One of my main jobs here is to simply listen to people. Any time someone comes to the gate, Roseline and I are the first ones to go see them. We sit with these families, sometimes for over an hour, and simply just listen to their stories. They are almost always heart breaking. Stories of death, poverty, starvation, rape, abuse, and much more. I can't tell you how many times I've had someone look me in the eyes and say "My children and I are suffering."
This suffering is unlike anything I can ever relate to. It's not like when I haven't eaten for a couple hours and say "I'm Starving." They truly know what starvation looks like. The families I interact with everyday are truly suffering.
More often than not, all I can do is listen. I listen to all these stories, and send most of the people away with very little or no help. For every child we admit, I would say we turn away somewhere between 6-10 others. But still, I take the time to hear them out.
Today I met with two very different families, both with very difficult stories.
The first family was referred to us by other missionaries from about 3 hours away. They have a 2 month old baby who tested positive for HIV. The other missionaries have cared for the baby for the past 11 days and literally saved his life. They drove the family up here to see if there was anything we could do for their child.
As I talked to the family, both Mom and Dad refused to admit that their baby was positive. I asked if I could retest the child so that we would know for sure. They agreed. Our Haitian Pediatrician was here today, and so I asked him to administer the test and discuss the results with the family, because with the circumstances, I thought it would be accepted better from him then from me. This test also came back positive.
We spent a significant amount of time talking with these parents trying to ensure that they understood what this means. That they understood how important it was to get the baby medical attention as soon as possible. To ensure they understood that the baby could still grow up and live a healthy normal life. Several times both parents looked me straight in the eyes and informed me that their baby was NOT HIV positive. I told them we didn't have to take their baby in order to help them and that they could continue to raise him, but medical care was needed. They refused to listen, adamant that the baby was not positive.
We told them about clinics that offer free appointments and medication for HIV+ children. I wrote down their phone numbers and encouraged them to call them to set up an appointment. They took the paper but I don't know if they will ever call.
I can't imagine what was going through there heads today. Not only did they learn that their precious baby is sick, but also that one, or likely both, of them are as well. In Haiti, most people think that HIV is a death sentence. We tried to explain that there was treatment available for them and that they could receive it for free. They had to be terrified. I'm sure they have no one to talk to about this as the stigmas about HIV are so strong, and therefor will likely always keep it a secret. This secret, will likely cause them to loose their precious baby, and eventually each other.
They walked out of our pharmacy and out our gate, refusing to accept any help. Now I can only pray that they take that piece of paper out of their pocket and make a life saving phone call. Please pray for this family during this difficult time, and please pray specifically for Baby W. who doesn't have the ability to make this life changing decision for himself.
Immediately after this family, I met with another family, a Dad, his cousin, and his young son. Another family, another heart breaking story. The longer I talked with them, the more I realized how much this father loves his child. At one time he even began crying as we discussed what adoption meant and what would be in the best interest of his baby. This mans wife died a few months ago, leaving him responsible for caring for his 6 young children. He works cultivating land, but can't care for all the kids on his own.
He asked his sister in law to help him care for 4 of the 6 kids. She agreed, but a few months in, decided she couldn't be responsible for this many children, and gave the oldest away as a Restavak (child slave) to a family in Cap Haitien. The Aunt leaves the baby in the care of his 7 year old sister all day long while she works. If the 7 year old isn't available, she puts him in a chair and he sits there all by himself, for hours on end until she comes home.
Dad doesn't want adoption, he loves his baby, but he knows he can't care for him and fears that his Sister in Law will turn his other kids into Restavaks as well. Whats this father to do. Again, I can't even begin to imagine.
These are the stories I hear daily. I don't want this child to die of HIV because the parent fear of being outcasts from their friends and family. I want to find a way to help them. I don't want to put this child up for adoption, but know the child can't live with the aunt either. I want to find a way for the Dad to be able to successfully care for all of his children because he so clearly loves them. But I can't. I can't change the stigmas here. I can't keep every family together. This world is broken, so deeply broken that there will always be these stories.
I have to make decisions every day. I have to decide whether or not to allow this father to put his child up for adoption. If I do, he'll live the rest of his life missing his baby. His son will grow up in a new family, be loved, and well cared for, but always wonder why he couldn't stay with his family in Haiti. If I don't do adoption for this child, I take the chance that he'll be turned into a child slave.
Sometimes I can't do much at all. But I can listen. I can hear their stories. I can respect these families enough, love them enough, and bless them enough, to take an hour out of my day to sit there and talk to them. To truly learn their whole story. Sometimes listening doesn't feel like enough, but maybe, sometimes it's just what these families need. I have had 3 people cry in my office this week as they are telling me their struggles. All I can do is listen and pray for them.
Will you please pray for these families as well. Pray for these two families in particular. Pray for the multiple families I talked to last week, and pray for the multiple families I will talk to this week. Pray God will find a way to end their suffering. Pray God will give me the ability to know when I can and when I can't help. And especially, pray for the babies that come into our lives everyday.
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