On 12 January 2010, many families lost their homes and had to sleep outside, living in fear of an aftershock. Just two weeks after the earthquake, a group of foreigners approached families, promising a better future for their children. Most of the children taken from their parents by the ten missionaries came from Calebasse, an area in the mountains outside of Port au Prince. Infrastructure is lacking, the dirt roads are full of potholes and there is only one school.
Education is a big issue in Haiti. An estimated 55 per cent of Haitians are illiterate, schools are mainly in private hands, and the monthly cost still does not guarantee high-quality education. It was the hope of their children receiving a good education which encouraged 22 parents to give away their children one year ago. "Everyone hopes for a good future for their children. They told us they would go to school and we could visit them", says the mother of two of the children, Leila and Soraja.
Thirty-three children were brought to the border of the Dominican Republic by the missionaries. There, the bus carrying the children was stopped by Haitian police. The children did not have valid documents - nor an idea of where they were being taken. After a night of discussion, all of the children were finally brought to the SOS Children's Village in Santo, where they were cared for until mid-March 2010. Haitian authorities decided to reunite all the children - who, contrary to the missionaries' statements, are not orphans - with their families.
The SOS mother, in whose SOS family house Leila and Soraja lived, keeps in touch with the girls. "They still call me once in a while. They say: Mama Joseline, we don't have much credit on the phone, but we wanted to say hello!" Joseline is proud that she was able to make their difficult time a bit easier by giving the two of them a temporary home.
Now, Leila and Soraja are visibly happy to be back at home. They are playing with their cousins, giggling and happily jumping around their mother while she talks to us. "For the next year we hope things will get better. All the things that happened to Haiti, we hope that they do not happen again", she says. The family were able to rebuild their home, and now earn money by offering internet on their computer to neighbours. "Thank god we are fine now. And also for the problem of the school, we will find a solution."
You can find out more details about our work in Haiti one year after the earthquake here.