Patricko is a young handicapped boy - some sort of brain damage due to a seizure disorder - and he was abandoned by his aunts, aunts who were receiving payments from the boy's father to care for Patricko while dad worked in the US. It was the second time they'd abandoned him at a local hospital. The first time they'd reclaimed Patricko in a panic when the dad announced that he was coming back to Haiti to visit, but now that dad was gone again, they left the child at the hospital at the mercy of strangers.
At Haitian hospitals, you only receive care if you have family with you. When the doctor prescribes meds, it's your family who has to go to a pharmacy and buy the meds so the nurse can give them to you. If you need a dressing changed, your family has to pay for the gloves, gauze and tape. If you are hungry, your family has to bring you food and feed it to you. Perhaps a kind person who is taking care of their own family member may help you out, but with a handicapped child, everyone stays away.
Handicapped kids are considered cursed in Haiti. People don't understand brain damage or developmental delay and they go out of their way to hide, abuse, and shame both the patient and the family. So when Patricko was abandoned, it meant that no one was feeding him, changing his clothes or diapers or sheets, bathing him or giving him any attention at all. Until Anne and Venelia took charge.
Anne and Venelia graduated from my community health agent class with excellent grades, but more importantly, with hearts of compassion. When I heard about Patricko, I asked them to take care of him until we could find a permanent home. They were on the ward with him every day; they cooked meals for him, washed his soiled linens by hand, played with him, sang to him, and reported to me glowingly that he was starting to make eye contact and trying to sit up. I intended to pay them, but then they told me that a rumor had started circulating around the hospital that a "white person" was paying them $200 every week for their work. They were outraged and explained how they'd announced to the hospital staff with great pride: "We are doing this because it's the right thing to do, not because anyone is paying us."
After 3 weeks, our friends at Coreluv, an orphanage nearby, agreed to take Patricko. He's on seizure medications and with good nutrition and one-on-one attention, he's progressed immensely. The once emaciated little boy with peeling skin and bald spots on his head from lying in a bed all day is now healthy and solid. He can sit up on his own and the nannies tell me that he keeps trying to stand. Anne and Venelia are convinced that someday he will walk.
Patricko's transformation is a beautiful story, but to me, the selflessness of Anne and Venelia is even more beautiful. In a country of poverty and desperation, they looked beyond their needs to the needs of one of the least of these and gave him the love he needed to survive. In a country where we frequently see people sitting back, waiting for foreigners to solve all their problems, these two women stepped up and did the right thing without any help from me. Now that is a beautiful story.