News / Americas

January Earthquake Displaces Many Haitian Children

Jimmy Bonhomme and 'his' children
Jimmy Bonhomme and 'his' children


Jeff Swicord

Children and teenagers make up 45 percent of Haiti's population. Many have been traumatized by January's earthquake.  Some have lost parents or relatives who were their only means of support. The lucky ones find care and shelter from others.  But, many end up on the streets, fending for themselves and adding to Haiti's already sizeable population of street children.

The song is called Kids Carnival, a rap about surviving on the streets.  The artists are these street children from Port au Prince.

Each day, about 30 kids - the rappers among them - gather at the home of the man who helped them record it, 32-year-old Jimmy Bonhomme.  He's a former street kid himself, and he provides the one meal these kids have each day.

"It is a passion of mine, a mission for me," said Jimmy Bonhomme. "It's like God talked to me and told me to do this."

Before January's earthquake, there were 10,000 street children in Port au Prince, according to a UN estimate.  That number is expected to rise in the aftermath of the quake.  Most street children spend their days begging for money and food.  

Reverend Joseph Constant has worked with Haitian street kids for years.  He says their lives are full of misery and despair.

"They will either die on the street because no one really cares - no one cares about these children," he said. "So they are going to die or they are going to use them through trafficking. And usually they are abused sexually or they are a part of the crime wave."

Bonhomme knows the problems these kids face.  When he was on the streets, he was jailed seven times.  Often, he says, for crimes he did not commit.  

As an adult, he has dedicated his life to protecting street kids.

"Sometimes you have good moments, sometimes you have bad moments too," he said. "But not having anyone to defend your rights, that was the main reason that I decided to defend others."

The meal he provides everyday is conditional. If the kids want to eat, they must attend school with Bonhomme every morning, from 7 until 10.

The neighborhood has given him a small building where he stores benches and donated supplies.

The first thing he teaches the kids is how to write their names. In a country with a 50-percent literacy rate, this is no small accomplishment.

"If I am still alive, I want to make sure they get something good in society, a doctor or a lawyer.  If I am still alive," said Jimmy Bonhomme.

After school, the kids go out to beg.  They give some of that money back so Bonhomme can buy food   

The support he provides is not lost on the children.  David Camille told us he lived with his grandmother until she died.  Then, he was forced onto the streets.   He has been shot at by gangs and hit by a car.  Papa, as he calls Bonhomme, provides the only stability in his life.

"Papa has been doing a lot for us," said David Camille. "He gives us most everything we need.  Even some times he gets mad at us when we do things he doesn't like.  But that doesn't prevent him from loving us and giving us what we need."

Nothing goes to waste, down to the burnt pasta at the bottom of the pot.  Then, a scramble for the last morsels.  

Officials say it's impossible to know how many more children were forced into the streets by the earthquake.  

These children told us they do not want to live in a government run orphanage.  They prefer the freedom and comfort Papa provides.

You May Like

Video Debt-ridden Refugees Await Onslaught of Lebanese Winter

Aid agencies are attempting to reduce potentially devastating consequences of freezing conditions and snowstorms that killed eight last year, including three Syrian refugees

Photogallery Belgian Security Measures Foreshadow New Normal for Europe

Rising threat of terrorism, disaffected Muslim populations and open borders, along with refugee, migrant crisis, are creating perfect storm for Europe, which some analysts fear continent is ill-suited to weather

Americans Think About Strange Stuff at Thanksgiving

Tattoos, hookah bars and doughnuts? Google Maps lays out what people really have on their minds during the holiday

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against ISi
November 24, 2015 3:04 AM
The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs

More Americas News

Canada Extends Deadline to Bring in 25,000 Syrian Refugees

Humanitarian workers across Middle East have been gearing up for massive airlift of Syrian refugees to Canada

Canada Refugee Plan Revives Concerns Over Porous US Border

Border agents, some residents say they are concerned about Ottawa's plan to bring in 25,000 Syrians by year-end, even though the government there insists its screening will be thorough

Quake in Mexico Shakes Capital, No Reported Damage or Injuries

USGS says 5.5. magnitude quake had its epicenter 257 km (160 miles) south of Mexico City in the southwestern state of Guerrero

Venezuela Opposition Delighted at Macri's Argentina Presidential Win

Activists see election result in Argentina as blow for leftists in Latin America, good omen for their parliamentary vote next month

Climate Change Sends Chile's Wine Industry Southward

Vintners in the world's fourth largest wine exporter are watching some of their promising vines wither with climate change

President-elect Promises to Reboot Argentine Economy

Mauricio Macri also calls on Central Bank's top tier to step aside and says he wants Venezuela suspended from Mercosur trading bloc for human rights abuses