By Julie Rearick
We left the hotel at our usual time of 7:00 a.m. knowing we had two things to get done today: anchor the playground and haul gravel for surfacing. We ordered five dump truck loads of surfacing, and had it dumped on the other side of the tents. The tents would have had to be removed to dump the surfacing closer to the site, but we didn’t want to move more families. With eight wheelbarrows, four shovels and three rakes, the day began.
I decided to spend time with the children today and cherished every minute. As soon as we arrived I asked Jack, an older man in the community, to gather the children together on a sidewalk. They drew the playground equipment on paper. All the children’s hands reached for the only crayon. I wish I had more to give them but they were thrilled to have one.
Jack was a teacher of electricians. During the earthquake, he lost his Carrefour home – a house he described as large and beautiful. On the first day, he offered to help me and became a valuable partner since he spoke excellent English. He asked if I would like to see inside his tent, which was right beside the entrance to the play area. I went inside and was surprised to see a television and a fan blowing. Jack used his expertise to draw electricity from a nearby building into his small tent.
One 10-year-old boy named Mardoche became my favorite. He wanted to work to earn money for his mother and four siblings, but our rule was to have no children on the site. He stood nearby for two days and waved every time I looked at him. Today he introduced me to his mother, Leonne and she invited me to their tent. I took an interpreter with me so I could ask questions. Her husband died from an infection before the earthquake and she was a single mother with no means to feed her children. Before the earthquake, her children had attended a good school. This explained Mardoche`s good manners and ability to speak some English. I gave them all the food I had for the day, promising more the next.
It was sweltering hot. I have no idea how the men hauled stones all day with very little water. When we did get water, I would take mine and pour it into the mouths of children like a mother bird feeding her children. I was overwhelmed to see them opening their little mouths for a little bit of water.
The playground was completely finished by 5:00 pm.