Thelesa, a serious five-year-old, concentrates on making designs with her crayon. She intently completes her assignment and shows it to her kindergarten teacher and other classmates. Thelesa arrived at FWAL on September 19, 2011. Previously her life was not what a child should experience. With both of her parents deceased, she was living with her grandmother’s aunt who was unable to care for her. Acknowledging this fact, the aunt came to FWAL to ask for help. Kerline, head of the FWAL social work department, completed the investigation and found Thelesa to be malnourished. The family did not have enough food and Thelesa often went hungry. There was also no money to attend school.
“When Thelesa came to live with us she was quite sad, afraid and very malnourished. She displayed this through an attitude of distancing herself emotionally and physically from the other children and caregivers. It took Thelesa at least two months to feel more comfortable and then she started to show the funny, loving and affectionate personality that she has. Her strong character is still there and comes out at times, but it has served her well because she has been through many difficulties,” explained Joanne, assistant for FWAL.
Thelesa now lives at the FWAL St. Anne Baby house, home to 31 children six years and under. She receives an extra meal at 10 am each morning of soy protein and 21 essential vitamins and minerals to help combat her malnutrition and is enrolled in the FWAL onsite kindergarten. During the afternoons, she plays at the St. Anne home with her new friends and caregivers. There are daily organized activities such as, singing, dancing, coloring, playground time and games.
Madame Fortuna has been caring for Thelesa since she arrived. “Life is complicated. If you are a child you need people around you to make you feel important,” explained Fortuna. Before working at St. Anne’s, Fortuna worked for three years at the NPH home, St. Helene, in Kenscoff. She feels proud recognizing youths that she cared for who have now graduated from the St. Helene home.
Fortuna says that after the earthquake, there were many children that lost their parents and she wanted the opportunity to help. “This is how Haiti will change. When young children have the ability to come into a society with understanding. If the children learn that here, then they are ambassadors for change,” explains Fortuna.
Judeland, who also lives at the baby house, has experienced dramatic changes in just over one year. Arriving with severe malnutrition and neglect, she now is a vibrant, healthy, smiling 4-year old, who loves to be tickled and to color and dress up.
The St. Anne baby house has occupied a rented home in Tabarre, close to the St. Damien hospital and FWAL complex. This January, they broke ground on construction of the permanent site for the St. Anne home and kindergarten. The location is one block away from the FWAL campus and the entire FWAL kindergaten (200 students) will eventually be operating out of this new facility.