Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Cite Soleil

In the baking heat with no shade, we entered the area called Cite of Soleil.
I'd heard about this place, most Haitians won't even come into the area because it was too dangerous. Riding in a local tap-tap vehicle, you could see the news spread from one home to the next about our arrival. Perhaps that's easy to do through shanti homes which are all connected together with sticks, tin and rock.

We watched people run to line up as far as we could see. Each one guarding their space in line with a 5-gallon bucket. Utter Desperation. You see mothers with ragged clothing and some with shoes. Kids, some with clothing, and some with none, which was acceptable as well. Shoes are mere remnants, if they have them at all. The kids range from being thin to having bloated bellies and several have huge belly buttons that protrude 1-2 inches from their stomachs~ we were told that these belly-buttons are from home-job ambilical cord cutting at birth. Yet, when they smile, it warms you on the inside. They are the most loving, affectionate kids, and were so glad to see us.
Near the truck, the fire-engine type hose pours out water with such speed that the line keeps moving. 10 at a time are allowed to set their buckets near the hose in single-file order. Of course, there are the people who come forward and break into line causing a little chaos within the somewhat organized area. You gotta be tough and organized or else real chaos could errupt near the water truck. Smaller containers would sometimes appear when I was holding the hose; usually these were for a little rinse water for someone's bucket while they stood in line.

Just as I was starting to get the hang of working the hose, a little cup appeared from behind me and I looked down to see. It was a little boy who had grabbed onto my leg and began to balance himself on me while he stretched his whole body to fill his cup. Perhaps I broke the rules when I let this little guy dip one cup of water from a bucket, but he didn't know that I saw him, so it seemed okay. From the corner of my eye, I watched his next moves. I thought he'd drink it but instead he took that little cup of water and poured it onto his chest and then scrubbed himself as if it were his shower. A minute later, he was back for another cup. I knew that one cup couldn't wash him, so I allowed another cup for him. Out of the corner of my eye, I watched him again pour that cup,but not on himself, instead he poured it on a smaller boy standing naked next to him. That smaller guy was so serious and focused as he scrubbed his body that the scene overwelmed me;

Unbelievable. One cup. That was it, his shower for the day! For the week? The month? Only God knows.

After the water ran out: We walked down the main street where we caught a view of their living area, visited a few homes, and learned of the different unending needs. Jeff and Alyn have developed relationships with those familiar with the area who can help them discern all the requests. They've helped with medical treatments and paid for local workers to repair hazzardous living conditions. The stories were countless... and I'm overwelmed.
Barb Knutson

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