After visiting Cite Soleil, we returned to our camp and ate lunch. Sensing that we needed something to restore our spirits, one of the other volunteers Bridget (also INCREDIBLY helpful during my time in Haiti) offered to take us over to FWAL. I must have made the Scooby Do face because Bridget began to explain.
FWAL stands for Father Wasson Angels of Light. The Angels of Light program began in Haiti shortly after the earthquake in 2010. FWAL initially started in the days after the earthquake out of tents as a place for some of the children from St Damien’s to go and get away from the misery and destruction and to grab a bite to eat. Over time, it became clear that some of these children had become orphaned by the earthquake. The program has grown considerably during that time and now also houses an elementary school, also attended by children in the community. Many of the kids at FWAL will eventually move to the larger orphanage in Kenscoff as they grow older.
We had a chance to take a tour and meet some of the kids at FWAL. It was right after lunch time, so there were rambunctious. I have to say they were very well behaved and helped clean up after lunch. Despite their situation, they genuinely seemed incredibly happy.
The more time I spent with this organization in Haiti, the more amazed and inspired I became. To think that just a few people put their minds together and thought – let’s create an orphanage. But let’s not just create and orphanage, let’s give these kids an education too. And feed them from the bakery (boulanjri) that we also run next door at Francisville. In fact, FWAL provides a meal to every child that attends school there. Oh, and their uniforms are also made at the “atelye” at Francisville, which employs locals to make the uniforms. GENIUS.
Forgive me for sounding sappy, but sometimes with all of the bad news we are constantly bombarded with from the world – it’s easy to forget that there are genuinely good things happening out there too. I left FWAL that day feeling good about everything that was happening here, helping to negate some of the sadness observed while in Cite Soleil.
Prepare for a cute bomb.
After mass, we were waiting to hitch a ride to St Mary’s Clinic over in the neighborhood of Cite Soleil. I’ll give more details about Cite Soleil in a future post, but to call it a “neighborhood” would be a stretch. Some have described it as the worst slum in the Western Hemisphere. If one were to google pictures of Cite Soleil – these pictures are not dramatic representations of the living conditions; they are the real deal.
While we waited, Dan offered to give us a tour of St Damien’s Hospital so we could see for ourselves just how great the facility really was. He took us around the maternity side of the hospital first where we stopped in to see the operating rooms for labor and delivery. Though they felt a little small and cramped, they were quite modern and impressive. Danielle and I actually managed to sneak into a C-section that was about to be performed.
We pressed on after the C-section, and Dan took us through both the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit as well as the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. I have to say, both were stunningly impressive wards that matched anything I’ve seen in the United States. St Damien’s has one of only a handful of pediatric ICUs in Haiti and one of the only neonatal ICUs in Port-au-Prince, a stark contrast to the city Boston which has several serving a much smaller population (by comparison, Port-au-Prince contains roughly 1/3 of Haiti’s 9 million residents).
We concluded our tour by passing through the Emergency Room at St Damien’s and were almost on our way out when we heard Dan say “oh wait, we should go see the abandons!” almost as if it was an after thought. I had a sinking feeling that I knew what Dan meant, but I imagine he gathered the somewhat bewildered look on Danielle’s face as he quickly explained that these were children who were abandoned at St Damien’s for one reason or another – either their mothers were too young to take care of them or the family was unable to afford to take care of a sick child.
Utterly heart breaking does not describe the feeling one has on hearing that children were left at a hospital because quite simply there was no way to properly care for them. Also, the children are tucked away in a corner of the hospital in a room that looks just like every other pediatric ward in the building. If you didnt know they were there, you would end up passing on by. On the bright side, these children will receive amazing care at St Damien’s until they are either claimed by family or are well enough to join the nearby orphanage (also under the direction of Father Rick). As a way to pay respect to all that Father Rick has done, the children who’s names are not known when they are abandoned at St Damien’s are named “Frechette” in Father Rick’s honor.
Walking into the room, my eye immediately caught this adorable little nugget whom I instantly wanted to adopt and take home with me. I mean, come on – that face is priceless.
I think she has a budding career as a model or actress because as soon as I pulled out my iPhone to take a picture, she was all smiles. And yes, she’s cute and absolutely adorable. Yet there is obviously more to this story than meets the eye as she after all is one of the “abandoned”. The sad thing is I know neither her name nor her story. But there’s something fitting to me in that lack of knowledge because in reality, she could be any child in Haiti. To me, there doesn’t need to be a name or story to this face because whatever it is, that is her past, and sad and tragic though that past may be, her future is potentially far brighter.
I’m posting a few more pictures so prepare for a cute-bomb.
These are of Dan and Danielle with one of the many “Frechettes” that have been residents at St Damien’s over the years. And again, though it’s sad and tragic that we may never know this girl’s real name, more importantly these kids appear to be happy, healthy, and well cared for. And in a place where hardship is all too real, and death comes far too quickly, to be healthy, cared for and loved can only be described as priceless and divine.