Life for Haiti’s Orphans

A superb one-hour documentary with Soledad O’Brien was produced by and televised on the Cable News Network (CNN) this weekend. “Rescued” spotlights what life is like for orphans in Haiti, both pre and post-earthquake. With footage from several years ago of the boys and girls at the Lighthouse Orphanage in Port-au-Prince, also known as La Maison des Lumieres, the program focused specifically on Cendy, a girl of age six when the earthquake struck last January 12, and a young man named Mackenson, now age eighteen who spent a few formative years at the orphanage after being sold by his family to become an in-house slave or restavec in Haiti.

Days after the earthquake, the already quiet Cendy becomes even more withdrawn. She was given up by her parents, who visit her once for an uncomfortable few minutes, then never return to the orphanage. Mackenson, whose sister was adopted by a family in the United States, only wants to help his home country and works tending the garden at the orphanage. The American couple who run the orphanage take in as many more children as capacity and resources will allow, including a young woman and her newborn baby whose own home collapsed in the earthquake. A triage unit is set up in the courtyard and amputations are performed on suffering adults under the stars. The images are heartbreaking.

But there is hope. This isn’t an orphanage involved in shipping as many kids out of Haiti as possible. The Lighthouse is all about raising Haitian children with education and Christian faith within Haiti. Though many of these children aren’t officially orphans since they have parents, they are officially abandoned. No one in their families wants them. The alternative to being there is working and living on the streets for pennies got from begging because the government has no means to take care of these children. The Lighthouse appears to be doing good work, according to the documentary, by saving lives and putting Haiti first in the hearts of these children, who deserve so much.

–Candice Russell