Monday, March 14, 2005

Bare, dusty feet in Haiti

Here in Haiti. Internet connection slower than watching paint dry. Things are quite calm.

I don't know what it is about this country that tugs at me like a small child yanking at my sleeve, why I love coming here and hate coming here. I love the quiet simplicity of some of the poor people and I hate it when some of them get so wired and scream at us, as one woman did at us today. I hate the poverty, the suffering, the haunted misery in the eyes that meet mine, sometimes defiant and angry at me, the seemingly rich blanc (white) with her blonde hair and notebook charging into their lives, asking personal questions, who then can board an airplane and leave.

And then I forget all that when I meet kids like the little boy with the dusty, bare feet.

Ten years old. He hunts for food during the day, like an animal nosing about for scraps. He has 11 brothers and sisters at home who rely on him. His dad makes pennies selling coconuts at the airport.

His feet were bare, caked with grime and dust. I asked when he had last eaten. He told me yesterday. I asked him if he would eat the food if he got any. He said, "No I will take it home first to my brothers and sisters because they are hungry."

It was past noon. He hadn't eaten anything yet. He came to our feeding program hoping for scraps. Wasn't on the list, but he heard they gave out leftovers to kids. So every day he comes to our feeding program, stands in line in the hot sun for hours. And he gets beaten up. The rough, older boys push and "they trample me."

He has to pass by the bridge connecting the dirt road to the slum, the bridge where his cousin got shot and killed two days ago. This bridge is right behind our warehouse.

"I was scared the first day I passed there."

His mother died when he was only two years old. His biggest fear? What he prays for at night. "I pray before I go to sleep that my dad never gets shot and killed because if he does, I will never be able to eat."

At ten years old, his eyes are aged. This little boy, with his bare feet, his torn olive pants, is carrying a heavy weight on his shoulders. He's seen too much. Felt too much.

We got him and his friend food, big tin cans filled with rice and vegetables. And as they walked off, I silently reminded myself, "This is why you go to Haiti. This is why.

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