When we tell visitors that many of the children at Espwa have living parents, they are surprised. When we explain that many people in Haiti choose which of their children they are able to support and leave the rest at an orphanage, they are appalled.
“How could you choose to leave one child behind? That’s awful,” they say.
“I would never do that to my children. How terrible!” they mutter.
It’s only after you see someone who is faced with that choice that you begin to understand. It’s not a relatable experience for many of us. As a white, middle-class, employed, American woman with supportive parents and extended family, I can’t say I can relate to that experience directly. If I had an unplanned child, as difficult as it surely would be, I’m sure I have enough support and privileges that things would find a way of working out. Most of the people who bring their children here, do not have those same privileges or support.
Imagine looking at your baby and seeing the telltale thin, red hair of malnourishment. Imagine knowing you won’t be able to feed them tomorrow with all of their brothers and sisters because you simply don’t have enough money. For many parents, dropping their child off here is a difficult decision. But at the end of the day all they want to know is that their child will be well cared for.
Today a man stopped by with his 2 ½ week old baby. Her name is Angel. He can’t afford to support her anymore and brought her to us. I got to hold her for a few minutes and feel the little person wiggling around inside the blankets ready to grow. He couldn’t support her, but if you saw him look at her, you would know he loves her. He’s not dropping her off because he’s a horrible parent or because he likes her less than other children he may have. He’s dropping her off because he loves her and knows her chances are better at an orphanage.
There’s hope and compassion in that I think. For many of us, it’s a very difficult if not impossible scenario to relate to, but it happens here all the time (and probably in the states too). Espwa will help the father send Angel to an orphanage nearby: run by one of the Espwa graduates. They will better be able to care for a newborn baby than we can.
At only 2 ½ weeks you can already see that Angel is full of joy. As I held her, her little lips pulled back into a wide smile. It’s impossible to say what challenges lie ahead of her in life, but today I saw a father make a brave and difficult decision on her behalf. That’s a beginning.