh sums of money – money from kidnappings.
A good friend of ours was kidnapped February 2nd. She was one of the founding doctors in our hospital.
We have to presume she is dead, as there has been no contact with her.
Many that are kidnapped are badly treated.
Others are not.
All are traumatized.
How not to be?
It’s hard to write about Haiti these days.
We hope for better days.
We do what we can to be there for those we meet
and we do our best to keep all our programs going.
The children and young people do well in our care and they give us the strength to face every day.
They themselves, that have suffered immensely in their young lives, are always quick with a smile and a hug.
We watch them learn new skills – like self feeding, dressing, undressing, making juice, making dinner – life-giving moments for them and for us.
Food for our souls.
It’s hard to write about Haiti these days.
Somehow, I feel it would be worse not to write.

Gena, 23 March 2023

An update from Gena

Tough Times

These are tough times,

Times of horrific violence,

Times of fleeing families

Fleeing from bullets, 

Fleeing from rape, 

Fleeing from kidnappers, 

Fleeing from gangs,

Fleeing from gang warfare.

Fleeing with nothing, to nowhere, 

Times of daily kidnappings 

Times of asasinations ,

of very public figures and,

not so public figures,

Brutal murders.

Bodies mutilated.

Bodies burned.

Bodies never found.

Times of stray bullets killing people,

In their homes,

on the street,

in a car,

stray bullets have become a major cause of death these times.

Times of dead bodies on the roads.

Who are they?

Who killed them?

Who knows?

Times of sleeplessness,

machine gun fire never lures people to sleep,

Racing hearts injected with fear are not conducive to sleep either.

Times of Terror,

terrified to leave your home,

terrified on the way to work,

terrified on the way home.

Too terrified to go to the hospital at night so you wait until the morning but the morning ends up being too late and your loved one dies on the way.

Times of closures,

schools closed,

hospitals closed,

businesses closed,

gas stations closed,

churches closed,

shops closed,

banks closed.

Times of emptiness,

fuel tanks empty,

food depots empty,

cooking gas tanks empty,

stomachs empty.

Times of walking,

everywhere people on foot as no public transport

Times of protests,

burning barricades,

tear gas,

live ammunition,

dead bodies,

dead journalists.

Times of sickness,

no transport to take the sick to hospital.

Many hospitals closed.

No oxygen in many.

No electricity in most.

Times of Cholera.

Times of Hunger.

Times of departures,

so many have left the country.

Friends, colleagues, young old-leaving-“anywhere will be better than Haiti’ is the mantra. 

Times when everyone has a headache-from thinking and stressing too much

Times of worrying,

how are our school kids?

do they have seizure meds?

how are they managing without therapy?

have they food and water? 

How are they managing locked in their homes for months?

Times of endless wondering why? 

Why Haiti? 

Why never a time of peace and prosperity?

Times of patience and hope-maybe this week things will improve.

Maybe fuel will be available.

Maybe school will open.

Maybe the killings will stop.

Times of amazing determination,

walking hours and hours to work and back.

A disabled wheelchair bound employee, negotiating passage through a burning barricade for his wife and new born baby.

Market ladies carrying huge loads down the mountain-no motor bikes due to fuel crisis.

Times to keep busy and keep positive.

So much work to be done.

Times of great need.

Times where there is no time to feel fed up because these desperate times call for supreme acts of solidarity.

Times when we need to stick together.

Times when the smile of a child lifts your spirit.

When the full moon reminds you, that you are part of a much bigger picture.

When you feel grateful for today because you have no idea what tomorrow will bring.

When you look at those in your care and see how far you have come, and your heart swells with gratitude and you know you are doing ok.

Times when you look at all those working with you and you think- wow! Such amazing men and women. Despite all their worries and all the dangers, they give their all to those in our care.

These are tough times.

These are terror filled times.

With the help of God and with your help,

We will get through them.

Sadly, many, many will not.

Gena Heraty

Appeal for Haiti by Senator Rónán Mullen

Rónán Mullen, senator and leader of the Human Dignity Alliance, wrote to his supporters on 15 October to encourage them to support the NPH Special Needs Programmes in Haiti.

He shared with them the following update from Gena Heraty, Director of the Special Needs Programmes.

