If you're not familiar with humanitarian or charity action, here's a vital piece of information you need to know: money does not grow on trees. And institutions face that reality every day.
The moral dilemna I face is this one:
In Haiti, street kids are a common sight. These kids' life conditions on the streets are anything but safe. They starve, get beaten, raped and otherwise abused. In the process, these kids contract all sorts of STD, including (and particularly) HIV/AIDS. And, of course, they have nowhere safe to sleep at night.
These children are faced with a limited set of options:
1) Stay on the street. Endure. Survive the horror.
2) Go home. Some of these kids actually have a home to go to. It's just that their parents can't feed them, or abuse them.
3) Go to a kid shelter.
The kid shelter I visited had the advantage of offering a safe place to stay at night and access to education.
However, when I visited the orphanage, this is what I saw:
1) Hygiene conditions were *unbearable*, as I couldn't even inspect the toilets because of the *stench*;
2) Sleeping conditions for the children were uncertain. Although the kids claim they share a bed (at three in a child crib), and bed sheets were DIRTY apparently full of coodies;
3) The children are homeschooled. Cool! But they were sleeping on their desks - I think they hadn't eaten in 24 hours. I found out late that to make matters worse, a caregiver had been stealing food from the children.
4) A little boy, maybe 6 years of age and obviously sick since several days, had not received any care at all. He was feverish, so when I asked the care-giver what she would give him, she claimed she would give a 6 year old boy some medication for children aged 0 to 24 months!
Interestingly enough, the manager of the center was outraged of these observations, which makes me thinks she hadnt visited the place in a long, long time. She fired the theiving caregiver on the spot, and assured me that she would fix the other problems, but I'm sceptical. To me, the main problem was ignorance and lack of education that led to utter and complete child neglect. Given that these people have already been trained by a competent Haitian care-giver, I wonder WHAT ELSE CAN BE DONE ?
One of my friends visited a similar orphanage, where the conditions were worsened by the fact that the center's manager was abusing the children.
"There are an estimated 1.2 million orphans and at-risk children in Haiti. That's approximately 15-20% of the country's total population! Over 200,000 children live in orphanages or institutionalized group settings that do not meet the minimum standards of child care." (Statistics from At Risk Children Foundation)
This makes me wonder. Are the kids still better off in a center, or on the streets?
Thanks and may the winds of Fate blow your way !