It’s hard to imagine a more desperate start in life. A beautiful baby boy with no one to care for him. No one to hug him. No one to teach him the very simplest human response: how to smile.
But this was the stressful and lonely existence baby Stephen lived in for the first 14 months of his life. Orphaned by Haiti’s tragic earthquake, the little boy had no family to care for him. Hospitals and churches, overstretched by the magnitude of the disaster, simply couldn’t help.
Stephen relied on a caretaker who unfortunately lacked both the time and education
needed to nurture a healthy, growing baby. Unable to provide sufficient supervision and care, and unable to stop working, Stephen’s makeshift guardian was forced to improvise during the post earthquake chaos. To ensure the toddler didn’t get into trouble while left on his own, he was tied to the leg of a table.
Restrained and left alone for hours a day, Stephen’s development was drastically restricted. Traumatised and so very alone, Stephen retreated into himself. He became unresponsive, withdrawn. He was a baby who had rarely known the simple comfort of a reassuring hug.
Eventually, Stephen’s caretaker realised that the baby needed more care than he could provide and sought out help.
After trying and failing to gain support elsewhere, as a last resort Stephen was brought to Bonite, who, at the time was running what amounted to a kind of ‘soup kitchen’ for children. She was feeding hundreds of children a day, but didn’t have the facilities to house them—especially not a needy baby like Stephen. However Bonite had started working with Random Acts, and plans were in place to build the Jacmel Children’s Centre (JCC).
Bonite knew that Stephen was just the kind of child the JCC could help. Knowing the JCC was under construction, and seeing that Stephen was a special little boy in desperate need, Bonite took him in.
Stephen is the first orphan that Bonite has been able to accept for full-time care. She had not planned on taking in orphans until the new residence was completed, however, she simply couldn’t ignore the pressing needs of this special little boy. He is being temporarily looked after in Bonite’s current facility while the new, bigger building where he will live is being completed.
With Bonite, Stephen now receives not just the basic necessities for living such as food, medical care and shelter, but also the love and kindness that Bonite shares in abundance. She becomes giddy with happiness when speaking about this precious little boy, who is happiest playing on a Spongebob mat, under caring supervision.
Stephen’s development is already speeding up. He’s begun saying simple phrases such as “Mama Bonite”. And it didn’t take long before the love and dedication of Bonite and the JCC staff uncovered Stephen’s dormant smiles—he smiles all the time, now.
During the 2013 trip to Haiti, Random Acts’ volunteers will put the finishing touches to the JCC building. But it’s not just a building. It’s Stephen’s home. The first home he’ll have been able to enjoy in his short life.
And soon, Stephen will be joined by other children that will become his brothers and sisters. Other children who’ve suffered loss and tragedy, but who have found a new home and a new family with the JCC. And who knows? Maybe Stephen’s new family won’t just make him smile. Maybe one day they’ll even make him laugh.