Sadly the situation in Haiti goes from bad to worse and none of us expected it would ever get this bad. We have a combination of awful things happening:

Gangs

Heavily armed gangs control most of the roads around the city so you risk your life if you go on those roads. The main road to the south has been blocked by gangs for over a year now so most of the people have had to leave the area called Martissaint – where you leave the Capital to go south. A non-profit human rights defence network recently reported that there are currently 90 active, heavily armed gangs around Port Au Prince alone. These gangs kidnap, rape, rob, kill, butcher. They are vicious, and we all know several people that were kidnapped by these gangs. To say that they terrorise people is to put it mildly.

Lack of Fuel

For weeks now there has been no diesel or petrol at the gas stations. So without fuel, you can imagine how quickly things go crazy.

No public transport, schools still closed, patients unable to get to hospitals. Our Special Needs School is still closed and even though our rehab center is open, very few patients can come for therapy as there is no fuel and no public transport.

Anti government demonstrations

The president was murdered in July 2021. Since then, the government has been led by the Prime Minister. For 2 weeks on end we have had anti-government demonstrations. Most end up being violent with people being shot – by the police. They shoot at them with tear gas and live ammunition. The crowds of people usually throw stones and destroy property and cars. Many places have been set on fire and countless businesses pillaged. Roads are blocked with huge barricades or burning tyres.

On several occasions the road from the orphanage to town has been blocked. People want the prime minister to resign and they want him to put down the price of fuel. He more than doubled the price in September when he removed the government subsidy on fuel. This led to an immediate increase in anti-government rallies.

Inflation

Not only is food hard to come by due to the lack of fuel for transportation, but the cost of everything is sky high. People struggle to find drinking water. People are hungry.

Cholera

Can you imagine having cholera in a country with limited access to clean water and hospitals? Well sadly Cholera is back again in Haiti and one report said that up to 70 prisoners have died from cholera in the past two weeks.

No Electricity

We never have electricity any more. In over a year maybe we have had at most 5 evenings when we had a few hours of electricity.

So things are dire right now. Many many people have left the country, and many of them are qualified doctors and nurses. No one sees a future here, and if you get kidnapped you have to pay huge amounts of money. They will ask for something like $300,000 US and you negotiate down as low as you can. We know many that had to pay over $60,000 but most people don’t tell how much they paid. For sure, no one can afford to be kidnapped.

Many of my staff have been robbed at gunpoint. More have had to leave their homes due to gangs taking over their areas. Hiding under your bed is a regular occurrence for many, while outside it is raining bullets. Many many people have died when hit by stray bullets. Those that have families living in the countryside tell me about the problem they have accessing food and water. It is so, so sad.

As you know, I run a home for people with disabilities. I have 31 in my care. I am about to have 26 more. The house they lived in was attacked twice by armed gunmen so we are bringing them up to my care, as the home where they lived is in an area that is too dangerous. Imagine the kind of person that attacks a home for children with disabilities?

Some of the acts of violence are too horrific to write about. Seriously. Some totally horrific stuff happening.

In the midst of all this, we recently welcomed a small baby to our home. His mom died after giving birth to him and his twin. The twin later died and he ended up in our baby house, as he was very mal-nourished and his dad could not take care of him. He is one year old but more like a 4-5 month baby development-wise. As he needs physical therapy, we brought him to the house I share with the disabled – Kay Christine. He is a joy and everyone loves him. He is the center of attention and responding very well to all the love and care.

As I watch him grow and develop, I keep thinking, this is what we are about! We are here to try and make a difference – one person at a time. We have to deal with so much. Every day brings a story of pain and suffering. It would be very easy to despair. But with every day comes an opportunity to do something positive. We have to focus on all that we can do and then we have to knuckle down and keep doing it.

I am repairing 2 houses in order to welcome 26 more people with disabilities into our family. Just the thought of it has terrified me these past 2 months. I felt I already had more than enough on my plate But these kids need a loving home. We are good at what we do. We know how to take care of people. We will give them that home they deserve- safe from the bandits. We are busy training new staff. We have a lot to do. With your help we will get there.

Life is never about taking the easy road. It is about taking what you believe is the right road.

Thanks for your support. I don’t know where Haiti is going. I pray for peace here and peace in the world. Please be assured that we do need your help. No contribution is too small. Every help is a HUGE help. I know those of you reading this have worries and concerns of your own and a choice of charities that need your help. I will be most grateful for any help you send our way.

