Last December I was introduced to a man and his severely malnourished 8 month pregnant wife. They were sitting in our pharmacy talking to Amy, telling her their story. When I first met them, I had no idea how much they would touch my life or the fact that we would go on to build a good relationship. Over the past several months, I have learned a lot about this family's story and how the earth quake completely changed their lives.
On January 12, 2010, Vilbrim and his whole family were outside of their house on the street when the earth quake struck. Their house didn't collapse, but the house next to theirs was taller and fell on top of their home. Luckily his entire family was outside, so they were all fine, but there were dead bodies all over the street. His second oldest son now twitches constantly and can't focus in school or when he's being talked to. His second youngest son is 3 and still doesn't talk. We believe that both of these are from the trauma that they faced as a result to the earth quake. I can't imagine what this family saw and went through in the hours after the quake.
About 30 mins after the quake struck, Vilbrim went to his work, (he's a welder) and one of the machines exploded on him. For 8 days he stayed in Port au Prince in misery, burns covering most of his body. Finally he was transported up to Cap Haitien where he was treated in a stadium full of visiting doctors. It was a painful 20 days that he stayed there as they kept giving him shot after shot and trying to help him. Vilbrim has scars all over his arms, legs, and chest.
After being discharged from the make shift hospital, he relocated his family to Cap Haitien as they had nothing left in Port au Prince; no home, no job, no friends, no family. Since then he has been living with random people for as long as they will allow. He stayed with one family for 3 months, another for 9, and another for an additional 3. But they always end up kicking him out and he's left on the street trying to take care of his wife and 8 children with out a job.
Vilbrim has been back to his neighborhood in Port au Prince several times and never has he recognized a single person. They are all either dead or displaced. He often travels between Cap and Port, hoping to find a job welding in one of the two areas.
|My Cousin Kayla Vilbrims Wife and 6 of the 8 kids at their home.|
Shortly after I first met him, Amy told me that Vilbrim wanted to put his 6 oldest kids in school, but didn't have the money. About a week after I heard this someone sent me an email saying that they had just put money in my account and they wanted me to use to help someone in the community. The amount almost covered the entire years expenses for the 6 to attend school. With Vilbrim on the back of his Moto, he and Nick went together and enrolled his oldest 6 kids in school.
A month went by and we didn't hear from this family again, until he and his wife were sitting at our gate one day holding their 8th child, little Elie. They told me that she was unable to breastfeed and that they were afraid if we didn't help him he would die. They had a doctors note saying that she in fact could not breast feed and that they had been giving him sugar water since he was born since that's all they could afford. Honestly, I didn't need a note, I could tell just by looking at her that she could not provide her child with the nutrients he needed. She's so thin, her eyes sunk in, teeth rotting. She looks very malnourished.
We were able to enroll this family into the formula program, and so every other week I am able to see them and check in on how their littlest one is doing. Each visit I got to know them a little better and fell a little more in love with this family.
In February we had a family friend give us a little more money and asked us to use it for people who came to the gate. My first thought originally went straight to this family that I knew was struggling. We bought 50lbs of rice and 50lbs of beans and each time they came for formula I was able to give them a gallon sized zip lock bag of each for them to take home. It was only enough food to feed them for about 4 days, but at least I knew every other week that they were getting some nutrition.
Through talking with this family, I learned that their second youngest, David who's 3, was malnourished and that his hair was turning orange (which is a sign of malnutrition). We told him to come with his son so that we could examine him. A few weeks before this a visiting team gave us some protein gels to hand out. Our nurse felt that David would benefit from these gels, so he started coming every other week with his little brother and we weighed him and kept track of his development.
The more I got to know this family, the more my heart went out to them. I learned that they were getting kicked out of the house that they had been in for a few months and would soon be living on the streets. I so badly wanted to help this family, but there was nothing I could do for them personally. Once again God provided for this family and we were given enough money from a family member to pay for a years rent for them. In Haiti rent is paid a year at a time.
Recently Vilbrim invited us over to see his new home. During my visit I was once again struck with the fact that many Haitians have absolutely nothing. As I walked into their home, I started thinking about all the things that this family doesn't have.
