HAITI: KEVINSON’S STORY (PART 2)
When I tell people that I volunteer with the Hotes Foundation I usually get the same two questions — ‘What do you do?’ and ‘How can I donate?’
At the Hotes Foundation, we go to where the poorest of the poor live so we can put in the hard work needed to improve their lives. As for donations, we don’t accept them because founder Richard Hotes understands that money alone doesn’t save lives.
If the Hotes Foundation was like other organizations and simply wrote a check to an aid organization, we never would have found Kevinson. Like millions of other dying babies he would have been lost to sickness and starvation.
When we found Kevinson in March 2014 we’d already made dozens of trips to his village over five years. On each visit we’d bring a month’s worth of food and supplies and every time we returned we’d still find acute malnutrition and disease.
Richard decided ‘enough is enough’ and started steering our efforts toward a long-term plan to free the villagers from the shackles of generational poverty. But before we could do that, we had to have a better understanding of how to break those chains.
We opened a clinic and brought in Dr. Brianne, a fearless specialized family care physician with extensive experience serving refugee populations. She saw hundreds of villagers and kept meticulous notes. After three days of grinding work, Dr. Brianne briefed the Hotes Foundation team.
Before Dr. Brianne’s arrival we knew the villagers were suffering. We could see it in every starving child, hear it in every rattling cough, smell it in every festering wound and touch it every time we tried to comfort the afflicted by taking their hands in ours. What we didn’t know was the depth of their suffering. Dr. Brianne’s heart-breaking report changed all that.
Villagers had worms in their stomachs, untreated high blood pressure, diabetes, tuberculosis and a wide range of infections. The diagnoses for women were even grimmer. Dr. Brianne found health issues that couldn’t be treated in the village. We had to rush one woman with advanced breast cancer to a hospital in Port-au-Prince for treatment.
Dr. Brianne’s report was devastating, but it gave us a set of clear objectives to accomplish. They were long-term solutions to generational problems and would guide our larger mission in this and other forgotten villages.
But those solutions wouldn’t save Kevinson. They would take too long and he didn’t have the time to wait.
As I held Kevinson in my arms I could feel how fragile he was. His elbows and knees bulged from his reed-thin arms and legs. I could see the outline of his ribcage through his chestnut skin. At 6 months old he weighed as much as a newborn.
Kevinson and his mother, Enik, personified the dreadful situation for the village’s women and children. Enik battled illness throughout her seven-month pregnancy. The situation didn’t improve after Kevinson’s birth. His parents were watching him waste away to nothing and there was nothing they could do. They were convinced Kevinson was a voodoo baby, cursed to die.
Even after we discovered him there was no guarantee he would survive. Kevinson was starving to death because his mother was so malnourished she couldn’t produce breast milk. If he didn’t get immediate help, Kevinson would die in less than a week.
The Hotes Foundation team was not going to let that happen.
We had a one-year supply of formula at our clinic and Richard sent us there to grab it. We stuffed a large duffel bag so full we could barely zip it closed before rushing to hand deliver it to Kevinson’s mother.
As we were leaving the village that evening I looked back and saw Kevinson in his mother’s arms as they stood in the doorway of their hut. She was feeding him the formula.
I kept that image as I prayed for Kevinson’s life later that night, confident we’d done enough to save him.
I returned to the village the next day eager to see how Kevinson was doing. I expected good news, but as I walked toward his hut I could sense that something was dreadfully wrong.