“I’ve struggled to write this post about Rene because it’s all so complicated, just like nearly everything is in Haiti. Nearly everything is harder than it seems it should be. There are always so many barriers to jump over, so many small problems in one slightly larger problem. And for a privileged American, who’s managed to find solutions to nearly everything I want to, it’s hard to admit that I may not be able to help Rene jump all of his hurdles.
Nearly seven months ago I wrote that I was determined to find a better solution for Rene. I was determined to find him a better home than an orphanage, determined to find him a better education, determined to find him better healthcare. I want to be able to tell you that Rene is doing great – that he’s living with a family member, that he’s going to a good school and that he’s got good health care. But life is more complicated than simply, “he’s doing great!” Despite my attempts, I have yet to make much of my dreams for him a reality. Rene still resides in the orphanage I found him in four years ago and he still receives schooling at that same orphanage. But soon after returning to the U.S. after my trip in October, I sent an email to a friend who runs a hospital in Port-au-Prince, part of my email said:
“By the way, I MAY have a favor to ask (I’m not officially asking you yet, just prepping you that it may come at some point). There is a 17 year old boy in one of the orphanages who I’ve connected with over the last 4 years. He has a condition where cysts grow under his skin. He’s come to the U.S. once for surgery but he now has a lump that’s making it so he can’t lift his arm…I’m afraid that he may need surgery to remove the lump – maybe something your hospital can do?”
Her response? Get him to my hospital on Friday and we’ll get the surgery done. I am forever grateful and indebted to her. Over the last seven months this has been the glimmer of hope.
A few days ago I had the honor of visiting Rene again. I always breathe a sigh of relief to just see him walking out the door of the orphanage, knowing that I get another visit with him, another attempt to show him that he is loved. Each time I visit he gets a little quieter and a little less self-assured, causing me to fear that a lifetime in an orphanage is continuing to take its toll. His arm is doing well – he can move it with ease. But he has two cysts on his head – which don’t yet cause pain (but as soon as they do I’ll be asking someone to help remove them). I asked him when he thought he would stop school and have to start working – maybe 19 he said. Then I asked if he would finish school. Probably not, he said. My heart broke as I tried to push the importance of education on a growing man who will in a few short years, and maybe sooner, be asked to care for himself all alone. My heart broke further knowing that if he is asked to care for himself before I find another solution for him, I won’t ever see him again.
I took him and the kids at the orphanage soccer balls, played “find the country” with a group of kids on the map in the small school room at the orphanage (which they did surprisingly well at), gave Ellen’s Oscar selfie a run for her money…and, although my creole is seriously lacking, I’m pretty sure he got teased for the white woman who keeps visiting him. That thirty minutes was the most joyful and rewarding time of my trip. But what comes after those thirty minutes? Maybe more heartache and pain. Maybe more hope. That part of Rene’s story is yet to be written. All I can do is plug on, keep trying, keep hoping, keep asking. And that’s what I’ll do today…and every day until I can’t anymore. Who knows? Maybe you’ll be the next person I ask to help him.”
– Rebecca Harris, COO, May 14, 2014