Wesley is a 17 year old boy, who lives happily with his family in their village in Haiti. He is bright and articulate, and he loves his mother very much. “Sometimes when I go to bed, I forget to take my pillow – and my mom will come and put one under my head. This makes me feel good.”
But Wesley has not always lived with the love and protection of his mother’s care. From the age of ten, he lived in an orphanage.
“I spent five years there. Oooh, it was very bad for me.”
Although it was portrayed as a safe place for impoverished families like Wesley’s to take their children, the reality of the orphanage was very different. The children were shown no affection, and often went hungry. Sometimes, Wesley and his friends were even forced to wake in the night and steal food from the kitchen, just to survive.
“Sometimes sponsors would bring lots of food. The storage room may have been filled with food - and we were starving. We would see the Director putting the food in a vehicle to go and sell it.”
The orphanage was a scam, and the donations being sent from abroad to keep it afloat were only being used to line the Director’s own pockets.
“It was just like we were merchandise; we were on the market place, and they had to sell us to keep the money coming in. They put a myth in our mind - that we were slaves.”
When a programme to close the orphanage began, Wesley was reunited with his mother. The family was given the right support to ensure that they never lost each other again. Safe in his mother’s home, he wants to help other families who are struggling.
“My message is…in my community, if they have a child that they are thinking of giving to an orphanage, I alone can convince them not to, because I have lived in an orphanage before. To me, the best place for a child to live is with his or her family.”
*all names have been changed