May 21, 2006


Recently, I've been faced with a moral dilemna. Out of personnal interest, I visited an orphanage.

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?

The Beaver

Thanks, Michelino en France, for posting on my guestmap! My guest map is wonderful ! And you'd all be wonderful to post, all of you lurk mode readers!
Thanks and may the winds of Fate blow your way !


nyasha said...

that is an absolute outrage! Are there no periodical inspections taking place? (i guess not...) but who sponsors/funds these orphanages? I am assuming they are locally run with no foreign staff at all? If no options are available, they are almost better off and safer on the streets trying to fend for themselves. I hope with the new elected administration, some of these practices will cease to be. I was in shock to read that approx. 20% of the population are orphans - that is nearly a quarter of the population!!
Very interesting post!

(¯`'•.¸¤IMMER_LEBEND¤¸.•'´¯) said...

HELLO THERE!! (*_-)--'

Beaver said...

Coffee Addict,

You are correct in assuming these institutions are not run by expatriates but by locals.

There is in Haiti an informal activity called "Business Ti-Moun" (BTM). FYI, Ti-Moun means child in creole. BTMs are people who take in street kids because they know that charity organizations are willing to fund orphanages.

Some of these people start from scratch and manage to sweet-talk these organizations (usually not NGOs but less controlled smaller scale charities) into sponsoring them, some fail.

The issue for these organizations then is with actually segregating BTMs from legitimate caregivers. This part is not easy. Con artists are not artists for nothing.

The other issue is monitoring, which can be insufficient because of staffing issues.

I would doubt that this is the scenario for ALL of the orphanages. But I'm told it happens quite a bit.

I don't know what Preval will do about it. He already made a few speeches about how he will "prepare the ground for the next president". Read: "people, have no expectations, I will only do little."

Immer Lebend, thanks for your kind wishes. Have the best time too!

Saur♥Kraut said...

WOW. I would compromise. I think the kids are better off in a good or at least decent orphanage. Isn't there Option "C": fire the current director/staff and get some new ones in there? Perhaps an American missionary would be available to oversee it? I would trust them more, because they are answerable to both their god and fellow Americans.

Gemma said...

In Dakar I once visited an orphanage: what I saw there really impressed me!

Por cierto, qué tal estás? Hace tiempo que no recibo ningún e-mail tuyo...

Cricketina said...

I don't know what to say. Things like this just overwhelm me and I shut down. It's SOOOOOO sad and seems so un-fixable (don't think that's a word but I don't care). I wish I could help each one of them. But, there's so little I feel I can actually do. There's so much tragedy in the world. So much we could do if we got our heads out of our own asses. So much that could be accomplished if we did without something small. But, we're unwilling or don't know how.

I guess that's a tangent. I just don't know how to think or feel when faced with overwhelming issues. :'(

Liquidplastic said...

Reading this is so very painful, but oh so necessary. I think the children are better off in the streets, and that is very sad indeed. Oh my dear Beav' how your heart must ache seeing such inhumanity.

What a paradox for those who understand and have lived in such conditions. I feel so very helpless, because I am in no position to do anything to help, so I can't judge others. One thing for sure, inspite of how difficult your job seem, I am glad you are there and making a different in these children lives.

Peace and blessing to you dear one ... my thoughts are ever with you.