I was interviewed by SUN FM from Vernon, BC (home!) yesterday while I was working at Medika Manba. One of the questions they asked was “Where are things at now? What’s the general feel of things there?”
It’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot over the last week or so. Friday marks one month post quake. I feel like we’re all stuck in this weird place. It’s a mix of still feeling raw, and yet trying to find a sense of normalcy. Driving through Port au Prince last week there were tent camps everywhere and people selling produce and goods on the street, just like always. A mix of being stuck in trauma and wanting what feels familiar. What is needed to move through the day. It’s strange and eerie. And difficult to describe. The initial crisis is over and everyone that I have talked to said that there is difficulty in moving from crisis mode to the second stage. Medical people are trying to get that shift to happen in their brains. It’s about maintaining and healing now. Where do we go from here?
One thing that was apparent to me last week, that is frustrating, is that now that the initial shock is over there are people who are working and working and working to try and make things better and move forward, and there are people who are back to things as same old, same old. Because of our adoption frustrations it is raw for me and it bugs me to see people blocking things that should be moving forward, because it is the way they have always functioned.
I want to talk about adoption for a minute. I want to talk about it because frankly I’m a little fed up. I believe that there should be a process to make sure that things are above board etc. What I’m fed up with is how long that process takes. Our file, for example, has been in the first stage – Haitian Social Services – for over 14 months. I’m sorry, but it should only take a few days to thoroughly read through a dossier. They are only about 40-50 pages long. There are things like home studies and police record checks in there. Everything to verify the process is there. It does not require months upon months to review a file. When people say things like “It’s a long process because they need to make sure everything is in check etc,” they are trying to make it sound like there is a well working system. In any well functioning country (Yeah, there will be those of you that want to tell me that North American has it’s problems. That’s fine, but really, not even on the same page.) an adoption can go through the entire process in a matter of months. Not years.
When we sat down with the Director of IBESR last week we found out they were missing ONE document from our dossier. The letter from our home province that said they were approving of the adoption and recognized that we were adopting while living abroad. For 14 months they have known that this document was needed. I had it in hand 3 months before our dossier was even submitted to IBESR and had submitted it to our orphanage. We are the first Canadian couple they have worked with so we anticipated it would be a case of navigating this together. We asked why no one had notified us. She asked if we had someone from the orphanage that was working with us and we said yes. She asked why they hadn’t come down. At that point Chris informed her that Junior had been down. Repeatedly. That he had sat for many days upon days asking for information about our dossier. That he had asked for meetings to find out why our dossier was not moving. That he had requested meetings with the Director to see what the hold up was. Each and every time he was told nothing and denied meetings.
We will not lie and we will not let people think that we have not tried. The truth needs to be put out there. In many cases here, the reason things take so long is not because it is a long process by need, but simply because people do not want to make it go faster. Unfortunately in many cases it is linked to corruption and knowing that people will pay to make things move. It is deep rooted and sad and infuriating. It makes me angry to hear people talk about working in the best interest of the children of Haiti, but that they are the same people that will look to their own interests first and block adoptions from moving forward.
That’s what I have to say about that.
Yesterday was Manba day. Things were nutty last week so I didn’t go. It was good to get back at it again. The clinic was busy, or at least felt really busy. The Canadian and Jamaican military had come last Friday and done a food distribution and helped in the clinic for the day, and every day since then people from the area had been showing up and just hanging out to see if there would be another distribution. It having people hanging out just left things feeling stressful. It was hard to know who was really there for the clinic and who was just milling. And because people were there for food, and we were doing Manba, it was hard to explain to a few people that it wasn’t a feeding program, but a program for kids that were sick.
