HERE IS A GLIMPSE OF THE CHILDREN
Trip Start Feb 12, 2006
17Trip End May 12, 2008
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This is Fitiavana, his name means "love." Just one look at him and you can see he will have a hard life. He is seven years old, his legs are bowed from rickets, his face has a terrible deformity and he looks less than half his age. His cleft lip and palate makes his speech hard to understand, but that doesn't deter Fitiavana from chattering away and singing the lyrics to current Malagasy pop songs! His favorite thing, besides Aaron, was playing in the ocean. Without fear he'd run straight into the ocean. Aaron would scoop him up, put him up by the beach and he'd run right back again. Every time his laughter getting louder and louder. His clothes were soaked, but he didn't care. He'd fall in the sand and be covered from head to toe and still not care
Here is Sandrine, at 12 years she is the oldest of five children. Her head is habitually downcast and held low from years of trying to hide the imperfection on her face. She looks at you through the tops of her eyes and wears a long scarf on her head and uses the ends to cover her mouth. The hole in her mouth and lip distorts her speech and has led to an extreme shyness. She talks only with those close to her in no more than a whisper. Yet she is very smart and a beautiful artist. On the first day I gave her new clothes that my Aunt had sent, the only new clothes she has ever had. On the second day I helped her open her box of milk and showed her how to use a straw. She smiled when the milk reached her mouth. On the third day we went to the beach, I showed her how the sand would cover her feet when she stands still as the waves washed over them. She ran along the beach with Filipine and collected shells.
This is Filipine. She had to walk about 3 miles to school before a new one-room, thatched roof school house was built in her village. Now she walks about one mile two times a day up and down a mountain to and from her home. When Aaron first met her she was filthy, working in the fields in dirty, tattered clothes with a woven hat covering her unkempt braids and a bad facial disfigurement. Two week later she was a new girl. She had ridden in a car, saw an airplane, rode in a rickshaw, sat on a horse, got in the ocean and returned to her town in the countryside like a superstar with crowds gathering around her. She always had a small green cloth in her hand to cover her mouth with and wore a big floppy hat to cover her face. Each day after the surgery she'd look at her face in the mirror the nurses gave her
This is Jon, when he was born his mother looked at him with his facial deformity and left him and his father. Maybe it is that separation that has created such an inseparable bond between him and his father today. He is seven years old and has never been to school. When the other kids were coloring, he couldn't even hold a pencil or draw an image. He is illiterate like his father. The morning after Jon's surgery, the father looked at us with a sparkle in his eye, a huge smile with missing front teeth and thanked us for finding them. Next year, he said, Jon will go to school because now his lip is fixed and he will be able to talk. Two days after the surgery I heard laughter erupting in the courtyard from one of the children that I had not heard before. I looked around the corner and Jon had seen his reflection in a car mirror, he grabbed the mirror, turned it towards his face, smiled and laughed. The next day he started singing and talking. He finally warmed up to Aaron and I and would give us a big, shy smile when we looked at him. He ate yogurt for the first time, saw a train, a motorboat and a cargo ship, but one of his favorites was eating ice cream for the first time. On the 9 hour ride home he was so sleepy, but afraid to close his eyes and miss something. They were the first to start the walk home to their village. The father was so proud and couldn't wait to show off his new boy.