They have no bed. Instead, they have a blanket that they lay down on top of their cement floor, and all ten of them sleep together on that.
|Elie and David taking a nap|
The have one barrel that they use to collect rain water which they treat and use for cooking, washing clothes, and bathing. Their only "Bathroom" is the gap between their house and the wall. They have no soap to wash with and all of their bodies are covered in scabies. Not because they are unclean people, but because they don't have the resources.
Their 8 kids range in age from 16 to 6 months. They don't have a single toy to share between them.
|Peaking outside the gate to their home.|
They have no utensils or plates. The item that they are using as a door stop is their stove that they cook on.
They don't have electricity or running water. The light hanging from the ceiling doesn't work. They have one tiny window and their house is miserably hot.
If you look outside their front door, you see stagnate water, full of mosquitoes and other bugs. Piles of trash cover the whole area.
|Path to their house|
They have nothing.
But yet they have everything.
They have each other, their entire family, which is something that many people lost in the Earth Quake. Yes they may sleep on the floor, but at least it's concrete. I have visited several homes where people are sleeping on mud floors because their roofs leak. The house Vilbrim is renting has a cement house which doesn't leak. And the kids are going to school and have a house to live in. These things are huge. They could be living in a tent in Port, or on the streets here, but thankfully they don't because others have been touched by their story. It's me who has a problem with their situation, not them. They are happy and relatively healthy.
I was amazed while I was at their house that every one of their children had a giant smile on their faces. Every time I have seen this family, they are always happy, in a good mood, and loving life. So thankful for the little can of formula we provide them. They have told me many times that if it wasn't for COTP's help through the formula program, Elie probably would have died. And it's true, he probably would have.
Vilbrim tells me all the time "I don't want to ask you to put my kids in school or to help me with a house. I don't want to ask you for these things. I want to work, to provide for my family myself. But I can't find any work." He then points to the bars we have on our windows and says "I can do that. I can weld so many things. Please if you have any work, I would love to do it."
Recently we did have some medal work that we needed done and were going to have to contract out for. We needed a new gate built for our back property. Part of the deal with paying for Vilbrims house was that he had to build us this gate in return. He was so beyond happy to do this and thanked us many times for the opportunity. I was very happy to not just give him the money, but help him keep his self respect by working for it. I could tell that he was itching to get back to work.
So every day for about a week Vilbrim and his oldest son Junior came to COTP to build this gate. Junior wants to be a welder when he is older and was excited that he had the opportunity to learn from his father and help him on this project. We were blown away by Vilbrims skill.
We only wanted a simple gate, but it's Haitian way to make things fancy if you have the skills, so we ended up with a beautiful gate! It looks amazing, and both Vilbrim and Junior were so proud of their work. They asked me to take their pictures in front of it many times!
This family has so much potential. Vilbrim is still confident that he will eventually be able to find a job to support his family. I'm hoping we have given him enough of a jump start that he will be able to. The family that supports his six oldest in school has agreed to do so again next year, which is amazing. Junior hopes to go to Professional school to learn to weld so that he can hopefully find a job and help support his family as well. I have confidence that these children will go far in life and help make a change in the world that they live in. They are all so sweet and happy all the time! They are amazing and have been a huge inspiration to me.
Elie is about to graduate from the formula program. I am worried about how this family will be able to take care of the nutritional needs of yet another mouth. But God has shown me that he will take care of this family. Haitians are strong and preserver through the toughest times. I know they will do well because they love each other and have a great relationship with the Lord.
I'm telling you the story of this family not to ask for help, or for you to pity them, but to show you the fate that many people face in Haiti. To show how the earth quake affected them. To show that they aren't lazy or unskilled. That they want to work, that they would prefer to take care of their families themselves rather than accepting handouts, but the fact is, there isn't work available. They can search high and low and not find any way to make money. I also tell this story to share with you the different type of situations we are faced with everyday. There are thousands of Vilbrims out there, fighting to provide for their families.
Please pray for this family and that they are successful in life. Please pray for their health and that Vilbrim is able to find a job to take care of his family.