All the best,
Gena

Gangs, kidnaps, violence, hope

Reflections from Gena

Seeking Words

I sit before a blank screen and will and woo words, hoping they will suddenly form and leap out onto my fingers.

Not much leaping going on am afraid!

Feels more like they are being dragged out begrudgingly, reluctant to leave my muddled brain!

How to write without words?

I need words to give you an insight into life in Haiti these days.

I need words to convey the terror that has enveloped Haiti these past months.

Words to explain how ordinary men, women, and children, are dying daily – victims of gun battles between gangs.

Victims of horrific acts of violence.

Hundreds have died.

Hundreds have been shot.

Thousands more are cut off from basic supplies – caught up in the gang wars.

Violent gangs, that are heavily armed and show no mercy.

Lines of people having to flee their homes – to escape the gunfire.

Often it is in the middle of the night.

Quickly grabbing a few essentials and running for their lives.

Running to nowhere, as there is nowhere to go.

Maybe a local park, or a church, a cousin’s home – the new abode – for days, weeks, months…

Brave people – amongst them Father Rick and his team – risk their lives trying to get help to the wounded, trying to get help to those stuck inside the war zone.

Those that stay home  exist terrified.

I say exist because this is not living- it is holding on tight, and praying to God they do not break down your door and attack you and your loved ones. As happens all the time to many like you.

Praying the shooting stops so you can get out and buy some water and food.

Where are the words that can adequately explain the trauma of being kidnapped?

Held hostage for weeks.

Some beaten badly, some not,

Some shot in the process, some not.

Some killed resisting.

All traumatized.

Families – scraping and scrambling to pay huge ransoms – money they don’t have and will spend years and years trying to pay back.

Worrying and wondering will the loved one be ok.

Daily reports of kidnappings.

Friends kidnapped,

Colleagues kidnapped.

Children kidnapped.

Professionals kidnapped.

Pastors kidnapped.

Priests kidnapped.

Market sellers kidnapped.

Everyone worried- who will be next?

Major roads governed by gangs.

Not so major roads governed by gangs.

Travel on them if you dare.

Some have no choice so they desperately dare And dreadingly take the roads.

Some get shot in the process.

Many are robbed on the way.

Some make it safely.

Fear and stress cling to them each time.

Is this living?

Hospital beds lie empty.

Too dangerous for the sick to make the trip.

Don’t for one minute think they will get help elsewhere.

For most, these hospitals are their only hope for recovery.

Most therapy patients cannot come either.

No fun running from bullets with a disabled child in your arms.

Tis never fun running from bullets- sadly dodging bullets is now common practice for so many.

Everyday stories bring tears to the eyes, People crying on the radios, begging the bandits to release hostages, Begging the gang leaders to call a truce, to stop the killings.

Stories about relatives that never made it home and families desperate to find them.

Staff stories relating what is now their daily living.

Worried for themselves.

Worried for their children.

Worried for family in the countryside.

Where is Haiti going?

Should they leave?

So many have left already.

So many more are preparing to leave.

Start anew, illegal in a foreign land?

Stay and wonder when it will be you, your husband, or your kids that are taken?

Leave the car at home – they like to kidnap people that own cars.

What hope for a better Haiti?

Years of working hard and you can’t even live in your own home.

Refugees in your own country.

Fuel crisis after fuel crisis.

Massive hike in prices of everything.

Hunger visiting so many.

Everyone so resilient.

Determined to make a better life for their children.

Nobody giving up despite all the stresses.

Everyone pushing on, day after day, trying to make a living.

Daring to hope for better days to come.

Tis lunch time here in Kay Christine.

One by one the young adults arrive back from their activities.

They are healthy, happy and safe – far from the horrors in the city.

What a blessing!

If it was not for this home, and all that support it, where would they be now?

How many people with disabilities are caught up in the latest gang war?

How many children with disabilities are hungry right now?

In the midst of the darkness we must find ways to shine a light.

We must find ways to support all those struggling right now.

We give thanks for all our blessings and continue to pray for peace in Haiti and peace in the world.

My words are for Haiti but I am well aware that there are so many people suffering all over the world.

The Human Family needs peace.

We need to stop seeing people as different to us.

The powers that sell darkness, death and destruction want us to focus on our differences.

There is money to be made from investing in Hate.

Don’t give them that power.

