It was an extremely hot and muggy day, approximately 2 weeks after Hurricane Matthew blew through the south of Haiti in October, 2016. Patchouko and I were trekking through one of the neighborhoods served by Accolade for Saving Lives (ASL). Our objective when we set out this day was to assess damage to the ASL program families’ homes and any progress our families had made since Patchouko last visited.
Steam rolled off the street, engulfing us as we stepped out of the truck. Ducking through a makeshift tin door, we entered an approach to several homes. I steeled myself and took a deep breath as soon as I saw him. What we find is not always as it seems. The look on Patchouko’s face as I turned toward him revealed that our objective had just changed. A small boy, 7 years old, stood upon a porch ledge smiling. . . naked and tied with a soft cloth by his ankle to the porch. What we find is not always as it seems, I repeated to myself.
Patchouko untied our new friend as we surveyed the hurricane ravaged home. He ran about, room to room, smiling all the way. After discussing the damage and the family’s plan and needs to repair it, we asked about Wubbens. He had seemed like a “normal” child when he was young, grandma said. He went to kindergarten but things didn’t go well, she reports. He is well nourished and clean, “Why is he naked?” we ask. An aunt explains that he chews on any clothing they put on him until he gets it off. Wubbens engages in non-verbal interaction with vigor. He does not speak.
I feel helpless, knowing that at home in the U.S. there are many resources for families of special needs children, but HERE? “Patchouko, who do we know that can guide us in this situation?”, I ask. I’ve shared before that God has convinced me there are no coincidences in life, but that He is orchestrating all things.
Patchouko remembers a place between the two neighborhoods he serves through ASL, a place that used to be called “something about disability”. “Let’s try there”, he says. Back into the sweltering truck we go and off on a mission much different than we had originally set out to accomplish.
We pull up to a clinic, “Tous Ensemble”. As we enter and are greeted someone says, “Oh, you need to see Consuelo, the director”. “Sure, that will be wonderful”, I muster. Then Consuelo turns around – revealing one of God’s divine interventions of our adventure. You see, a year prior Consuelo, Patchouko & I met through a mutual friend that wanted us to know who was doing good work in the Les Cayes area. We had not seen her since, but tell her what we discovered today. Her response? “Shall we make a visit back to the home together?” YES!
Consuelo is an Occupational Therapist. She readily recognizes that Wubbens has Autism. An appointment is made for his mother to bring him to the clinic for evaluation and for education and training for the family. Consuelo begins to build relationship with the adults, allowing her to educate them regarding his safety and handling the risks of living in the slum with a special needs child….without tying him to the porch.
What we find, what we see, is not always as it seems. From the time he awakens until the time he sleeps at night, this child runs. No, he’s not just busy, he RUNS. We asked once for them to keep him untied during our visit. Three of us could scarcely catch up to him before he was out of sight. Their home is surrounded by hazard – this is a slum in Haiti, folks. Open fire, exposed wire, torn tin, fast traffic on uncontrolled streets, motorcycles zooming, livestock roam openly. He was secured with a soft piece of cotton, his skin nicely intact beneath. This was done in love and I soon realize that what we found was not as it had originally seemed.
A local welder has created gates to cover the “window” and “door” openings of the porch on his family’s home. They were installed this week. Wubbens can play freely, and Grandma can watch with some freedom of her own. You see, mom must leave the home early to earn what money she can doing odd jobs or selling items in the street. Grandma has been holding this boy’s hand from 6 am until he sleeps at night, struggling as he gets older and stronger, even being injured on occasion as he resisted.
Grandma and Wubbens are pictured next to the gates being installed. I look forward to delivering toys to entertain and hopefully educate Wubbens within his new space of freedom. Ironic, isn’t it? Securing gates to contain a child that ultimately increases his freedoms.
This Haitian welder was employed BY YOU, donors to hurricane relief, following Hurricane Matthew. This child’s life has been positively affected BY YOU, through your response to God’s prompting. From Wubben’s mother, his grandmother, ASL, Tous Ensemble and myself, we say BLESS YOU for this. Thank you for being a part of this amazing journey. God is doing great things. We are privileged to have a front seat to it.