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Haiti- The 33 New Life missionaries collected kids to be reunited with their families

The kids the New Life missionary scavengers attempted to bus from Citron and  Calebasse to the Dominican Republic have been staying in an SOS Children’s Village  since January 30th, the day after the aborted child export attempt on Jan 29th.

Today news came that the kids will be returned to their families. According to the release from SOS the verification process to ensure those claiming them are indeed family has been part of the reason the kids have no returned before now.

The children arrived on 30 January, when SOS Children’s Villages was assigned the task of taking care of them temporarily by the Haitian child welfare authority IBERS (The Institut du Bien Etre Sociale et De Recherches), following the arrest of a group of ten US nationals who had tried to take them out of the country under dubious circumstances and without proper documentation.

Following a lengthy process of family verification handled by IBERS, the children, aged four months to twelve years, can now return home.

“It has turned out that all of the 33 children have parents. SOS Children’s Villages is convinced that in most cases, the best place for a child to be cared for and protected is within the family. In any case, poverty and lacking resources must not be allowed to be the cause for separation. We are therefore very supportive of the decision of the Haitian authorities to reunite these children with their biological families,” says Celigny Darius, national director of SOS Children’s Villages in Haiti.

During their stay, all 33 children participated in the daily life of the SOS Children’s Village and have each been integrated into a household. Siblings and cousins lived under the same roof and all received medical care and professional help from psychologists and SOS social workers.

“I have made some good friends here and enjoyed playing football, but I miss my mother and now it will be nice to go home,” says 9-year old Michael.

The return of the kids is far from some ‘end’ to the story though, as the release points out, the climate of desperation that led to these kids being placed on the New Lifer’s bus is every bit as present today (if not more so) than it was back in January:

“This case has highlighted the risks of separation in emergency situations, when destitute families see no other way than to give up their children. Even before the earthquake many families in Haiti were at risk of being separated due to poverty. Unfortunately, as access to medical care, food, water, shelter, and other services continues to be more limited than before, the situation still puts children at risk. It is essential that relief efforts focus on preventing separation by ensuring that families have access to basic necessities,” Celigny Darius says.

The voices of the kids have been largely absent from the coverage though this piece, The child snatchers: Special report from Haiti on the U.S. missionaries accused of ’stealing orphans’ and why – most shockingly of all – their parents say they would give them away again in the (odious tabloid) Daily Mail UK does a better job of profiling the kids themselves than most.

For example, it makes the rare mention of the anger at least one of the boys has expressed towards his mother who “gave him away:”

One boy has told staff he will never go back to his mother because she gave him away. Another girl talks repeatedly about the bus journey, before bursting into tears. As for Benatide, a lot of the time she stays silent and deep in thought. Every day, she begs to make a call to her brother.

We have read very little about the families and parents other than portraits such as the below in this article, AP finds all Baptist group’s ‘orphans’ had parents:

One mother who gave up her four children, including a 3-month-old, is in a trancelike depression, occasionally erupting into fits of hysteria.

Her husband and other parents in Citron said they relinquished their children to the U.S. missionaries because they were promised safekeeping across the border in a newly established orphanage in the Dominican Republic.

Clearly part of the “pitch” the New Life team used to gain the kids was fear based, rooted in providing that mythical “better life” we so often hear about in adoptionland, after all, how can an apocalyptic landscape of rubble and promised “epidemics” compete with the New Lifer’s full colour brochures featuring a former hotel and its swimming pool?

Silsby had been working since last summer to create an orphanage. After the quake, she hastily organized a self-styled “rescue mission,” enlisting missionaries from Idaho, Texas and Kansas.

She was led to Citron by Pastor Jean Sainvil, an Atlanta, Georgia-based Haitian minister who recruited the 13 children in the slum. Sainvil had been a frequent visitor to the neighborhood of unpaved streets and simple cement homes even before more than half of the houses collapsed in the quake.

“The pastor said that with all the bodies decomposing in the rubble there were going to be epidemics, and the kids were going to get sick,” said Regilus Chesnel, a 39-year-old stone mason.

Chesnel’s wife, 33-year-old Bertho Magonie, said her husband persuaded her to give away their children — ages 12, 7, 3, and 1 — and a 10-year-old nephew living with them because their house had collapsed and the kids were sick.

“They were vomiting. They had fevers, diarrhea and headaches,” she said, leaning against the wall of the grimy two-room hovel the couple shares.

Later, after coming to the realization that they might never see their children again (and that the missionaries pitch was a patchwork of lies) one of the mothers was profiled thusly:

Under one of the blue tarps sheltering the Chesnels’ homeless neighbors, 27-year-old Maletid Desilien lay Saturday on a bed of two soiled rugs. Only her eyes peered out from under a bedsheet.

“She has been like that ever since someone told her she will never get the kids back,” said her husband, Dieulifanne Desilien, who works in a T-shirt factory.

That was eight days ago. Most of the time she lies catatonic, he said, warning a reporter not to go near because she periodically has fits.

“She would get up, take her clothes off and run around pulling her hair out,” Desilien, 40, said of his wife. “She would jump up from sleep and say, ‘Bring me my kids.’”

He said she only calms down and is able to sleep after speaking by phone with her children, who are at an orphanage in the capital run by the Austrian-based SOS Children’s Villages charity.

The day they arrived, orphanage officials said, the Desiliens’ 3-month-old daughter, Koestey, was so dehydrated she had to be hospitalized. The other children are ages 7, 6 and 4. Their father — but not their mother — has visited them.

Desilien said a police commander has assured him that he will get the children back. The Social Welfare ministry, however, has yet to decide whether some or all of the 33 children will be returned to their parents.

“My wife is sick so I have to find a way to get the children back,” Desilien said.


Return to the Table of Contents of my Haiti series.

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