News / Americas

January Earthquake Displaces Many Haitian Children

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

Multimedia

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

UN Watchdog Urges Israel to Probe Possible Gaza War Crimes

More than 2,100 Palestinians, most of them civilians, were killed in a 51-day war in Gaza, along with 67 Israeli soldiers and six civilians in Israel More

New Kenyan 'Thin SIMs' Poised to Transform African Mobile Money

Equity's new technology is approved in African nation for one-year trial, though industry leader Safaricom says thin SIMs could lead to data theft and fraud More

Solar's Future Looks Brighter

New technology and dropping prices are contributing to a surge in solar power More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
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.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid

More Americas News

US Coast Guard Rescues 33 Cubans at Sea

Because the overloaded boat did not make landfall, those rescued will be returned to Cuba
More

Western Experts Increasingly Fear Lone Wolf Terror Attacks

Slaying and assault on Canada's parliament building was followed by a hatchet attack on two New York City policemen
More

Search Underway at New Site in Mexico Missing Students Case

This week marked one month since the students went missing after clashing with police in mysterious circumstances
More

Public Transport in Latin America, Asia Most Dangerous for Women

Thousands of women and gender experts were questioned to create the listing
More

Kerry Lays Wreath for Slain Canadian Soldier

World has been witness to Canada's strength in face of tragedy, he says
More

Crowds Gather for Funeral of Canadian Soldier Killed in Ottawa

Corporal Nathan Cirillo, 24, was shot dead in last week near Canada's parliament building in attack allegedly carried out by convert to Islam
More