Wednesday, May 31, 2006

An Average Family?

Yesterday we took little baby Sophia to a rescue center. (Photo of her a few days ago. Scroll down, she is the big eyed beauty. Today the photos won't load for some dumb reason. Blogger is being a jerk.)

For those not into remembering details, she is the 11 month old baby girl that showed up at Lifeline on May 19 weighing about 8.5 lbs. She was dehydrated, refusing to eat, and just sort of lifeless. Her grandmother is 70 and is her current guardian/caretaker. She had been fed mostly flour mixed with water and some sugar, explaining her small size and malnourished look.

The people at the rescue center get their own separate blog entry...they were AMAZING. The real deal. More on them later.

Sophia is on our mind and heart right now. We think she is a gem of a baby girl.

She gained over a pound since May 19 so she is on her way to being a strong girl. It is so shocking to us to see kids this size. Britt was 8 lbs, Paige was 8 lbs and Noah was 7lbs, 5 oz. -- kids that are 11 months old should not be that size!

As we drove her to the ministry that agreed to take her for a time and help her gain more weight, we asked lots of questions of her Grandmother and older brother.

This is what they told us.

The grandmother had three children.

One of her children is Sophia's mother. Sophia's mother died five days after she gave birth to Sophia at the age of 45.

Sophia's mother had Alex first, in 1980. He is her oldest son who is currently 26. I know his name only because I have met him and spent some time with him. Then came a girl in 1986, who is now 20...a girl in 1990, who is now 16...a girl in 1992, who is now 14...a boy in 1995 who is now 11...a boy in 1999 who is now 7...a girl, Sophia, in 2005 - who turns one June 21st.

Besides the seven kids listed above they told us that she lost three children. They did not know or remember the ages of the kids when they died. (No one keeps track of birthday's here and many poorer people do not have any idea how old they are.) (To illustrate this point, Britt treats this guy with a tropical ulcer. He is clearly at least 20 years old, more like 30 ... when she asks him how old he is he says he does not know or he says he is seven.) I asked what the three kids died of, the response: "fever." To me, that means curable disease such as Malaria.

So... Sophia's birthmother died at age 45 shortly after giving birth to her 10th child. She died in Petit Bwa, the village we hike to now and again on the mountain behind La Digue. Sophia was born there, as were all the kids.

I asked about the whereabouts of all the other children who were left without a mother.

26 year old is married with one child, lives in Petit Bwa in his own house.
20 year old floats between Petit Bwa and LaDigue.
16, 11, and 7 year old live in the house their mom died in with no adults. All alone.
14 year old is a domestic servant for a family in a nearby town.

Baby Sophia has lived with the grandmother in LaDigue for the last 11 months.

When I asked why the 14 year old was given away and not the 16 year old? They did not really answer that question, they said that it was "good because when her mom was alive she set it up for these people to send her to school" in exchange for her help after school. They said that now, the girl does not go to school, the family that has her stopped sending her. I asked why they don't go get her back now that the deal they made is not what is happening. They just said it is better for her to be there, that she would not want to come back up the mountain to live.

Haiti is known to have over 300,000 children living in that situation. They were given to someone with a little more money as a way to get them food and maybe an education but in reality they are slaves. Here they are known as "restaveks."

For disturbing and very sad information on that go to:
Disclaimer: (I am not endorsing this ministry, just sharing some facts about Restavek's.)

Here is what broke my heart today. Alex, the oldest brother who rode along to drop Sophia off said "I really appreciate what you have done to help Sophia. If you ever need any work done or any help just tell me I will send one of the kids to help you." I was horrified. I quickly told Alex that there are no string attached to our help and that we did not desire to have any child come work for us, ever!

This whole story is too sad to me. To them it is very average. Dads are not around, moms die, kids live scattered about and on their own. This is a reality for them. It is a reality that is difficult for me to accept. (As if not accepting it changes anything.)

This weekend Troy and I hope to climb up to Petit Bwa and see where Sophie was born and meet the her siblings, especially the three kids that live up there alone.

When I think about the things these kids have endured, it makes me hope for something better for Sophia. Living as a domestic servant is an ugly life, living without a parent is an dreadful reality. Clearly she is a fighter, or 11 months of poor nutrition would have killed her. I have concerns about what happens to her when her 70 year old grandma is unable to care for her.

The only thing I know to do is pray. That's what I am doing, I hope you will too.