Saturday, September 25, 2010

Where Keziah has been, Part 2: Slave girl

Timing is funny sometimes. The day after my 5 houseguests arrived, the kids told me that Dieula, the 12 year old slave girl from next door had been kicked out and was living in the streets. So the following 5 days were a constant battle of trying to discover from all parties involved what had really happened. Dieula grew up in an orphanage and when she was 10, a woman came there and "chose" her. The lady instructed Dieula to run away from the orphanage and meet her so that she could live with her. I'm sure Dieula thought her salvation had arrived, but in truth, she was merely shifted from one ugly situation to another. "I took her," the woman told me. "Not as my child, of course, but at least into my home."

After about 2 years, Dieula was kicked out of that woman's home because "she started talking back to me when I yelled at her! I just couldn't handle her anymore." After the earthquake, my next door neighbors found her on the field, alone, so they took her in, again, not to be their child, but to be their restavek or child slave. They did not treat her horribly - I would have heard if they were beating her - but she was never allowed to keep money I paid her to do laundry for me, nor was she allowed inside the house to watch TV with their son. She worked for my neighbor in her little clothes-washing business and she did housework for them. I know she was well fed and I was very pleased to see that they sent her to afternoon school, but still, she was never treated with love.

It killed me to not be able to take her in but I had no space on the floor to put any more bodies. There was an empty tent in the field so I got her settled there and kept her fed and provided for. Meanwhile, I pushed my world of contacts for some place that could take a girl of her age and background. We finally found a home for girls on Delmas 75, run by a woman I know from church. Dieula cried very hard when I left her there - I think it was the first time in many years that she had truly felt loved, not just by me, but by my posse of neighborhood kids.

The kids' response to Dieula's plight really was one of the most heart-warming things I've ever seen in Haiti. They were the ones who told me she was homeless and whenever she was too shy to tell me she was hungry or thirsty, one of them would speak for her. Normally, the kids fight over anything I give out and if I give food to one, all the others start begging too. Not this week, though. If I gave a plate of food to Dieula, not a single child asked or even looked at me with those puppy-dog eyes. In fact, one evening when I got home, Christada stopped me on the street. Christada is from one of the poorest families in the tent city, but she said, "Kez, I saved most of my lunch today and gave it to Dieula."

The sweetest moment, however, was that night. Dieula had heard that my neighbor was fiercely angry with her so she was hiding somewhere in the abandonned houses nearby. Frantz, Christada, Herlens, Jean Marc and I roamed the streets for almost 2 hours, looking for her. Little Herlens, 5 years old, was holding my hand when he said, "Kez, my heart hurts." "What do you mean?" I asked, thinking that he meant he had a stomach ache. "My heart hurts for Dieula."

No comments: