Saturday, June 26, 2010

Foyer de Sion - Fontamara

This is the end of the first trip to Haiti after the earthquake, I have been a bit busy and ended up going back in May, so needless to say I am behind on posting.

An orphanage in Fontamara had taken on the children from four neighboring orphanages that were destroyed. Now the rocky banana tree field was dotted with tents filled with hot and hungry children. The adoption processes of many of the children at the Foyer de Sion Orphanage were suspended after the issues with a church group was arrested at the D.R. border without the proper paperwork. You probably saw them on the news. At the Foyer de Sion, the children who had parents waiting for them in the United States were facing the possibility of starting the process over again. One that most of the parents we were in contact with in Haiti and the U.S. had been in for years already. We decided to stay and report on the children and the orphanage workers efforts to bring them to their adoptive families in the U.S. The situation was best described by one of the orphanage workers, as she stood sweating and holding tears back just outside the gates of the airport. "It is just so do everything by the book, you take the time, you jump through all the hoops, then more then more, and they still won't let us leave. The plane is here, it's feet away and we're here..."

The U.N. and Haitian government was warranted in putting a halt on all orphans leaving Haiti at the time due to the group that had been arrested, but it was making life extremely miserable for those who had the legal permission but were stuck in red tape. We slept the night before in a plane on the tarmac that let us sneak in and met the children at the airport when they arrived around 9 in the morning. We were planning on leaving for home the night before, but as usual plans changed. It wasn't until around 7pm that they were finally loaded on the airplane. An American Aid worker with the Utah Hospital Task Force literally arrived at the airport at the last possible minute with stacks of stamped documents allowing them to be transported to their adoptive parents. I had grown pretty cynical by that point, and looking around at all the kids, tired and hungry sitting on the ground in front of the airport I really didn't think it was going to happen. Just 2 or 3 kids out of the 50+ were unable to leave, which was a heartbreaking scene to watch in itself. As the plane took off, parents and aid workers clapped and cried, we landed in Miami and stayed with a few families while the children were processed at a half way house of sorts.
For the stories we had covered it was a touching ending, although any solace was marred by the realization that we had left a broken country, and no matter how much compassion and sympathy we had for them, they were still in dire straights and we were returning to a life of excess and comfort.
After returning home, anytime someone would ask about Haiti, between every answer was an uncomfortable feeling that I knew would only subside if I could get back there for reasons I wouldn't understand until May, when we returned.


B-Blogit said...

my heart goes out to this orphanage. A few months ago we organized donations for this place I hope that it helped. Thanks for the report!

Mark Johnston said...

Sunglasses photo = amazing.

Great stuff Mike.