The children at Kay Timoun are my love. Anyone who knows me knows that I am always talking about and bragging about “my kids”. But today I want to tell you about a few of the adults that I am with and how my ministry in Haiti has changed their lives.Our cook, Dedet, just showed up one day. She was there to help out. Her little girl was in my care and she wanted to show appreciation by helping with food preparation. Eventually, I hired her. Dedet is the poorest of the poor. She has several children, ages twenty something to a two year old. She is in a committed relationship with the children’s father. I was horrified when she showed me a photo of a beautiful girl that she had given away because she couldn’t afford to take care of her. And I was just as horrified to see the broken down stick house that they all lived in. The father raises a garden and some goats but apparently doesn’t make enough money to care for his large family. So, I asked, “Why do you keep having children? You have no money to take care of them.” The little boys were always naked, or wearing only a torn shirt, and had fungus skin rashes on their heads.
Seeing that she was dedicated to doing a good job as a cook, and needing a full time cook, I hired her. I talked to Dedet about her family and agreed to give her food every day for the children and clothes that I receive as donations, plus a small salary. She agreed to go to the clinic for birth control shots. That was three years ago. Her children have grown beautifully and the older two boys attend the parish school. She and her husband had a sturdy house built of stone and mortar, large enough for the whole family. With a big smile, she tells me every time she goes to the clinic for her shot. Having a steady income and food for her family has made all the difference in the world to Dedet and her family. The kids have nourishing food every day, she saved money from her meager income to build a house, and she is taking charge of her life.Wonel is about 23 years old. He had been the “crazy guy” in Bondeau. His actions certainly did seem to be crazy. Prior to my moving into Kay Timoun, I stayed in the guest house. In the middle of the night he entered the guest house, got into the room where the acolyte robes were stored, put on the white robe, and ran up and down the hallway outside the room where I slept, scaring the wits out of me. He repeatedly shouted out during church service and had to be led out by an usher. At one time, there were so many complaints about Wonel’s behavior that his father tied him to a tree. In contrast to his bazaar behavior in the community, Wonel would show up beside me when I took my evening walk. I knew his reputation but always welcomed him with a smile. One man often commented, “He’s your friend?” At the end of our walk, I’d face Wonel, place my hands on his shoulders and in Kreyol say, “God bless you”, to which he’d respond, “Amen.” A few days after I moved to Kay Timoun and had hired the people I needed, Wonel joined me again in my evening walk and asked if he could work for me. I had already hired people to work and the budget for salaries was accounted for. So, I asked Wonel if he would work for food, receive three meals a day. He quickly replied, “Yes!” “OK, come to Kay Timoun tomorrow morning.” And he did, showing up bright and early. I told him that his job would be to keep the house clean and he could begin in the kitchen. I observed him working and was astonished at the quality of his work. He cleaned everything thoroughly, even wiping the sink dry. I wondered where he learned how to clean a kitchen so well. A couple of days later, I got into conversation with Wonel. He told me that he had lived with his grandmother who was a maid for a wealthy family in Port au Prince. She home schooled him, taught him to cook, and housekeeping. After the earthquake in 2010 she fled to the U.S., leaving him behind. He was heartbroken. (I think that’s what caused his mental breakdown.)
At the end of the month, Wonel received money as pay, and also his meals. As time went on, Wonel took on more and more responsibility. He learned to drive a motorcycle and does all the errands, shopping for food, supplies, whatever we need. He drives me and accompanies me on errands. He now sleeps in the boys’ bedroom and is “house father” to the boys. He works with five of the children with their school work. He’s bright, knows how to get around on the laptop and is learning English.It’s been over three years since Wonel asked me for a job. His life has changed tremendously, from being the “crazy guy” to being the “go to” person whom everyone respects.
Claudette carries a five gallon bucket of water on her head every day from the water source on the mountain to me, so that I have fresh water to bathe. (We do not have running water in the house at Kay Timoun.) I met Claudette over two years ago when she left her twin infant girls outside the back door at Kay Timoun, lying naked on the walkway. My first thought was that someone left their babies for me. “Who left these babies here?” In a few minutes Claudette showed up and I looked closely at the infants. Two months old, she said. I saw that they were skinny, looking undernourished. Claudette, too, was skinny and undernourished and didn’t have enough breast milk for the babies. It didn’t take me but a moment to decide to feed these babies. I bought baby formula at the store, the same kind of formula we use here, and baby cereal. Claudette brought her twins by every morning to Kay Timoun. I’d mix the formula and cereal and one of the children would feed the babies. Soon, they started to fill out and gained weight. They grew into happy healthy six month olds, sitting up, cooing and smiling. Not long after that, they were walking, and Claudette was pregnant again! I gave her the same talk I gave to Dedet, “Why are you having children if you can’t afford to feed them?” But it didn’t sink in. She had a baby boy and the formula, cereal routine began again. Although Claudette isn’t employed at Kay Timoun, she helps out where she can, showing her thanks for the food she receives for herself and her children. I am so grateful that she brings me clean water every day and she is grateful that I give her food for her children. I don’t know what she would have done with the twins had we not fed the babies. They probably would have become a Haiti statistic: two more children with malnutrition. Her baby boy is healthy, too, thanks to the food that he is fed at Kay Timoun. Claudette has a lot to learn about parenting. Of course, I think as an American, not as a Haitian peasant. But I still try to teach her basics about hygiene and preventive care for her children.There are others, too, mostly women in the community whose lives are improved because of Kay Timoun. There are too many, and too many stories to write at this time. I do have a book planned for the future.