Haiti’s orphans look toward uncertain future
Port-au-Prince, Haiti – Stephanie Silencieux and Bergeline Jean Simon have been living at Foyer L’escale, a UNICEF-supported orphanage in Port-au-Prince, since a few days after the January 12 earthquake. Both girls were separated from their families as the disaster unfolded, and were eventually placed by UNICEF in the orphanage. In a series of news stories over the coming weeks, UNICEF will report on the girls’ progress as they enter an entirely new phase of their lives without their families.
Since the earthquake, UNICEF has been working with its partners on the ground in Haiti to identify and register children orphaned or separated from their families during the disaster. In every case, UNICEF ensures that the child is properly cared for in a protected space while efforts are made to reunify them with family members.
Stephanie is a nine-year-old girl from Port-au-Prince with an infectious laugh and plenty of energy. Her favorite school subject is history and she loves playing football with her friends in the yard of Foyer L’escale.
Stephanie was alone in her family’s home when the earthquake struck. She sustained minor injuries as the house collapsed and was taken by her family to a local hospital for treatment. No one ever came to pick Stephanie up from the hospital. Not her mother, father or any of her five siblings. She was left to fend for herself at nine-years-old.
After hospital staff contacted UNICEF, Stephanie was registered and placed in the excellent care of the staff at Foyer L’escale. That was January 28.
Bergeline Jean Simon
|© UNICEF Canada 2010|
|Bergeline (second from right) and Stephanie (right) join other students in front of the UNICEF classroom at Foyer L’escale.|
Bergeline is a lanky ten-year-old, taller than many of her peers. While soft-spoken, she is full of humor and life. On the outside, she seems at first glance like any other girl her age, but Bergeline’s eyes betray a deep sadness.
On the afternoon of January 12, 10-year-old Bergeline went outside her family’s home to play with friends in the street. At about 5PM, the earthquake destroyed her house while her parents and four siblings were still inside. Bergeline watched as rescuers tried in vain to help her family members out from under the rubble. Her entire immediate family perished.
UNICEF was also notified of Bergeline’s situation. She arrived at Foyer L’escale on January 29.
A new life
Bergeline and Stephanie have both endured the kind of tragedy and heartache that no child should ever know. They are confused, fearful and saddened by the circumstances that have befallen them.
But they are strong and they are resilient. Despite being at Foyer L’escale for less than a week, I found them both in the company of new friends and with smiles on their faces. UNICEF and the staff at the orphanage, including a social worker and psychologist, are providing the girls with comfortable shelter, nutritious food and clean water, education and psychosocial therapy. A sense of normalcy is being restored to their lives and they are already developing the skills and education needed for their future. All the while, UNICEF and its partners are also working to reunify the girls with other family members.
For Bergeline, this is her first time in school. Already she loves writing in chalk on the blackboard and hopes to one day become a teacher herself.
The road ahead will not be easy for Bergeline, Stephanie or any of the other 54 orphans at Foyer L’escale, but UNICEF and its partners will be there to make sure these children can travel it successfully.
Check back soon for an update on Stephanie and Bergeline.