By: Carril Desrosiers, Free-lance Journalist, Port-au-Prince
They are children, most of them male, between 6 and 17 years old. They adopt the street as a natural habitat for survival, maintaining relationships at all hours of the day and night with other poor like them. They essentially come from rural areas and poor districts of provincial cities and Port-au-Prince. They meet in precise places at certain hours of the day and night. Their general environment is Port-au-Prince.
These are the criteria used by Martine Bernier and Paul Ascensio (Save the Children Canada –Haiti Programme) to define the population of street children.
Through irrefutable testimonies, one will be able to understand factors of influence, the complexity, multiple forms of the moving reality of these children, who live in a complete state of poverty and in abject misery. Children of the streets, children in the streets, they identify themselves and tell about their own lives.
At the National School Fortuna Guerry, one morning in August 1999, Donalson Beauzile told of his troubles.
"I am Donalson Beauzile. But at home everyone calls me Dickenson. I was born in Port-au-Prince and I am eleven years old. I spend my entire days on the street because my mother doesn’t have the means to help me and send me to school. My father is dead, since several years. After passing my day in the streets, I return to my home which is located on Chemin des Dalles. After making it to Grade 4, I had to abandon my studies in favour of marginal activities. I load bags for people taking public transportation and earn up to 40 Gourdes per day*. I take that sum normally to my mother and she uses it as she wants.
"I am also a victim of the insecurity. The older children, often armed, complicate my existence and do some serious harm to me. In the evening, when it is too late for me to go home, they deliberately put fire on me while I am asleep. They seize my money and my belongings. There are no law institutions where I can file complaints.
"Everybody is angry at poor children. Often, policemen arrive unexpectedly, systematically secure the place and arrest all the deprived people without justification. When we get to the Delmas Police station, we are treated like dogs and are put in tiny and overcrowded cells. There are thieves among us. But not all of us are. Honest and hard working children are also among us. I personally prefer to work for the things that I need.
"Thank God I don’t fall sick often. The bad things that I frequently suffer include: migraine, fever, the flu, etc. In bad cases, I visit a doctor and pay for the consultation with my own money.
"I often have sexual intercourse with the girls in the area. I am aware of the diseases which I can contract, such as AIDS. Therefore, I take my precautions and use condoms. In order to be informed, I listen to Radio Ginen and Caraibe FM.
"I am totally without medical and sanitary care. Lately, I was at the State University Hospital to have a cyst tumor treated. They asked me such a high amount that I returned home without being consulted. I needed an admission card, which costs 15 Gourdes and I would have to pay for the medicines that would be prescribed by the physician. This would have cost me 150 Gourdes in total, which I did not have. Even if I had told them that I am a street child, it would not have changed a thing
"I would like to attend a public school in order to pursue my studies. I would work in the morning and go to school in the afternoon. I am ready to finance my studies as long as it doesn’t exceed my meager means. But, the problem is that there is too much favoritism in public schools. Their doors are not open for the underprivileged.
"I have hardly any leisure. But in order to relax, my buddies and I bought a ball for 15 Gourdes and play soccer together. On Sundays, I go to the beach (at Le Lambi), and after that return home.
"My dream is to become a professional journalist, and be a man like all men."
It was 10:00 a.m. in the South Section and Saintael Saintubin related his problems.
"Balikou is my nickname. My true name is Saintael Saintubin. My parents live in Bainet. My father works in a bakery and my mother does laundry for private people. I came to Port-au-Prince by myself, by clinging to the tail of a public bus that made the journey. The street is my only home. I wipe cars and I beg people for money and food to survive. My parents know that I am in the streets. But they cannot do anything. I have a sister who works at TELECO (the phone company). We never see each other. I don know where my other brothers and sisters are.
"I am often dirty because it is very difficult to wash oneself and wear clean clothes. I buy second-hand clothes at the market of Croix-des-Bossales.
"I have the strong desire to return home and be loved by my parents. Because I am in constant and clear danger where I am. I have heard talk about charity centres. But, I am somewhat distrustful on this point.
"My dream it is to pursue my studies, to become a construction professional and to truly integrate in the society."
Pierre Roussel of the Portail Leogane base, also spoke about his life.
"I am Pierre Roussel Jean-Claude Georges. I am 10 years old. My mother has passed away and my father lives in Espanda, a locality in the south of Port-au-Prince, not far from La Ferme. I have always lived in Portail Léogane. I only beg and wipe cars. I earn 15 Gourdes a day. Regularly I entrust this sum to Marie, a food vendor who saves it for me. She gives me food and drink when I need it.
"I eat once a day. My lunch costs me 4 Gourdes. My days are full. Each morning, I go to the city to buy carrots and then resell them. With this money I buy myself some used clothes and other useful things for my survival. Thank God, I am not a sickly child.
"I am the prey of bad people. At night, when I fall asleep, they pour glue in my eyes — this is why I do not have a clear vision. They hate me because I don’t give them my money. I used to take drugs, inhaling glue or thinners, the fumes of which cause an ecstatic feeling. I am informed of venereal illnesses that kill a lot of people in Haiti. The older ones say that the best way to protect ourselves is to use condoms. I would like to go to a Charity Centre but I am afraid of being beaten by older children. Meanwhile, I wait for the humanitarian projects of the government."
* Currently, 1 US$ equals 19 Gourdes.