Emil doesn't let go for a long while. He has just seen his mother again for the first time in a month. His mother is laughing while tears run down her cheeks, and Bairon and myself feel a bit out of place. Bairon is from Guatemala and will be leading the temporary care programme here at the SOS Children's Village in Santo for two months. He has quite a workload to take care of, since he is in charge both of the new arrivals due to be admitted to the temporary care programme, and of the family reunification programme. During the last few weeks, 80 families have been reunited, 120 more are scheduled to be reunited in the next week. But back to Emil. Emil arrived in the SOS Children's Village two days after I did [in February, editor's note], his father died when their house collapsed. Emil's mother brought him to us, since she couldn't take care of him. In cases like Emil's, an entry is made at registration to signal that the parents are receiving help so that the children can return to live with their parents after a certain time.
During the first few days, Emil was having a hard time, he cried a lot and wanted to be allowed to go see his mother and father. But the other children in his SOS family and of course his SOS mother took good care of him. So good, in fact, that the last time I saw him about two weeks ago, he was captain of the football team and had just scored two goals. I couldn't believe this was the same boy who refused to let go of his mother, crying inconsolably. He had become fully integrated into the village and had made many friends. As I watched him, he was duly celebrated by his teammates, shot a fast ball in my direction and said "Louis, my mother is coming tomorrow to take me home. Do you think I'll be allowed to come back to visit my friends here?" After I assured him that would be possible he breathed a sigh of relief and ran back onto the pitch.
So yesterday was the day the families were reunited. Emil's mother, grandmother and an aunt had come to take him home. As soon as he saw his mother, he dashed over and hugged her really tightly. For a few minutes, he wouldn't let go; and it was an intimate moment, a beautiful moment, and Bairon and myself were unable to fight back a few tears. Slowly, Emil let go of his mother, turned to me and, in a voice sounding a lot more mature than his ten years of age, said "and now, it's time to say goodbye". He walked over to me and Bairon and coolly low-fived us both, but I could tell how nervous he really was. Even before she took him into her arms, his mother was already crying. She whispered something into his ears and walked him to the gates of the village. Emils friends sang a Haitian song and waved to him. In the weeks to come, the social workers will be visiting his family frequently to provide them with food and tents, if necessary. It isn't the last time Emil sees the SOS Children's Village. I am certain he'll be back to play some more football with his new-found friends. Absolutely certain.