By Chris Frosch
"I am a staff writer for Food For The Poor. Below is a portion of my field notes from a recent trip to Haiti. The people and stories I encounter while visiting Haiti always touch me, but I was especially moved by an experience at our main feeding program in Port-au-Prince, where approximately 15,000 people are fed each weekday.
Please keep our Haitian brothers and sisters in your thoughts and prayers."
Monday, December 8, 2003
Food For The Poor Warehouse and feeding program
The first girl we notice is Stefanie, 6, in a green dress. Her hair is not quite orange, but it's lighter than it should be, indicating the early stages of malnutrition. She and her 7-year-old sister Whitnie (blue Pokemon shirt) come here every weekday for food. They tell us they also have three brothers. I ask them what they do on the weekends and Whitnie says, "On weekends, if our mother has money, she'll fix us something to eat. If not, we don't eat." They tell us their father fixes tires to earn money for his family. They receive a small pail filled with rice and a type of bean stew with vegetables. This will have to be stretched to feed seven people.
Next we talk to a woman who tells us she's 49. Her name is Eugenie Frederic and she and her five children live in Cite Soleil. She's been coming here for food for two years and says, "There's nowhere else to get food. On weekends, we don't eat. Sometimes, the kids are so hungry they don't want to go to school." I ask her what she says to her kids when they're hungry and she replies, "I talk to them and caress them. They're all crying, including myself. I don't know what to do. If their father was here, maybe we'd have food, but he died many years ago." She explains that he was very sick and they went everywhere looking for treatment, but could find none. It's not clear if this was due to a lack of money or other reasons.
She continues, "Sometimes, when I come here, they run out of food." This dear lady has been patient and gracious enough to stand here letting us interview her. All the while, in the back of her mind, she must have been worried about getting some food for her family. Of course, we immediately stop interviewing her and let her go get her family's food.
She gets the food and returns. Sure enough, just a few minutes later all the food is gone.
We continue talking and I ask her what she prays for. She replies, "I pray for change, because you go out on the street, you don't know what's going to happen. Before we leave in the morning, we pray. And before we go to bed at night, we pray. We don't know what will happen during the day. In the morning, we pray for protection and at night, we pray and give thanks that we've survived another day."
I ask her how she feels when she gets food here and she says, "When I get the food, I'm happy because now I can go and share it with the kids. But when I come here and there's nothing, I start crying. The days I get food, I say, 'Thank You God!' Every time I cross the street, I say, 'Thank You God that I made it across the street to come here and find the food and take it to the kids." She says she normally arrives at 6:00 a.m. to stand in line. She walks an hour each way to come here.
After the food has run out, Ben notices a little boy with a torn green shirt and an empty bowl. As we begin to talk with him, a crowd gathers around us. It's not so much that they're angry because there's no more food, but you can definitely feel their desperation and disappointment.
Seven-year-old David Belfour comes to the feeding program around noon every weekday after school, but he tells us that sometimes the food runs out before he gets any. We walk with him into the large FFP kitchen so we can talk to him away from the crowd of people. He tells us, "Yes, I go hungry a lot. I don't eat every day. I cry when there's no food."
When he does get food, he takes it back to his family of six. Since there's no more food left today, one of the FFP kitchen workers volunteers to give him her lunch. He gratefully accepts it.
I ask him what he talks to God about and he says, "I ask God to forgive me my sins." Then I ask him if he thinks God loves him and he replies, "I know that God loves me and forgives my sins." We ask him if he talks to God about anything else and he says, "In my heart, I talk to God and ask Him to find jobs for my parents, and for food, and to help us."
"When I pray, I get down on my knees," he tells us. He then says a little silent prayer in front of us. His eyes are shut and his little lips are moving. After he's done, Catherine asks him what he prayed for and he tells her, "I prayed that you get everything that you ask God for because of all the things you've done for us."
Hearing this affects us all very deeply, and there's really nothing more to say after something as powerful as that, so we thank him and send him off with his little bowl of food.