Don’t be manipulated.

We are all basically the same – human, one family.

Let us each, in our own way, be instruments of peace.

‘So let’s strive for the things that bring peace, and the things that build each other up” Romans 14:19

Gena

Gena Heraty

18/7/2022

Reflections on 2021

As a new year comes in, we are wise to take a look back on the year ending and somehow sum up 365 days of life and all that entails!

In the special needs programs, our biggest challenge during 2021 was the insecurity in Haiti. It is fair to say that we all worried and stressed through every day, and without doubt our greatest success was being able to survive the year!

Our Special Needs school and our rehab centre had to close for several periods during the year but we are still here and still doing a great job. Parents and patients are very happy with the services we provide, and the school children continue to learn in a safe and happy environment.

In Haiti, survival of a program is a huge success!

Gena

In terms of those living in Kay Christine- many of our family members are very fragile, and to get through a year with no death is a great achievement. Credit goes to our wonderful staff and the high level of care we provide. We also had a year where no one was hospitalized – another major achievement! Our family is ageing. Our challenges are increasing, as many that were previously among the stronger ones, now face adult health issues and this demands changes. We will get there!


We welcome 2022 and we pray for good health and strength to deal with whatever comes our way. We pray for peace in Haiti and in the world. We pray for a world where LOVE becomes the trend that takes over! Thank you for staying with us!

Gena Heraty

Residents and carers in Kay Christine

Today I want to tell you a little bit about the wonderful men and women that work as carers in Kay Christine. But first let me just give you a little insight into the Kay Christine family.

The residents

The Kay Christine family comprises 31 residents – 12 girls and 19 boys. The youngest is almost 11 and the oldest is 44.

The average age in the family is 27, so you see why I have to stop calling them kids! Of those 31 residents, 8 are in wheel chairs and are totally dependent- in other words they require carers to take care of all their basic needs. Another 9 are able to walk – some with limitations – but need full assistance with toileting and bathing. Of that 9, all have been taught to feed themselves but some need help with drinking.

The other 14 are able to take care of their basic needs by themselves, but a few need supervision. A total of 10 are non-verbal, 10 more have some limited language, are able to make themselves understood most of the time, but the average non Kay Christine member, would have great difficulty to understand them. 11 can speak clearly and 8 of those 11 can hold a conversation.

The carers

Now back to the carers. We have two different sets of carers- those that live in and those that come and go every day. Both groups work 7 days on and 7 days off. When Covid came we had to re-think things, and came up with this current schedule, which, thankfully, everyone loves!

Special Needs carers
Some of our carers getting in the Christmas mood

Those that come and go every day start in the morning at 6am and finish at 6pm with some breaks during the day.

Our routine

They come in the morning and and their main responsibility is the care of the more disabled dependent residents that sleep in one big dorm downstairs. They get everyone up, bathed, dressed and fed and then take care of house chores – making beds, cleaning, folding clothes, etc. During the day we have a total of 6 scheduled diaper/toileting changes(this includes the getting up and going to bed changes) and many unscheduled ones too depending on individual needs.

The team handles all those changes and all meals during the day right up until bed time. All those that need assistance are ready for bed by 6pm though they may not necessarily go to bed until 7. In Haiti, we all go to bed early and are up early, so this schedule works well for our family.

Night-time care

At 6pm we have 2 night ladies that come and they look after the more dependent residents during the night and they also get everything ready for morning bathing and breakfast. They work 6pm to 6am and have a 5 on 5 off schedule.

While they are not nurses, they have been trained to take very good care of everyone and they are adept at taking temperatures, changing the positions of those that cannot turn by themselves and making sure that everyone is comfortable and safe during the night. Many of our more dependent family members have issues with breathing, so we need to be very careful with them and how we position them.

We are very proud that we never have pressure sores in Kay Christine, and our staff are very aware of all the little gestures our non verbal residents make when they need to be changed or when they need to be turned. We have a nurse on site all the time. Whenever we have an issue the night staff come and get us – the nurse, the supervisor and myself – who sleep upstairs.

Our mobile people also sleep upstairs- we have 2 boys bedrooms and 2 girls bedrooms. In each of the boys room there is a male carer. These men live in for their week on and they take care of the boys/men in each room- three boys in each room plus one carer. The girls upstairs do not need a carer with them, though the nurse does sleep in one of the girls room.

