An encounter with Haitian poverty

Dalton and Rodberlin with their parents.
Dalton and Rodberlin with their parents.

It’s sobering to consider that my family of three fills a 1,200 square foot Florida apartment, yet the shanty in this photo accommodates seven children and two adults. Unsuitable as a tool shed, let alone a house, the structure is a patchwork of tarp strips and corrugated metal slapped together on wooden sticks. Cement walls and barbwire protect the rented property from intruders but cannot keep out the heat or rain.

Speaking in Creole, the father of this Haitian household bragged to me about the cleanliness of the surrounding dirt lot. You won’t find a single piece of trash, he said. The family moved here after their house was destroyed in the 2010 earthquake, and they have an agreement with the landlord to take care of the grounds.

While Haitian culture and living standards are very different from my own, I could relate when the mother talked about her children’s education. Her sons Dalton and Rodberlin used to go to a public school (most of which are very substandard), but her desire was to enroll them at the same place where the family goes to church. Now, with support from Cross, the boys are receiving daily nutritious lunches and a Christian education at the Divine Shelter School in Butte-Boyer.

Dalton is 11 years old and currently enrolled in 3rd grade. It’s common for Haitian children to start school at a late age because of poverty. He told me the lunches Cross provides are important because he often goes to school on an empty stomach and doesn’t always have something to eat for dinner. Without the school lunches, there’s a good chance that malnutrition might eventually force Dalton and his brother to drop out. But Dalton wants to stay in school because he knows it is preparing him for his future. His dream is to earn a high school diploma and someday become an engineer.

If and when Dalton realizes his dream, perhaps the first thing he’ll do is build a better home for his family!

-Tony M.


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