Miss Jorann, the nurse that works Manba with me, spent part of the day down in the other clinic building helping the one other nurse (they’re short staffed) see patients. I was okay managing stuff for the most part until right before lunch when a mother walked in. She was obviously from the mountains, and was dripping with sweat from a long walk. I tried to listen to her, but there was a bunch of people already in the room and I was having trouble understanding her. Her baby was only three months old, too young for Manba. She was talking about coming for the food program and for milk and I just couldn’t figure out what she was wanting. I *thought* she was there because she had heard about the food distribution and thought we had a food program. As I was trying to talk to her three more mothers came in with their kids all asking me questions etc. Again, I was thinking they were there because of the food drop the week before. I asked them all to wait outside (normal practice) and tried to get through the rest of my consults so I could run up and get some lunch before it was gone.
After lunch I came back down and finished seeing the Manba kids. Then one at a time the moms that I didn’t recognize came in. One by one I realized they were all there for valid reasons, none of which were because they thought there was a food program. The first mom was there because she had come a month or so before and the nurses had given her a can of milk for her baby and told her to come back. One on one, when I could really talk to her we were able to figure out where the confusion was. I felt like a jerk and apologized for not understanding her and thanked her for her patience. She was so sweet and told me it was no problem. I told her that yesterday was hard because so many people had come. She understood. We weighed her baby and we both got excited with a really good weight gain since her last visit. I love it when moms get excited to see their kids getting healthy. I absolutely LOVE it.
Elsie was down for part of the morning and we had one mom come in for a return visit. Again, we were a bit confused at first as to why she was there, but as we talked we realized that she had come a couple weeks before to talk to one of the people at Canaan about her situation. The baby was only about two weeks old at that time and she was very conflicted about what to do. She didn’t think she could look after the baby. Yesterday she asked to go up and talk to the same man because he had told her to go home and think about things then come back. She wanted to tell him that she wanted to keep the baby, that she had realized how much she loved her child and that she was attached. Met Elfabre had told her that if she decided to keep the baby Canaan would try to help her get on her feet. I think that she thought Elsie and I would try to talk her out of her choice but when she told us we were so happy and excited for her. If a mom wants to keep her baby I am all for it. That’s how it should be. We really tried to encourage her that she was making the best choice. Her smile was so big and sweet.
Another mom came in after lunch. She showed me her baby, a sweet little 6 month old girl with beautiful baby chub. I asked mom why she came to the clinic. She told me she was worried her baby wasn’t getting enough milk. I asked if she was still breast feeding and she said she was. We had a great talk about growth spurts and that God made women’s bodies to meet the needs of their babies. We talked about not feeding her baby solid food before it was 6 months old, an important teaching here as many women start feeding things like flour water after a month or two. We talked about good nutrition for mom and got her some vitamins. We talked about drinking lots of water. I taught her how to burp her daughter. Mom was happy and encouraged to know she was doing a great job so far. I love times like that where I can talk woman to woman, mom to mom.
We have another little girl in Manba who should be graduating next week. She comes with her grandmother from St. Marc. I LOVE Gran. Such a sweet, enthusiastic woman. Each week when I tell her that her granddaughter has had a good weight gain she gets so excited. She said that Mom is so happy to see how well the little girl is doing too. Just before they left yesterday Gran pulled me aside to tell me that she wasn’t sure if she was going to have money for the tap tap next week. I told her I couldn’t give her money. She said, “No, no, I wasn’t asking. I just wanted to let you know that I’m going to try and find the money so I can come, but if we’re not here it’s because I didn’t, but we’ll be here the week after. I just wanted to tell you so you would know why I wasn’t here.” Sigh. I LOVE it when people take the program seriously like that, and when you see people planning and thinking ahead. Haitian culture is so day to day that many people don’t think ahead because they don’t even know what the rest of the day will hold for them. It was a sweet moment with a lady I like a lot.
Yesterday morning I had to pray that God would give me enthusiasm for the day. I was just having a hard time getting geared up. It was a long day, but it was a good day. When I arrived and greeted Rose Andre, the nurse that runs the pharmacy, she gave me a hug because she hadn’t seen me in two weeks. All the ladies were happy to see me, and as we finished up for the day we spent some time talking and laughing together. Just as women and co-workers. Yesterday I came home feeling connected to people, and that’s a good feeling.