Monday, 19 April 2010
C'est La Vie
It's been some time since my last visit to this particular house in the SOS Children's Village and I am looking for a sullen, big-eyed kid with little expression and meager engagement in his surroundings.
What I see instead is a rounded face and playful cheekiness as Sonson imitates the sounds and noises of one of his older SOS brothers.
'Bbbrrrr' says the older boy and shakes his head. 'Bbbrrrr' says Sonson and mirrors the movements with his own little head. It goes on and on and a big smile lights up Sonson's face. The first I have ever seen on him.
Their noses almost touch and their intimate, wordless communication makes me forget that I am there with a team of American journalists, who need to take pictures and interview the SOS mother.
It is truly amazing to witness such change. Sonson was found naked and alone in one of the tent camps in central Port-au-Prince. In fact, he was found in one of the most crowded areas right in front of the crumbled presidential palace, where tens of thousands of people live in makeshift shelters. Still, no one knew his name, his age or where he came from. Someone just began to call him 'C'est la Vie' - such is life.
Two Swedish journalists were alerted to his existence and informed authorities about the boy. A woman was supposedly taking care of him, but was not a relative. Allegedly she used the boy to secure more food aid and occasionally went to hospitals to get medicine for him, which she would then re-sell. During preliminary investigations the woman who 'cared' for him said that the boy was found in a ruined house two days after the quake, and that she was a relative of the deceased mother. Her story changed a few times and a child protection officer told the two journalists that the boy was visibly sick and malnourished and would likely have died, had he stayed with the woman for two more weeks.
The day after his arrival Sonson was sent to a doctor and the malnourishment was confirmed. He was put on a special nutritious diet that would still be gentle enough so as to not cause diarrhea - a very dangerous condition for such a weakened child. It was also estimated that he was around 18 months old.
The two journalists came to see Sonson a few hours after he had been admitted to SOS Children's Villages. They expressed relief seeing him wearing clean clothes and sitting on the arm of his new SOS mother. The non-descript naming of C'est La Vie had been changed to a proper name.
I often found myself stopping by the home just to check on him and I was told he ate and slept well, but in the first few weeks Sonson's arms stayed unbearably thin and he was too weak to crawl and move around on his own. I would see him on the arm of elder children or of his SOS mother, all big eyed and clean, but still quiet and with no smile. It turned out he had also suffered from malaria at some point, so there really was a lot to recover from.
But hey, what a difference a month can make in a small boy's life! Here he was, engaging with his surroundings and clearly fond of the attention from his older brother, who in turn looked more than pleased to be copied so vigorously by little Sonson. Truly heartwarming to see that this little fellow who had lost all and everyone due to the earthquake now was forming new bonds.
If only the Swedish journalists could see him now. I am sure they would be pleased with the fact that they might even have problems recognizing him.