CROIX-DES-BOUQUETS, Haiti — More than five months after the earthquake that killed her single mother, Daphne Joseph, 14, lost her bearings a second time when she was forced to leave the makeshift orphanage where she had felt at home. Immediately after the earthquake, she watched with horror as her mother’s mangled body was carted away in a wheelbarrow from a shattered marketplace. Dropped at the doorstep of a community aid group, she contemplated suicide.
Yet within a couple of months, displaying a resilience that many in this shattered country exhibited, Daphne righted herself. She found an improvised family in a ragtag group of fellow earthquake orphans and the adults who nurtured them. Skipping cheerily to greet a visitor in March, she announced, “I’m so much better!” In mid-June, however, Daphne was claimed by a relative who is not really a relative — the 23-year-old common-law wife of her half brother’s father — and moved into a squalid tent city. It made her feel unmoored once again. Where did she belong? she wondered.
What made her questioning especially poignant was that the makeshift, open-air orphanage where she longs to return is an unsteady anchor. The community aid group that runs the place — which is little more than a pair of tents — is caring, but lacks expertise and resources. And neither the Haitian government nor international organizations here have helped it in a lasting way.
Like Daphne, the orphanage faces an uncertain future, with an eviction looming.
“We don’t really know what to do next,” said the Rev. Gerald Bataille, the primary supervisor of the children. “Somehow, the whole world wants to help Haiti, but we feel like we’re on our own.”
The lives of Daphne and 14 younger children hang in the balance, although conditions at the makeshift orphanage are far from ideal.