“It is all about the children…”

Karen has the words in black letters right on her wall as you come in her front door, and they are painted on the walls outside the orphanage–it is all about the children. As a mother of 18 children here, all under the age of 18, and two daughters in Canada, it most certainly is all about the children for her and anyone who is involved, or visits, here. It is one of the main reasons that I the mother, and I the teacher, am drawn back to this beautiful home here in Deschapelles, surrounded by the mountains in what is the Artibonite Valley.

It has been a hot, busy week. ??? The daily sunshine and hot temperatures, along with the incredibly high humidity, has sucked the life out of me on some days, but hearing the giggles and chatter of those boys and girls, was often the key to a second wind for me.

Keeping kids busy in the classroom or at home is no different than here, except that the age range is quite broad, and not completely understanding the language makes it just about impossible to know who you’re supposed to side with in the struggle over who gets the red crayon, or who gets to sit on your lap next. And it doesn’t take long for these little tricksters to realize that, for them, it’s a good thing that I might not know all the rules, like, “No, you’re actually not allowed to use chalk to draw on that wooden table!”

The consequences of being lost in translation happened to me a few times when I was with the children. Luckily, though, it was never ‘arms and legs’ type situations, as my grandmother would say. I lost a few battles, along with a couple of games of “trouble,” but I did manage to develop some pretty sick multitasking skills–in the moments you’re awaiting your turn on the “trouble” board, you can manage to put a piece or two in a puzzle, and even manage a turn with a crayon, all before it was my turn to “pop” the plastic “trouble” bubble!

Don’t get me wrong, though…I am not afraid to admit that after close to an hour, my head was spinning, my brain was frazzled, and so was my hair, as some of the girls perched themselves on the table to comb, brush, and braid my hair, while snuggly 3 year old Magdala, crawled up into my lap at the same time.

This scene was replayed last night as both Beate and I spent most of our evening after supper in the HATS hair salon on the steps of the children’s home. At peak times, we had as many as three stylists each, who were frantically brushing, combing, and styling our hair. Sitting in my lap the whole time was little Markenson, who kept looking at my head in shock and awe at times, but he kept me occupied with songs and little conversations in my best attempt at broken Creole.

Close to an hour later, Beate and I were led by the hands from the salon to the main house to show Mama Karen our hairstyles. The boys and girls were quite proud of their accomplishments, and I was eventually sent from the salon sporting an off centre ponytail and combed out bangs, and a few less strands of hair on my head!

Before heading off to bed ourselves, Beate and I made the rounds in the girls’ house, getting and giving hugs, and singing a few good night songs. I know I went off to bed with a happy heart and a feeling of contentment that comes from those smiling faces and bubbly personalities.

Like driving in Haiti, sometimes being the supervisor of the children is not for the faint of heart, but you just have be able to “roll with it,” and you won’t be sorry you did because it IS all about the children, and they warm your heart! Hugs from Haiti ?

~Heather

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