Sunday, January 31, 2010

I'm Angry...

Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while know of my connection to Haiti and my passion for the orphans there.  Prior to the earthquake, most Americans were blissfully unaware of Haiti.  The quake has put the country on everyone's radar and I have been thrilled to see the outpouring of the generosity of the American people.  So many people have donated their time, their money, their resources - many have offered to open their homes to the children who have been orphaned as a result. 

What hasn't come to light is the fact that there were about 490,000 orphans prior to the earthquake.  Many experts predict that another million or so children will be orphaned or separated from their parents as a result of this tragedy.  In order to assist the Haitian people and the Haitian government, the United States and several other nations expedited paperwork for children who were in the last stages of adoption in order to 1) get the children safely out of the country; 2) unite them with their adoptive families (many of whom have waited years); and 3) make much needed room for the new orphans.  As a result, many other families who were waiting to adopt and many children who were waiting for families had hopes of being matched up and united.

The story should end there, with a happy ending.  However, the United States government, the Haitian government, and several large international agencies have intervened, stating they are afraid of human trafficking and have put an end to issuing humanitarian visas for the orphans.  Right now, 10 Americans are in a Haitian prison after being charged with human trafficking because they attempted to take Haitian orphans across the Dominican border without appropriate paperwork.  Practicing human traffficking?  No, they were practicing love and compassion.  As you will see later in my post, thousands of Haitian children cross that border on a regular basis, never with the appropriate paperwork, always for nefarious reasons.

Another excuse the powers that be are giving is that they are afraid that many children are not orphans but merely separated from their parents and that the parents wouldn't want to lose their children.  First of all, as Soledad O'Brien (who truly "gets it") said on CNN recently, the definition of orphan in Haiti is not the same as in the U.S.  In Haiti, children in orphanages often have one or both parents living; the parents surrendered their child because they could not FEED him.  Oftentimes, Americans report being offered children on the street because the parents know if they remain in Haiti, they will die.  However, before nongovernmental agencies ever need to begin placing these newly-orphaned children with families, there are thousands that are already living in orphanages and are eligible for adoption.

The organizations that are trying to have orphans removed from Haiti to the U.S. are talking about children who were living in orphanages prior to the earthquake.  And being placed in homes that were already approved as foster or adoptive homes.  These are not child traffickers.  One thing the big wigs have not explained is how on earth the country of Haiti will feed, clothe, house, and educate an additional million orphans when they weren't even caring for the ones they already had.  It's the lucky child who is taken in by a private organization where they are fed, clothed, and loved.  These organizations are not funded by the Haitian government; they are funded by compassionate individuals.  The cynic in me believes the large child aid organizations see this as an opportunity to increase child sponsorships and add to their coffers.  And the governments are using it as a way to advance political agendas.  All at the expense of the children.

This little boy is 3 years old and weighs 11 pounds.  His photo was taken by a missionary we know who is in Port au Prince trying to rescue children to take back to her orphanage to care for them in the wake of the disaster.  The problem with this photo is that this child did not become this way as a result of the earthquake.  He was slowly starving to death under the watch of the government who say's it wants to stop the humanitarian visas for orphans because it's dangerous for the children.  How much more dangerous can it be? 

Another way Haitians care for the children is by allowing them to be "restaveks."  This is a practice whereby families send their children to live with wealthier families (often paying for the privilege with hard-earned money) with the promise that the children will be fed, clothed, and educated in exchange for doing chores.  The reality is that these children are turned into slaves (and girls often become sexual slaves) in Haiti and the Dominican Republic.  This is real human trafficking that has been going on for decades right under the watch of the Haitian government that is now pretending to protect their children.

Over the weekend I had the opportunity to attend a fundraiser for Mercy and Sharing, an organization that funds, among other things, the Abandoned Babies Unit at the public hospital in Port au Prince.  Yes, you read that right, the Abandoned Babies Unit.  Babies are regularly abandoned on the streets in Port au Prince.  Sometimes the mother has died, sometimes she just cannot feed the baby, sometimes the baby is unwanted.  Regardless of the reason, these babies are left to die.  Some of the babies end up in this unit at the hospital where they often live for years...yes, I said years.  Susie Krabacher, the founder of Mercy and Sharing, works tirelessly to ensure that these children are loved and cared for - to the extent that the Haitian government allows.  At the fundraiser I learned that often the government will not issue a death certificate for a child from the unit; this prevents the child from receiving a proper burial.

For those of you who are moved by the plight of the children in Haiti, I urge you to call the United States State Department, your elected representatives, UNICEF, World Vision, Compassion International, and even Oprah or any person of power and influence you can think of.  Tell them that this shameful situation is unacceptable.  Children should not be used as pawns.


Carrie said...

Cherie, I applaud you for making the children's voices heard. I am praying that the BBC interview is only the beginning for you. I am praying that God will use you and this interview to truly open the ears and eyes of everyone in the chain of people who can MAKE the changes in this corrupt system.

Ann said...

We'll be praying for you, Cherie.. the voice of one person can change so many minds and God be the glory!

mamasong said...

Thank you for sharing this, Cherie. If we feel righteous anger at the things we do know about, how much more must God who knows everything done in secret. I wish I had billions of dollars so every single unwanted child in Haiti would have the resources to be loved and cared for. At least we can help a few though. Oh, for the day when all will be made right!!!

Cherie said...

Thanks for everyone's support and prayers. I hope people's eyes are opened to what is happening to the children of Haiti and work to do something productive rather than criticizing those who, while a bit naive and misguided, have good intentions.