Solange & Louis Elicien with Linda, Viejina, Daphka, Wilson and Wadson
This family is exemplary of a terrible problem that is a silent growth and development stunter in this and many developing countries. You see, when Solange brought her children to our clinic their weight (read: caloric intake) was not a problem for these children. The problem was that they all had red hair! Haitians are not supposed to have red hair! When we see red or white hair in these kids it tells us that the kids have a severe protein deficiency!
Linda, who is thirteen, is barely taller than her sister Viejina who is eight and is small for her own age. Linda is a classic example of a child with stunted physical growth from lack of protein and other nutrients including calories. Linda was put on mamba because of her red hair, even though she is far over the 5-year age limit. We do not know yet how the malnutrition has affected her learning capacity and hope to get her into school this year for the first time!
Even though Viejina was also too old for Mamba we put her on to get her protein level up. During the four weeks they were on Mamba we had the opportunity to get to know Solange better. At that time she was living far up the mountain and had to walk an hour carrying Wadson, who was not walking yet, to get to clinic. She told us early on that she hated to take her kids out because people thought she didn’t take care of them. She knew they shouldn’t have red hair! She said she was doing the best she could but all she could afford was rice and a small amount of beans, sometimes. Well, a white rice diet will keep you fat but it certainly will not fill the protein needs of growing children. We coached her to buy less rice and more beans and some eggs whenever she could. We worked on nutrition teaching including the idea that fewer calories, if they were better calories, would be the best route. In fact I said I’d rather see them a little thin with dark hair than fat with red hair!
Solange’s kids graduated from Mamba at the end of November, but between asthma attacks, church interactions and other illnesses we kept in touch with her regularly. In January of 2013, we were able to start distributing small amounts of Kids Against Hunger food to some of our families. This family was at the top of our list! Meantime they had moved closer to church due to a conflict between her husband and his brother who shared farm land that they raised crops on. According to Solange the brother had expressed the intent to kill her husband. After moving, her husband began going into Port-au-Prince every day to work as a porter. That means he would carry loads of anything anyone would pay him for in the city. That might be coal or wood or concrete blocks. Whatever was so heavy that no one else wanted to carry it! He made one or two dollars (US) on a good day and nothing on a bad day. That was their entire income.
The house they now live in is about half finished and belongs to Louis’ brother (presumably a different brother). The walls are only about 4 feet high and the roof is a tarp. Three of the four walls are mortared but none are tied into the corner posts for stability. The fourth wall is simply stacked blacks with no mortar at all. All it would take is a little tremor and they would come down on the entire family. The kids sleep on the ground and the parents sleep on concrete blocks covered with cardboard. The rent has not been paid ($60 for two years) and the house is completely unsafe. They hope to build their own house next to the brother’s in the future. There is no extra money to even begin to build.
We have begun to explore business options with Solange and her husband Louis. His skills are as a farmer and her past experience is selling cooked food in the market. She lost her cooking business in the earthquake so she would need help to buy supplies and food to cook if she were to start up that business again. Meantime, their rent is overdue, four of the children need to go to school this fall and there are ongoing medical needs such as asthma and dental problems.
Solange teaching about water treatment
Our observation is that Solange is never happier than with a baby in her arms and we have contemplated that she could be a daycare worker at some point. She is also a natural leader and is able to teach all of the information from Mamba about clean water and nutrition! I doubt that Solange can read or write, though I have not specifically asked. We are all praying and waiting for God to lead us in how to help this family become self-sufficient.
Louis is not yet a follower of Jesus but has been attending church regularly for the past two months. As we begin faith and business classes, we are praying to also see him turn to God for salvation.