A Boy Lost and Found in the Chaos of the Haiti Earthquake
From losing his mother in the 2010 Haiti Earthquake to living on the street at age 6, one boy found compassion and support amid the chaos. January 10, 2020 - Haiti
Odril’s smile shows how content he is living in St. Helene at NPH Haiti.
Odril is 16 years old. He joined the NPH family soon after the earthquake on 12 January 2010 that ravaged the country, tore apart families and friends, and led Haiti into a period of instability from which it still struggles to recover. His mother was one of the many thousands who died in the earthquake. It is something he finds difficult to talk about still, 10 years on.
“It was difficult to recover from,” he says. “Everyone else was trying to cope with missing someone. Though I was very young, I still miss my mother.”
After the death of his mother, Odril’s father sent him to live with his grandparents in the Jacmel countryside, located on the Haiti’s southern coast about 52 miles south of the capital. Odril’s uncle, however, disagreed with the decision, so Odril was brought to live with his uncle’s family in Port-au-Prince.
Unfortunately, life did not get any easier. “My uncle had a family and other children to raise. At the same time, I was so sad. I had lost my mother and I was being moved around a lot. I didn’t know what was going to happen next. The city was in chaos and people were suffering. There was so much damage to the buildings and the roads remain blocked. It was hard to get hold of the basics. I felt so alone.”
In 2010, Odril left his uncle’s home and lived on the street, fending for himself at just 7 years old.
While searching for food one day in one of the many tent cities that were scattered across the city, Odril was approached by staff of one of the NPH Haiti programs. That man sat down and talked with Odril. Odril told him what he was going through and it touched the man’s heart. He led Odril to the NPH Father Wasson Angels of Light (FWAL) program where he met Alfonso Leon, founder of FWAL. At that moment, Odril’s fortune turned for the better.
“I can’t remember the man’s name. I was so small and nervous. I can’t remember everything I said to him. I sometimes wonder what would have happened to me if I hadn’t met that man. Would I still be alive? He saved me,” smiles Odril. “I just remember he wore a white t-shirt with the NPH logo.”
Odril was accepted into the program in July 2010 and lived with approximately 30 children. He remained there for five years, where he convalesced and received love and support from NPH staff, as well as healthcare and education, while trying his best to make most of his childhood.
“My best and most fun memory is of my dad. I remember we were on our way to church and he put me on his shoulders as I wasn’t able to walk,” says Odril.
In 2015, Odril moved from FWAL to St. Helene where he currently lives in a house with 25 other boys. His favorite foods are pizza and hotdogs. Odril enjoys studying grammar, although he hopes to become a natural medicine scientist.
The first thing he does every morning is pray to God, then he plays some football with his friends, takes a shower, gets dressed, has breakfast, then goes to school.
“I love living at St. Helene because I have everything I need,” says Odril. “I remembered the first time I went to a restaurant was when I was living at FWAL. I was riding a little bicycle at the time. Then a member of staff came up to me and said we were going out to have a nice meal. I couldn’t believe the experience. I will never forget this. When I was living in the streets, I didn’t have this kind of hope. NPH gave it to me: opportunities to live a good life.”
Odril does not receive visits from his family on Family Day. He believes his father and sister may not alive. NPH, however, organizes activities for those who are abandoned and takes them to the beach or a fun place in Port-au-Prince.
According to Odril, NPH Haiti provides him an education, puts clothes on his back, and food on the table. “If it weren’t for NPH, I would not have the peace and education that I have today. I am now in eighth grade. At my age, I should have finished my secondary education by now, but things were delayed due to my first few years on the street. But that doesn’t matter. I am grateful for who I am and what I have, with many thanks to NPH.
“Thanks to this institution, all the children they raise receive an education, with an option of going to university. This is where I want to go. My life had a hard beginning, but here I am.”
Children’s names have been changed to protect their privacy.
Please support our programs in Haiti by visiting nph.org.
Denso Gay Communication Officer
You may be only one person in the world, but you may be all the world to one child.
—Fr. William Wasson