Miracle Boy Survivor of the Haiti Earthquake

An estimated 100,000 children were left orphaned by the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti, but Kiki, luckily, is not one of them.

By Kenneth Miller from Reader's Digest | February 2011

With his family safe in Gracia’s home village of Depale, Odinel haunts the streets of the capital, camping under a tarp near the ruins where his other children remain interred. His job at the customs office has been cut back to three days a week; on his days off, he returns to Depale when he can afford the bus fare.

Kiki, Sabrina, and David walk three miles each morning to a school called Ecole Renovation, in the town of Jacmel. In Port-au-Prince many kids still haven’t resumed their studies because most schools were destroyed by the quake. “I like school, even the homework,” Kiki says, though the ordeal left him and his siblings so distressed that they failed all their classes last semester.

Like most schools in Haiti, Ecole Renovation charges tuition, nearly $100 a year per child. Unable to keep up with the payments, Odinel owes $400 and worries over how he will settle the debt. “We’re not living very well,” he says, “but I want my kids to continue to go to school. Afterward, they can learn a trade—any one they want.”

Kiki tells adults he hopes to be a mechanic when he grows up, or a truck driver, or perhaps an engineer so he can help rebuild his shattered country. But even talking about his dreams, Kiki is subdued. The joy that transfigured his face last January has seldom returned, his family says. Often he is silent and withdrawn.

Recently, however, his teacher says, he has been opening up in class, talking a little more, and trying his best to make progress. Kiki’s country, meanwhile, has barely begun to dig itself out of the rubble. At press time, just $897 million of the $5.75 billion in reconstruction funds promised by 130 countries had been delivered to Haiti. “The money isn’t getting to these people,” says rescuer Dunic, who has been following the situation through news reports. “They’re no better off than they were right after the quake.”

As the delays stretch on, families such as Kiki’s face choices that people in richer nations rarely have to contemplate. Food or school? Tent in the city or shack in the country? Stay with your loved ones or travel to look for work?

“My dream is to start a business for my family,” says Odinel, “maybe selling rice and beans, to be able to put another room on the house so the kids can sleep better.” Meanwhile, he and Gracia are grateful for what they have. “It was a miracle,” she says. “God didn’t want us to lose all of the children.”

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