Sunday, April 11, 2010

Buckner Day: Part Two, Village Espoir

The second half of my day with friends from Buckner. We finished our visit at Hopital Espoir (Hope Hospital) and went on to Village Espoir (Hope Village), an orphanage run by the same people who run the hospital. Buckner (through their affiliate Dillon International) has done adoptions from this orphanage and sent humanitarian aid, but does not run the orphanage or send mission trip teams there (though it should start sending teams- everybody wants to serve in Haiti right now!).
Matt, Buckner's director of international humanitarian aid, gets a high five.
Chalkboard with sweet little math problems. We did not go inside the main building of the orphanage where the roughly 50 children under... maybe 8 or 10?..... live. All the children we saw were outside. Our visit was unannounced, so nobody was really there to give us an official greeting or a tour (I also did not ask anybody from the orphanage any questions, so everything I report here is drawing my own conclusions from observation). Randy, Sergio, and Tricia had been there in December. We saw a few cracks with some fallen-off plaster, but nothing looked really serious.
This is the view from the front porch of the main building (a smaller side building is for special needs kids exclusively). When we arrived, most of the kids we could see were under this tree with a few nannies, just chillin.
It was not very impressive, frankly. I did not see enough nannies for 50 kids, but, then again, I did not count nearly 50 kids, either. Perhaps more were inside. There were a few things made of metal and wood, such as those table/bench pieces and a colorful wooden playpen (see below), that did not look particularly safe for toddlers due to sharp edges.
 This photo was shot in from the front door of the orphanage. I didn't go further inside.
 Mosquito net surrounds a little sleeping baby.
This little crib held two. The standing baby was yelling, and had quite a crust from a long-dripping nose. No sheets on the little mattress.
A bunch of kids played with a well-loved and broken-down chalkboard. The little guy in the orange (on the right, hidden from view by the white-shirt-baby's crib) is poking a metal stick that looked like rebar through a hole in the chalkboard.
I love their sweet drawings, and I love her beautiful eyes.
The driveway was covered with tents and tarps. I walked over there because I heard lots of laughter and little voices coming from inside the tents. I peeked in one, but it was empty. I'm not sure if the kids are sleeping in the tents due to earthquake damage, earthquake fear, or maybe they're not sleeping there at all?
A lady in a hospital gown was resting under this tree with a newborn baby in a basket beside her along with a pair of crutches. I asked if it was her baby (or at least I really tried to find those words in Kreyol!) and she said yes. I couldn't ascertain her age- she looked too old to be one of the orphans in care, but much younger than the other nannies, who were grandma-age with white hair.
Broken little play area.
I heard lots of laughing coming from this tent. I peeked inside, and all I could see were two things (look very closely): a pink plastic shoe near the top of the slit, and two pairs of brown little toes at the bottom.
This girl was friendly and came up for a hug. She was a bit of a mess and carried a pink plastic Easter egg.
Drawings and coloring book page.
This was was taking some food in her tent. Looks like rice. None of the kids I saw had shoes on, except one (you'll see him in a minute).
These next photos are tough. This is inside the special needs building. There are between 20 and 25 of these extremely handicapped children.
These two were near the door, resting under mosquito nets. I'm not sure if they were asleep, but they didn't make a sound.
The special needs common room. There were other rooms off this one- maybe bedrooms. In this main room, the kids were in two long rows racing each other. What struck me first was how many of them there were. In other orphanages I've visited in Guatemala and Honduras, special needs kids are always separated from the others, but the most I've seen in one place is maybe ten before.

The second thing that struck me is how fancy their wheelchairs were- really nice ones with lots of additional padding.
Look at those legs. Several kids looked normal sized, but others were extremely thin. Most of the children had tongues out, drooling, and held their limbs in unusual ways. They were rocking back and forth, making spasm kinds of movements, or looked blank. I'm not sure if the caretakers use tube feeding, but I saw them feeding on kid and it looked very difficult. Could account for the bone-thin legs on this boy in the center. What an incredible labor of love to care for such profoundly disabled kids.

For a minute I stood in the front of the room, kind of stunned. Then I made a lap around the room, petting each one a little bit on the arm, saying bonsoir and sava cherie. It's pretty much as far as my Kreyol goes, but most of them met my eye and responded in some way. Sometimes their response was to kind of wail, or rock back and forth faster, and I worried I was overexciting or upsetting or something, but Randy and Sergio assured that was probably a happy sign.
Saint. Straight. Up. Saint. This woman will go straight to the front of the line in heaven, and I will not begrudge it one bit. Can you imagine her life? The kind of care these kids require? Can you imagine bathing 25 of them, unable to support themselves or move normally, perhaps many of them in diapers? Can you imagine the bedtime routine? She was making the rounds as I watched, swatting flies off their faces with a towel.
Her name is Alexandra. The part of this room, strangely enough, that brought me to tears was seeing her name written on the tray. She has a name, and it is Alexandra. Even if I thought she was a boy. Even if she does nothing all day but drool, even if she "contributes" in no appreciated way, even if nobody ever adopts her (and they likely will not).

My God knows Alexandra's name, and he thinks of her as often as he thinks of me. We are equally valuable to him, and she sits at the best table in my God's upside-down kingdom.
I noticed a white powder on their armpits and feet- I guess it must be a sort of deodorant?
This one watched something on a tv.
I left the special needs building deeply moved. As I exited, these kids were against the back wall of the orphanage. Not sure if they are actually doing laundry or playing in the water, or both.
A common thread at orphanages I've visited in three countries- chalk drawings on the wall. Always the same subjects, always really tug at my heart. Again, rusted rebar sticking up, at child height.
I saw this room through the window full of toys.
Tricia says goodbye. With her French, she was able to speak to many.
Front yard
A solitary figure. This was the only little guy I saw wearing shoes. Brand new baby tennies. But, no pants. 
Village Espoir



  1. Katie,

    Thank you for the profound reminder that He does indeed have written on His heart.

  2. Wow. I feel so many emotions at once seeing these pictures. Thank you for sharing them with us.

  3. Was just at this same orphange for an afternoon the week before you. We then spent an entire week at an orphange in Thomazeau. Loved seeing your pictures and some familiar faces!

  4. Hi Ben and Katie--we too visited this orphanage and fell in love with some of the children there. Do you have contact information for the Village Espoir? We would like to inquire about adoption.

  5. Hi Jessica! I know that Buckner International ( works with this orphanage, or did in the recent past. That might be a good place to start.



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