Christelle and Caroline Saintil in their new home.
(Copyright: WFP/Jim Farrell)
The Jan 12 earthquake left sisters Christelle and Caroline Saintil with no parents and no home. After weeks of uncertainty, living with a relative who couldn’t support them, they are now finding their feet in a WFP-supported orphanage, where regular meals help provide the sense of finally having a home again.
PORT AU PRINCE – Most of the time Christelle seems content. She looks at home amid the laughing group of boys and girls rushing around the small classroom where they study life skills. “I like it here,” she says.
Christelle's new home is an orphanage and school on the fringes of the most notorious slum in Port-au-Prince. Because most of the school was damaged in the quake, the 55 orphans here sleep in the courtyard, in green army-style tents donated by USAID.
The meals are simple but, thanks to WFP programme for school-age children, they are nourishing and regular. This morning it was a porridge made with vitamin-boosted corn soya blend. Lunch will be rice, beans and tinned sausages.
“Sometimes we have corn meal but I prefer the rice,” says Caroline. “When I finish, I feel full.”
Survived the quake
But tears come to Christelle’s eyes as she tells how her mother came running into their collapsing house to save them from the earthquake. She died but the children survived. Their father had run out on the family years ago.
The girls had three siblings, ranging in age from 20 to two years old. All of them survived the earthquake and are now living with their grandmother, a widow.
But three was the grandmother's limit. She couldn’t feed any more. So she asked the Ecole Le Bon Semeur de Sarthe to take Christelle and Caroline. They were accepted and have now taken their places alongside the school’s other orphans. “She comes to visit,” says Caroline, referring to her grandmother.
It doesn’t take much to boost the spirits of these children -- the main things for most are feeling safe, having regular food and other kids to play with.
As well as the orphans, about 140 children go to the school every day for regular classes. Many of them wouldn’t be sent by their parents without the promise of a free, nutritious lunch.
Assurances of regular meals convinced the girls’ grandmother to choose this school. And, in a telling sign of what life was like before, it’s one of the first things they say about their new home: “We have enough to eat.”