Many children around the world are looking forward to Christmas this year. For many kids the pandemic hasn’t introduced hardship, but cemented it in their lives. Annabelle*, 15 years old, from NPH Haiti tells us how she had never celebrated Christmas before coming to NPH. She grew up in one of the most dangerous slums in the world, Cité Soleil. Christmas didn’t mean anything to Annabelle back then; it was simply another day of survival, not knowing if she would eat that day, let alone receive a gift.
“There was no celebration, no presents, and no festivities. Papa Noël didn’t visit us. We were living in terrible conditions. I lived with my mum and seven siblings in a small one room shack.” Like all homes in the slum it was covered in corrugated iron which had several leaks whenever it rained. The bed sheets were rotten. Every day her mother walked the streets with a big bucket of mauby juice, made from bark mixed with ginger and cane syrup, which she sold for 10 cents. She would return home at night. If she hadn’t sold all the juice she would feed the remaining amount to her children who would go to bed hungry.
According to Annabelle, Cité Soleil is a war zone. Every day she would hear gunshots as rival gangs fought for territory. “I was very young, but I still remember feeling so afraid. We were scared for my mother’s life every time she left the house to earn some money. At any moment the gangs could start fighting.” When asked if she has any good memories of Cité Soleil, she replies, “No. Not even one. No day went by when bad things didn’t happen, such as rape, robberies, gangs and bandits. I saw it every day. That was my life.”
Life became even more difficult in 2010 when a 7.0 earthquake rocked Haiti, destroying much of Cité Soleil. It’s hard to believe that over 200,000 people died in one day – many schools, homes and businesses were destroyed instantly. In response to this disaster, NPH ramped up its community programmes to help children who so desperately needed it. Through our St Damien Paediatric Hospital we helped over 30,000 children who suffered critical injuries.
We also set up make-shift schools in the vast tent cities, to provide education and stability to many children. Amid the rubble NPH found many ‘lost children’ who didn’t have a place to call home. We gave these children a permanent, loving family – one of these children was Annabelle.
Today Annabelle is living at our NPH home in the mountains of Kenscoff. It feels like a different world, but it’s only an hour’s drive from Cité Soleil. Annabelle is enjoying her Year 7 classes, even though it’s been a difficult year because of the pandemic. Annabelle insists she is lucky. She realises that being part of the NPH family is the best thing that could have happened to her. “I don’t know what would have come of me otherwise.”
Annabelle remembers her first Christmas at NPH, “It was something I had never experienced before, with all kinds of gifts, wonderful food, parties, competitions, and plenty of activities.”
Annabelle accepts that Christmas this year will be a different affair because of Covid19, but she’s determined to enjoy it all the same. On Christmas Day the children go to mass, enjoy a special lunch, receive presents and play games. In the evening they celebrate with a special song competition.
Annabelle says, “I would like to thank everyone who supports NPH. I never thought I would have all the opportunities I have today. I would also like to thank my caregivers who treat us like their own kids.”
For Annabelle, the simple things in life are never taken for granted. “With NPH, I have an education, food, clothes, and Christmas! I am so grateful for this.”
Thank you for helping us bring the joy of Christmas to many vulnerable children and families in Haiti at this challenging time.
If you’d like to make a difference to children like Annabelle, please give a NPH Christmas Gift here.