Haiti: A home for a child orphaned by Hurricane Jeanne

By Sylvana Nzirorera and Kun Li
PORT-AU-PRINCE, 26 September 2005 -- "When Hurricane Jeanne hit Gonaives [one year ago], my home was destroyed and both my parents died," said Daniel Joseph, 11. With no one to turn to for help, Daniel went to Port-au-Prince, the capital.

"I came to Port-au-Prince by climbing onto the back of a bus. One day, a lady saw me crying on the street. She brought me to the police station, and after two days they brought me to this centre," said Daniel.

The centre is called 'Le Centre d'Aide au Développement' (CAD), a Haitian non-governmental organization that provides a home for otherwise homeless children like Daniel. Supported by UNICEF, CAD hosts roughly 280 girls and boys aged 6-19, providing them with shelter, food, health care, education, and life skills training.

"The first time I saw Daniel, he had no shoes on and had a cut on his right finger. He was crying and traumatized," recalled Marline Mondésir, Director of CAD. "We treated his injury, and asked a psychologist to help him with his emotional wounds. Since he came here, he has gained weight, and is doing much better."

A home and an education

"In this centre, they teach us writing and reading, as well as math and French," said Daniel. "I like math a lot. I have made many friends here. After classes, we like to play cards and listen to music together.

"At the centre, every boy and girl washes his or her own clothes. Some of the older children are also learning mechanics, and how to sew."

Besides providing a place for the children to live and continue their education, CAD also assists in reuniting them with their families. For Daniel, the sole member of his family to survive last year's hurricane, CAD is now his only home.

Haiti has been hit hard by poverty, political instability and natural disasters; the hurricane killed over 2,500 people in Gonaives, among them Daniel's parents. An increasing number of children are being left without family and forced to live on the streets. It is estimated that there are more than 2,000 street children in Port-au-Prince alone, and the figure is on the rise.

Caring for the vulnerable

Children who live on the street are often forced to survive by washing cars, loading buses and begging. Some also become involved with prostitution. Their health and hygiene conditions are very precarious, and they are constantly at risk of exposure to HIV/AIDS.

Foster care centres like CAD have played a major role in protecting these vulnerable children, and doing what's possible to give them a normal childhood.

Protecting vulnerable children like Daniel from exploitation and abuse is a priority for UNICEF Haiti. "With help from UNICEF, we try and give these children as much as we can, so they won't go back and live on the streets any more," said Ms. Mondésir.

Daniel is now living happily and healthily at CAD. "I want to continue studying and become a mechanic when I grow up. I wish that all children who don't have a home could find a home, and learn to read and write like me."