Right beside Kay Christine there is another 2-story house. Downstairs in that house we have one carer and 6 our more able-bodied boys. They are pretty independent but do need guidance with most of the daily activities. Finally we have 2 people (1 man and 1 woman) that each have their own living space and own individual carer, as they can be very difficult and aggressive at times.

Strong personalities

So there you have it! The day is full on and as you can imagine, with all the different personalities, one needs to have a lot of patience- especially when the bigger personalities have disputes among themselves.

Challenges getting to work

Remember I told you the day carers come in at 6am. Well you should know that some of them leave their homes before 5 and walk for at least an hour up the mountain to get to us. Some others can take a motor taxi but more recently with the fuel crisis they also had to walk for well over an hour. No matter the weather, these ladies show up. They are truly fantastic. The staff that live in are equally fantastic. Some of them live in areas that are not at all safe so they frequently have to negotiate burning tyres and gun battles when they are coming and going to our home. Our staff have been with us for years. We joke among ourselves that we have grown up together, as most of them have been with us for over 15 years, and quite a few for over 20 years. What a blessing!

Honouring our staff

So, is it any wonder we want to honor our staff this Christmas? Without them, there would never be this great Kay Christine Family!

Support our Christmas appeal

Support our Christmas appeal and you’ll give a gift to each of our carers and make your contribution to the Special Needs funding for 2022. Thank you!

Gena Heraty, Director, NPH Haiti Special Needs

Why donate to NPH Haiti Special Needs?

Gena Heraty’s thoughts on why it makes sense for you to donate to Special Needs

Gena

I have been thinking about the question why is a donation to NPH the best thing to do with my quid. I guess it depends on how the person feels about giving money to charity and what expectation they have. I would tell the donor that any money given to me goes directly to sustain our programmes for children with special needs and to others in great need. Every single day we meet people desperate for help. Most are looking for work, all without fail have not eaten a meal that day and are lucky if they have eaten a decent meal the day before. If you happen to have money you will always find a way to help a little, while recognizing that the best you can do is just to pay for a few meals. We cannot create jobs for everyone tho God knows we try.

Our rehab program provides services to people that are rejected by society. In Haiti children with severe disabilities are seen as people to be abandoned as it is deemed a waste of money to do anything with them. Parents are humiliated when they are seen out and about with their kids. Our programmes not only provide valuable services to this population but we valorise them. Children that come to our school have been rejected by other schools and in our school they learn in a safe, clean, happy environment. We even have school buses on the road to pick them up and take them back home. When they are with us their parents can work and know their kids are in good hands. We provide excellent services. International experts are always amazed at how fast our stroke patients recover due to our excellent physical therapy that we have trained. Likewise, they are amazed at the quality of therapy and care given to the children coming to our programs.

When they visit our home in Kenscoff – where I live – they find a home oozing with love and joy despite so many challenges. We are a family here in Kay Christine. As I am writing this, Yvonne – our oldest resident – has come to sit next to me. She is just sitting quietly. She was found roaming the streets over 30 years ago, eating from the rubbish and not even able to explain anything about herself. Our youngest, Jackie has just finished bathing downstairs, and earlier, as I was looking at his happy smiling face, I was remembering how he was abandoned in the hospital after his mother died from Cholera. He himself also had cholera and was in near death. When he came to us, he was in a wheelchair and could not even stand up. Now he is well able to walk and is a very happy young man.

We have been here a long time now – since 1987 (I came in 1993). We have a proven track record and we are committed to those we share life with. We have battled one crisis after another and never faltered. We are a resurrection people. We are an Easter Sunday people. Every day we see the stations of the cross played out in the lives of so many people. Sometimes, all we can do is stand, like Mary at the foot of the cross, wonder why and still believe things will be better. With support we make things better. With support we become the resurrection.

Tell your friends I have a million reasons why sending money to us is a good bet. However, Haiti does have other good organizations doing great work. So back to the donor and their wishes. I am always happy when people support our work – we depend on this support. I am also always happy when people support other good organizations

A tale of love and caring from Gena

On the way down

He is just a baby but somehow he looks older,
I sat behind him, in our mini bus,
on the way down to our rehab centre -about a 90 minute trip- less if no traffic.
His mother held him tight and told me she had not yet dressed him,
“ I took him straight from his bed, it is too early to get him dressed, too chilly this early’
It was 6am- she was right!
On the way down,
it started to get bright and as we left the cool mountain air behind us,
the mother started to get her little man ready for the day.
First came the wipes, then the cute check shirt and cool pants.
With loving hands she wiped away the sleep from his soft face and his cuddly body.
I got to hold him for a few minutes when she was making up his bottle.
I felt honoured to be holding this special little boy.
We chatted and he happily drank his milk.

