Wednesday, November 3, 2010
This is Jean Camy. I found him waiting to talk to me (with the ultimate goal of talking to Father Marc) outside of the quad this afternoon. I brought him in, sat him down, and listened to his story.
Mind you- my first instinct was to heave a sigh of exhaustion and tell him I was too busy. Every day I hear a story of a hungry child, a family in need of a home, a student that needs to go to school. Sometime I field them from Father Marc, sometimes he sends them to me, and sometimes we hear the stories together. In any case, no matter how tired I am (and today I was tired and grouchy) I have to remember- this is why I live in Haiti: to lend and ear and be a voice for those that have lost theirs.
On this particular day, I am glad I heaved that sigh and decided to sit down and listen.
Jean Camy is an orphan. He became an orphan after multiple tragedies. He is 17 years old, and has nothing: no home, no family, no birth certificate, no education. Nothing. A couple years ago, when Gonaive was hit by a hurricane his father and older brother drown. His mother, older sister, and another older brother moved to Port au Prince. Jean Camy’s family is from the poorest of the poor. His mother had to give him and his siblings up to become restaveks in hopes that they would find food and better living conditions. She stayed a beggar in the streets.
On January 12, after already losing his father to a natural disaster, Jean Camy lost his mother, older sister, and older brother. His other older brother lost both of his legs after a block fell on him while he was helping someone out of a building. They were lucky enough to find someone who gave his older brother a wheelchair, and Jean Camy became his brother’s chauffer. They remained children of the streets in Port au Prince until a month ago when a bus gave them a ride to Les Cayes gratis.
Upon arriving in Les Cayes, Jean Camy and his brother found that the streets of the south didn’t greatly differ from Port au Prince. The other street children beat them if they didn’t hand over their money they earned while begging. The shop owners beat them if they got too close to the store fronts for fear they would steal. And the civilians looked down on them, and if they were lucky gave them a bit of food or money.
Two days ago, a bus passed by the boys and stopped. A man told Jean Camy that there was a doctor in an unknown location that could help his brother with no legs. The scooped him up, put him in the bus, and “as the bus drove away we waved goodbye and cried.” Jean Camy has no idea where his brother is or if he will ever hear from him again.
Jean Camy sleeps in a broken down car by the ocean. A neighbor gave him a sheet to sleep with, but when Jean Camy’s clothes get dirty he washes them in the ocean and then wears them wet- they are his only possessions. He begged a taxi driver to help him, and the taxi driver took him to the entrance of Espwa. “If you want to find help- this is where you need to go.”
At this point, I am touched and a little skeptical. My heart is telling me that Jean Camy’s story is true, but my head is remembering all the times Espwa has been lied to in order to receive assistance.
“What do you want in life?” I ask Jean Camy.
“To go to school. All the children get to learn and go to school, and I am in the streets. I can write the letter “A” and the number “3” only. I can’t write my name. I don’t know my birthday. I know nothing. I sit outside of schools in the sun hoping to listen to the teacher and not be seen. When they see me they close the door and shoo me away like a dog. I want to go to school to learn.”
“What about a house? What about food? School is all you need in life?”
“If I can go to school I can learn something for tomorrow. I don’t mind sleeping in the streets if I can go to school.”
It sounds really cliché, but my eyes were watering. Jean Camy moved me. His entire demeanor is one that makes me think he is honest in what he is saying. I take him to our director to see if we can help him.
Now, we are in a pickle. Our rules now state at Espwa that at the age of 18 the children need to go back to their families… but what if they have no family?
We have a good relationship with Social Services, so we call them up and they come out to talk to Jean Camy. Like all of our children, we received authorization through Social Services to care for Jean Camy. Weather approving, he will start the first grade tomorrow.
Like I said earlier, I was tired when Jean Camy came up to speak to me. I had already talked to a mother with a starving infant and given her food, I had spoken to a young man who needed assistance with school, and I had dealt with the countless demands from our own kiddos for soccer balls. At that point, the only thing I wanted to do was catch up on computer work and make preparations for Hurricane Tomas.
But I am glad I sat down to listen. I am glad I was not a cynic, and I am glad I remembered that even though the stories sound the same, they are most likely true. The starvation, the homelessness, the lack of education, all of these things that get so exhausting to hear are why Haiti is broken itself. Even though each of these stories sound the same- the faces are different. The faces are what I have to remember and are why I am here.