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Faimée at the CFS

This is the story of Faimée, a five-year-old little girl who attends the FH Haiti Child Friendly Space (CFS) in the Siloe neighborhood of Port-au-Prince.  She lost her leg during the January 12 earthquake.  The following is what she told me when I visited her and her family one Monday afternoon in Siloe.

“Before the earthquake, I helped my mother with chores at home.  I could wash the dishes, go to the street market to buy things for her, and also prepare meals.  I could walk to get water for the house when my mother needed it.”

Born June 4, 2005, Faimée is an only child.  She lives with her parents and her young uncle Tiga, whom she deeply loves.  She was at preschool before the earthquake.  January 12 she was at home watching television when the earth began to shake.

“I yelled a lot and then everything went black.  I couldn’t hear anything.”

Faimée spent two days under the rubble of her house before her mother and neighbors could pull her out.  She was in a coma for several days and when she woke up one of her legs was missing. “When I asked my mama about my leg, she began to cry.”  Her mother cried and couldn’t find the words to explain to her five-year-old daughter why her leg had to be amputated.

Her family lost their home and everything they owned. “I lost my dolls, my book bag, everything.”

Now Faimée and the rest of her family live in the street.  She was sad because she couldn’t return to school- her parents could not afford to pay the school fees for their little girl.  She had to lie down most of the time and she needed someone to take care of her.

One day Faimée joined a Child Friendly Space and began to benefit from the time she spent with her new friends there.  Now she can walk with crutches and participates in the CFS every day.  “Now, I can help my mother again.  The CFS is like school, but more fun.”

She was accepted by the other students and feels secure again.  Her favorite activities are singing and drawing. “I like the CFS because I can play many games and I see a lot of children every day.  They are my friends now.”

The presence of Faimée at the CFS is a blessing for the other students and teachers.  They learn to set aside their differences in order to help others.  “The children can become children again,” declared one volunteer.

Faimée carries the marks of the earthquake’s violence, but her eyes are full of hope.  “I want to be a doctor,” she says, smiling.

Faimée’s father works for FH Haiti, in the Cash for Work program. Now he can provide for the basic needs of his family.  Faimée was registered in the FH Child Development Program and we are here to help her find her happiness and her health again.

By Emmanuelle Anglade and Mario Bellevue

Translated by Lauren Marshall

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First night upon arriving in Haiti that I’m unable to drift off to sleep.   Lying awake here in sweltering humidity and heat, listening to the downpour of rain slow down to a trickle, the continual whir of the fan… while random thoughts keep flooding my mind.  Strangely, Haiti reminds me so much of Africa that I keep forgetting where I am.   It’s not just me – a number of my colleagues have also made similar comparisons between Haiti and parts of Africa.

Speaking with Haitians, I keep sensing this deep loss, grief, and constant worry lingering beneath the surface of their strong facades (facades that allow them to function day to day).  Haitians know the earthquake incident was tragic, but they are only too aware that life must also go on.  Even upcoming joys have now become bittersweet – one of our drivers will be having his first baby in the next few months and yet he and his wife are currently still living in a tent on the streets.  When he speaks about his coming child, his excitement about the baby is clearly dampened by worries of how his family will live once the baby is born.  People’s eyes still immediately glisten with tears at the mere mention of January 12 … I’ve had to watch so many people try all too hard to hold themselves together when you can clearly see the tears threatening to spill out.

The majority of the city still doesn’t have electricity and after 7:30 pm, much of the city becomes completely pitch dark.  Older married men have been taking advantage of the cover of darkness to approach teenage girls for sex, offering food and everyday necessities that girls may lack.  Some women now live under nothing but sheets and sticks, offering little to no protection from men who choose to steal sexual pleasures from them in the dead of the night.

One of the reasons I love working with children as much as I do is because of their hope and resilience.  Not all children will find it immediately, but when they do, their slices of hope and joy amidst suffering and ability to infectiously spread this to those around them… well, I find this to be more beautiful than anything I can possibly imagine.

-Deborah Tsuchida
Gender-based Violence Advisor
FH Haiti

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Rev. Kenneth Brown, Food for the Hungry’s Trauma Recovery Coordinator, is helping Haitians set up “child friendly spaces” in response to the January 12, 2010 earthquake that devastated Port au Prince. This report was filmed by Marvin Orellana and  Peter Clark.

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