What would you do if you found an infant on the side of the road? That’s what happened to 27-year old Reginald of Haiti who lives with his family in a remote mountain community in Haiti called Mizak. He was on his way to Jacmel, a coastal town south of Mizak, when he noticed a group of people gathered around something on the ground. On investigating he found it to be a recently birthed infant girl.
Francoise, Reginald’s mother and Director of Artisan Services at HAPI, and he had invited us to visit their home one evening following our workshop. He picked us up in his truck and thoughtfully allowed us Moms to ride in the cab while Ben, Amanda, Courtney and a cousin road in back. It was a real “trip” through rocky, bumpy, rutted roads and each time we made a turn, it got more rocky and rutted until it became no more than a narrow, steep trail. It was here we stopped and walked the rest of the way to the house. It was a charming home nestled on the side of a mountain surrounded with coconut, mango, and avocado trees among others. We were taken aback to see a young teen in the top of a coconut tree that must have been 50 feet tall.
We were greeted warmly by the family which included many cousins. It was then we first met Shama the 13-month-old adorable baby girl that Reginald had found on the road to Jacmel. He had taken the baby, notified local police that he would care for her temporarily, placed her beside him in the truck and took her home to his family. Fearing she was ill or possibly with HIV, he had her examined by a physician and found her to be in relatively good condition and disease free. Reginald completed her legal adoption and is now her adoptive father. She is now beginning to walk, saying a few words, and is very curious and playful. She is a joy to all and is surrounded by many cousins of all ages who dote on her.
I can hardly find words to describe the impact this experience has had on me. Shama will thrive in a loving immediate family, extended family and community, a very fortunate child. Reginald’s family is not typical in Haiti. Extreme poverty is the norm, especially for women. Untold numbers of women in Haiti are struggling to survive, often with ten or 12 children, no way to support themselves and husbands who have been killed or just disappeared. Hundreds are homeless and living in tents, shacks or other primitive shelters. It is an appalling situation that is simply overwhelming. At the same time, there are many small but effective programs that are reaching out to women to provide training, teach business practices, find markets for their products and ultimately provide an income. Lovin’ Soap Project is one such program, and I had the opportunity to see them in action this past week. More on the workshop and Lovin’ Soap Project later.
Before we ended our visit with this special family, the teen who we saw in the coconut tree produced coconuts for all of us. They cut off the tops creating a small opening for drinking the coconut water from the coconut. It was delicious. Francoise then scooped out the coconut meat which was rich and delectable. Ordinary and every day for them but very special for us.
As we made our way up the hill for our return to the guest house, a young teenage girl walked beside me, smiled and took my hand, and helped me ascend the rocky, steep hill. I am struck by the warmth and graciousness of the Haitian people I have met on this visit. The language barrier made it impossible for me to verbalize my thanks to this girl, but she readily received and reciprocated my hugs. We communicated.
Sheila Aaron, Prairie Soap Company
More picture from our visit