Friday, March 1, 2013


During my first week in Haiti, I met a precious little girl named Rosaline.  We rode into this little village and about 40 vibrant kids chased after our tap-tap and started cheering, "The whities are here, the whities are here!"  It was quite the scene that unfolded.  We sat in the back of this pick-up truck and witnessed how riled up people could get just by our presence.  I was laughing with them, smiling at them, and waving to them.  Their happiness was infectious.  But then I saw these eyes staring at me.  Rosaline's eyes.  They were the biggest, saddest, eyes I've ever seen.  I was hoping that she'd snap out of this glare she was giving me, and soon be as happy as the rest of the children.  This was not the case.

When we got out of the tap-tap, we made our way into a building where school is held, and where some of the orphan children sleep.  While we were talking to the people in charge of this makeshift orphanage, I looked over to the corner of the room.  There was Rosaline sitting all alone.  She was perched on a bench, just staring at us with those cold eyes again that rarely blink.  While all the other kids were outside playing and laughing, Rosaline secluded herself and just sat and stared.  I couldn't help myself, so I went over and held her.  I painted her nails and made silly faces at her.  I tickled her, sang her songs, bounced her on my knee, gave her toys, etc.  I did anything and everything to make her smile and get that incredibly heartbreaking expression off of her face.  I just wanted to make her happy and then go out and play with her and the rest of the kids.  But Rosaline isn't like the rest of the kids.

Seeing Rosaline (center) for the second time
After learning and doing a little research about worms and parasites in Haiti, everything clicked.  Rosaline is the prime example.  She has a swollen belly, yet her arms and legs are very thin.  She looks and acts as if she's had the life sucked out of her.  From the little food Rosaline gets everyday, the parasites eat about 20% of that food intake.  This leaves her malnourished and it also affects her brain. These parasites actually directly alter the chemistry of the brain, which contributes to slower development and a much lower performance in school.  How do kids like Rosaline get these parasites in their system?  Just imagine the dust after the earthquake three years ago.  Michael described to me how the entire city of Port-au-prince was fully covered in a cloud of dust.  The parasites live in this dust and unclean drinking water.  There was no way to protect yourself from ingesting them.  Now there aren't clouds of dust around making this inevitable today, but it's still very easy to get these parasites into a child's system.  If you already have a weak immune system, just sitting in the dirt is a way they can be ingested.  It's still hard to prevent even though the Haitian people know they are supposed to wash their hands, keep their fingernails clean, wash their food, fully cook their meat, and avoid the dirt.  That would be easy to do in a developed country.  But not everyone has access to clean, running water and I can tell you firsthand that dirt isn't always the easiest thing to avoid.

So what's the answer?  Education about how to prevent these parasites is important.  But more importantly - medicine.  There is medication that combats worms from somebody's system for 6 whole months.  Each dose of medication is around $10.  I've started a fundraiser at if anyone wants to check out how they can directly bring life back into a child.

Rosaline asleep on my lap
We went back to the orphanage yesterday during school hours and we were again welcomed by about 40 children.  Rosaline was there wearing not only the exact same outfit, but the exact same expression on her face.  I immediately gravitated toward her and just held her and held her.  I could sense all the other school children getting angry that I was putting all my attention into this little girl and not as much into them.  Another thing I sensed was that Rosaline remembered me.  Last time I held her, I could tell she was scared that some strange white person was forcing a pink hue onto her nails and toys in her face.  But this time, she held onto ME.  I could seriously hold this child for an entire day if that allowed.  I went and sat down in the tap-tap with her on my lap, and Michael starting telling us more about her story.

Purpose 1: school walls
Purpose 2: the kids' beds
Both of her parents died in the earthquake and she was taken in by her aunt soon after.  Her aunt somehow contacted the pastor in her village and knew that he could provide better care for her.  Therefore, Rosaline is technically an orphan.  She lives with the pastor, whom the kids all call Grandpa.  Grandpa also cares for three other orphans, aside from his own kids, and runs a school on his land.  At night when shade from the woven coconut leaves isn't necessary anymore, they take down the woven leaves to use as a bed.

By looking at Rosaline's size, we can probably guess that she was born right before the earthquake.  We may never know what trauma this little girl endured, but we can make some assumptions based on what she's like today.  It's our understanding that Rosaline probably has some kind of mental disability on top of everything else.

"Grandpa" is a good man
Then Chad started asking me what I want to do for this little girl I've become so attached to.  I was so overwhelmed and wanted to do so much.  The only thing my emotions let me do was cry my eyes out.  I couldn't even think rationally as Rosaline sat there on my lap.  After finding out that she won't be eating today becuase their food delivery wouldn't come until next week, my first answer to Chad's question was, "I'd like to feed her."  I also said I wanted to give her the medications that would rid her of the parasites.  But will that really make her into the bubbly little girl that I wish she could be?  Will that cure everything and make her life perfect from here on out?  No.

Michael said that he would like to give her a safe and secure place to sleep each night.  Grandpa wishes to build a dormitory to house about 100 boys and girls on his land.  With some good shelter, we'd not only be helping Rosaline, but we'd be impacting the lives of multiple kids.  Michael also said that he'd want to give her some good and consistent medical care.  I felt so naive thinking that a meal and a dose of medication would be of much help in the long run.  Michael saw how hard of time I was having with all of this, and gave me a sheet of paper he had scribbled something on.  That something said, "Quiz!  List 5 things you'd like to do for Rosaline?"  I was still a mess from crying, and trying to put all my thoughts into a list of 5 made me cry even more.

When I finally put the pen to the paper, here's what I came up with:
1) Provide her with a decent place to live where it's safe and secure every night
2) See to it that she receives a variety of nutritious meals every day
3) Make the parasite medication accessible to her every 6 months
4) Give her a good, quality education
5) Make sure she is always cared for and loved

How possible are all of these things?  What can a 21-year-old girl do about this?  And reading through my list, would each item be that much harder to accomplish for 100 kids as opposed to just one?  We can house, feed, medicate, educate, and love many more than just Rosaline.  Our dream is to make a difference, and I'm beginning to realize that a 21-year-old girl can help.

1 comment:

  1. The line that I liked the best was:

    "I'm beginning to realize that a 21-year-old girl can help."