She told me where she lives and I groaned a little,
as it is far from where we live and even farther from our rehab center.
I told her I had been there some years back and I never forgot the awful road-that was just loose rocks, and how it went down and down and down
and there seemed to be no end to the road or the rocks,
and really to call it a road was to be very generous!!
‘The road is much better now’ she said.

She has three other kids, two are living in Port Au Prince so they can go to secondary school.
‘’You know we have no secondary school in our area”
The other is just four and he lives with her and her husband.
They work the land.
It is not easy to make a living.
They borrowed money to plant a plot of leeks.
The harvest was bad- too much rain.
They did not even make enough to pay back what they borrowed.
She does not know how she will pay back her debt.
School is about to start- she has no idea how she will send her kids to school.
The four year old was due to start school- he is very smart she said.
He will have to wait another year.
All her money is spent looking after her baby.
He has many problems.
Since he was born she is up and down to hospital with him.
To go to our rehab she has to leave her house and stay with friends,
she comes to stay with them the day before,
and then she can get a lift up and down in our bus.
The day I spoke to her she had not been home in four days.

I wish ye could have seen how lovingly she cared for her little boy-
Everything was done with great skill, and great love-the bus was moving fast enough and the road is very windy- to undress and dress a little baby as we were zipping along- no small feat.
“when he was born he was unable to breast feed- his jaws would not work “she said.

She told me she never leaves him with neighbours,
she does not want anything to happen to him.
“I never left my kids with others
kids are innocent, you need to make sacrifices for them.
I can go hungry, but I will not leave him- a neighbour left her 9 month old baby with her older kids and she went to sell in the market, she was out the whole day.
When she came back she found her baby dead- he had fallen out of the bed or something.
You should never leave kids to watch over kids. I never did that with mine. I will never do it”

Her oldest kid has finished secondary school.
I congratulated her.
She worries about what he will do next as she cannot pay further studies and there is no employment to be found.
‘When you are brought up a certain way, and your parents were not able to do many things for you,
you yourself have to try to do better for your kids.
So they don’t resent you, when they are older.
Better that they see you did all you could,
even if it was not enough, than they think you did not try.
I believe in education for my kids’

The little boy was coughing- a lot.

“He has a lot of secretions – it bothers him.
When he is crying, YOU might not notice,
he does not cry like other kids- you have to know him well,
to notice when he is crying- the sound does not really come out’

I wish you could have seen her brush his hair. He has lovely hair. And a lot of it – curly.
The gentle way she did it, making her beautiful 8 month old baby even more beautiful than he already was.
I was entranced, I was in awe. So much attention to getting it just right.
My tears took me by surprise, even now as I write these words tears have filled my eyes.
If you had been there I bet you would have teared up also.
You know how it is when you witness something so beautiful, so powerful, so intense- and you feel your heart will expand right out of your chest?
Remember that great line from Alisyon Moyet- ‘I go weak, weak in the presence of beauty”
Tis a good line for how I felt!

Well anyway, I sent them to the hospital instead of Physical Therapy and some hrs later they were back in the mini bus,
on their way back up the mountain again- with meds for the cough.
I presume she did not eat at all that day in the hospital.
We gave her therapy appointments for consecutive days so at least she can go home for the rest of the week.
Normally twice a week PT appointments are not on consecutive days.

This morning at 6am as I was giving something to the driver,
I heard a ‘Bonjou Madam Gena- kreyol for hello Mme. Gena.
There they were in the darkness.
He was wrapped up and she was holding him tight.
I helped them into the mini bus and then handed her, her two bags- one maroon color and one black.
I noticed the colours because to me these were no ordinary bags.
I knew what was inside those bags.
I knew they carried the instruments for the acts of love that would be carried out on the way down.
I lifted them with reverence.

I was not going down today.
She must be at home in her own home tonight.
Holding him tight.

Gena

Gena Heraty, 31 August 2021