“Living here is just like living with your mom!”
That’s what the Director told Mirlande on the day she arrived at the gates of the orphanage with her older brother, frightened and with no other place to turn. But she soon learned that this was far from the truth: she would receive no love and no care in all her six years of living there.
Picked up by a policeman, wandering alone and separated from their family after the earthquake of 2010, the siblings were taken to the only place he knew that could look after them. But instead of being looked after at the orphanage as the Director had promised, they were starved, abused and used to garner donations from well-meaning tourists and volunteers.
“They took all the stuff and sold it. The white people would bring us sandals, and she would not give them to us – all the kids would walk around barefoot. If something valuable was sent to a kid by their sponsor, she would take it and use it for herself.”
Mirlande began to lose hope of ever returning home to her mother.
However, their luck was to change in 2016, when a team of government child protection workers supported by Lumos arrived to begin the process of closing the orphanage and returning the children to family care. A family tracer worked with Mirlande and her brother, and they told him every single detail they could remember about their family. Armed with all they told him, he travelled first to their home village, where he learnt that their mother was now living in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince. When he found her, Mirlande’s mother was elated. “Even though my mom was searching for us, she did not know if we were still alive.”
After three days, he returned to the orphanage and Mirlande spoke to her mother on the phone for the first time in all those years.
Several visits and support sessions later, the family were officially reunited. Mirlande is now happy and safe, and the family continues to receive support to ensure that they stay together.
“What hurt me the most was the fact that I was not living with my parents. Your parents’ love is stronger than anyone else’s.”
*all names have been changed