Clifford and his birth certificate in front of the office of IBESR and BPM at the border of Belladère

Clifford and his birth certificate in front of the office of IBESR and BPM at the border of Belladère

Clifford and his irth certificate in front of the office of IBESR and BPM at the border of Belladère

Welcome to Belladère!” Geslet, UNICEF protection officer, Peterson, UNICEF driver and I left Port-au-Prince and ride for three hours and a half when we discover the surrounding.

Clifford in front of his godmother’s house

Clifford in front of his godmother’s house

Belladère, a neighborhood in the central plateau, located in the border with the Dominican Republic. This is where we arrange to meet Clifford, 15 years old. After several months, UNICEF Haiti has been traveling throughout the country to meet child-heroes[1] together with a film crew from the Cine Institute in Jacmel.

Clifford has touched the heart of everyone he has come across at the UNICEF protection section, at IBESR and at the Zanmi Timoun

His story is extraordinary, since he was 11 years old, on many occasions, he has deliberately crossed the border by his-self to live and work in the Dominican Republic to save money, hoping one day that will allow him to pay for school.

His story is touching. He was abandoned by his mother when he was 4 years old, entrusted to his grandparents. His father passed away, he has no recollection of him. He sees other children going to school, he doesn’t go, and that breaks his heart, so much that, one day he took his few belongings, his courage and fled with her godmother[2].

Living there also he see his cousins going to school every morning. He still does not know how going to school feels. When he was 8 years old, he decided to work « to help my godmother and also to go to school. It wasn’t easy. I found little jobs, I slept sometimes in the streets and I didn’t eat when I was hungry. My life was very difficult. »

Wilky Paniaque, border agent of IBESR, Stéphora Bienaimé animator agent at the Zanmi Timoun association and Clifford.
Wilky Paniaque, border agent of IBESR, Stéphora Bienaimé animator agent at the Zanmi Timoun association and Clifford.

Wilky Paniaque, border agent of IBESR, Stéphora Bienaimé animator agent at the Zanmi Timoun association and Clifford.

At the age of 11, he left his godmother’s home. She had no money to send him to school. Then Clifford went to the Dominican Republic by his-self, towards Eldorado, where he thinks he will be able to raise enough money to pay for his uniform, his notebooks and tuition. Over there, the adults he has encountered are not all sympathetic. Clifford had to live in farms, picking tomatoes and peppers. He worked hard, got his money stolen and returned empty-handed to Haiti. On his return, he was hit by a motorcycle and spent two months in the hospital, shattered, immobilized in a bed. Her godmother stood by his bedside. Once back on his feet, he crosses the border and went again to the Dominican Republic, driven by the pursuit of a better life. That feeling has kept him alive since his early childhood. The living conditions were again difficult, too difficult. On the morning of September 30th 2015, once more he packs his suitcase, careful packs his birth certificate and decided to return to Haiti. He arrives to Belladère with the birth certificate he was keeping all this time knowing that one day the precious document will enable him to enroll in school. At his arrival to Haiti, he got the support of the IBESR and Zanmi Timoun association. ” I have arrived here at the border and stayed at the center for two months. The child protection workers reunited me with my grandfather. This didn’t go very well, so nowadays I’m staying with my godmother. ”

596 children received support at the 4 border points in 2015

Today, we encounter a young teenager who thanks to his courage, intuition, resourcefulness and his desire for wellbeing, with the support of UNICEF, IBESR and Zanmi Timoun he woke up on the morning of February 15th and took the road to attend his first day of school. There he was finally seated at the age of 15 years on the bench he dreamed. ” I would like to become a doctor to help others, ” he said with a big smile.

Clifford is one of 596 children supported by The IBESR and UNICEF’s partners in the four border points of Ouanaminthe, Belladère Malpasse and Anse-à-Pitre in 2015. Once the children have been registered, they receive shelter and a transitional care pending the outcome of research and family reunification. They receive attention, medical care and if necessary psycho-social support. IBESR’s agents are present at all border points in order to ensure early identification and referral to appropriate services.

Belladère, just before crossing the barrier of the border post.

Belladère, just before crossing the barrier of the border post.

After our meeting with Clifford, taking advantage of our presence in Belladère we crossed the border. It’s Friday, market day, there is a lot of excitement on the Haitian side as well as on the Dominican side. The transportation of goods is going well. As well as the whereabouts of small Haitian workers. They offer their services for a few gourdes or some dominican pesos for unloading the trucks or helping passersby to carry their goods from one country to another.

We mount a motorcycle and rode few minutes towards Elias Pina, the nearest town to the border. Clifford said having spent a few months. I am curious to discover this place where the little boy lived for a while. It is also market day in the city. We walk through the packed and colorful stands. An Empanadas[3] scent floats in the air. Beautiful vegetables, clothing and products not found a few kilometers away embellish the floor and the tents, always with the presence of young workers. A small bunch of shoeshine kids in this side, a small group of box carriers around here. They are fast, determined and passing by through the stands.

The heat is overwhelming, I laid my eyes on the ”Elias Pina’s bus terminal” and decided to rest a little by the shadow of an empty bus while Geslet converses with two young shoeshine kids. Beside me, there is a

little boy standing next to a “kabrette” beads of sweat are falling from his forehead. It is also resting here. His name is Jackson[4], he told me he has 13 or 14 years old but he seems much younger[5].

He lives with his father in Haiti, in Belladère. This morning, like every Friday and Monday, he got up, took a bath and came here to Elias Pina, without taking the time to have something to eat.

Jackson and his Kabrette talk with Geslet Bordes, Child Protection Officer UNICEF Haiti

Jackson and his Kabrette talk with Geslet Bordes, Child Protection Officer UNICEF Haiti

Jackson and his Kabrette talk with Geslet Bordes, Child Protection Officer UNICEF Haiti

For a few pesos, he carries heavy things for the travelers, merchants and customers using his Kabrette. ”Look,” he said, pointing to it ” I did it my-self. All this my-self! I paid 20 gourdes for the wheel,” he adds proud and mischievous.

Jackson works here twice a week for 60 gourdes[6] per day, which is not enough for him to pay for a plate of rice and a juice of fruit ”This money, I give it to my father. Sometimes I can even buy some clothes here at the market.”

Geslet, who joined us for quite some time, asked if he goes to class the other days of the week. ”No, I went to school up to the second year of primary school. When I’m not here, I help my father. I work the land. I would love to go back to school. My biggest dream is to become a doctor. In Haiti, when people are sick, they do not have money to go to the doctor. They do not know where to go or who to talk to”, he said gently with hope.

The various border points, there are still many girls and boys like Clifford to be help, Jackson is one of them. Since the beginning of 2016, 351[7] unaccompanied minors from the Dominican Republic who have been identified by agents of the IBESR and child protection players. They are supported by UNICEF and his partners and held in transit centers pending family reunification.

Julie Harlet- UNICEF Haiti Communication

Translation Tania Montano Aguilar

 

[1] On this subject see our articles and videos on Edyl http://timounyo.com/enfant-heros-en-haiti-edyl-jolifils-en-route-vers-la-liberte/ and Djolanda http://timounyo.com/enfant-heros-en-haiti-djolanda-erasse-lapprentie-couturiere-qui-reve-de-devenir-infirmiere/

[2] It is with his godmother that Clifford currently lives.

[3] Small bun stuffed with meat, vegetables or egg

[4] His real name has been changed

[5] He said he doesn’t know his exact age. It’s my father who tells me, we got to trust him.

[6] About one dollar at the time of this reportage.

[7] Data from UNICEF Haïti, Protection section at June 8th, 2016.

This post is also available in: French