The Aspen-based Mercy and Sharing Foundation aims to get back to doing what it does best in the next few weeks — providing a fighting chance for the abandoned babies of Haiti.
Founder Susie Krabacher, of Aspen, said she hopes to have a written contract with the Haitian government to reopen Mercy and Sharing’s Abandoned Baby Unit in the government-operated General Hospital in Port-au-Prince any day.
The foundation’s prior baby unit in the same hospital was destroyed in the 2010 earthquake that devastated much of the country. Although much of the hospital is operated from a plywood-and-tent-like structure, the rubble has been cleared for the special baby care. Mercy and Sharing is prepared to move in three trailers that have been retrofitted with medical gear to provide the baby care.
“They’re really state-of-the-art as emergency clinics compared to what’s available at the hospitals,” Krabacher said.
Mercy and Sharing provided clean water, baby formula, food, medicine, beds and 24-hour care for hundreds of abandoned babies for 15 years.
“Almost all of them have infections when they arrive,” Krabacher said.
Mercy and Sharing nurses the babies back to health and places many of them in orphanages. The orphanages covet healthy children because they are so much easier to adopt out.
Other babies stay with Mercy and Sharing’s orphanages, which don’t adopt out babies.
Krabacher, a former Playboy model who has undertaken child relief efforts in Haiti for nearly 20 years, is used to dealing with corrupt government regimes and unscrupulous orphanages, which she suspects have stolen babies from her unit’s care because adoption of healthy children can be lucrative business.
She said she has seen “signs of great hope” with the current presidential administration and was optimistic about the direction of the government. Nevertheless, she is taking safeguards with the Abandoned Baby Unit this time around. The attorney and director for Mercy and Sharing are negotiating a contract, which spells out that the Abandoned Baby Unit will care for only one child per crib and 42 total.
Protocols also are established to prevent anyone except medical personnel tied to Mercy and Sharing from getting access to the Abandoned Baby Unit. There will be a front desk and a guard.
Every child will have a file created with photographs, fingerprints and toeprints. They will be registered with the Ministry of Social Affairs so they have an identity.
Conditions are typically bleak in Haiti for abandoned children, she said. Babies are often crowded into rusty cribs. They stop turning over or attempting interaction with other humans out of lack of care, according to Krabacher.
“They’re just a marshmallow after one month,” she said.
Toddlers are tied to beds because no one can watch over them and prevent them from pursuing rats out of hunger or wandering into the traffic of busy streets, according to Krabacher.
Mercy and Sharing Foundation is making arrangements to care for the children’s psychological as well as physical needs. The children are essentially suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, Krabacher said.
Mercy and Sharing Foundation’s own hospital was destroyed in the earthquake and likely will never reopen, according to Krabacher. Numerous clinics and hospitals were opened thanks to the earthquake relief, so the need has eased somewhat.
Mercy and Sharing Village survived the earthquake. Contained on the 17 acres are three orphanages — one for healthy boys, one for healthy girls and one for handicapped children. The foundation provides education from infancy through vocational school.
“We educate the heck out of them,” Krabacher said, stating that education is the best way to give them hope for a better life.
Krabacher said she is being recognized by World Children in November for her efforts in Haiti. The award comes with $50,000, which will go to the Abandoned Baby Unit project. Mercy and Sharing has raised the $75,000 needed for each trailer for the Abandoned Baby Unit. It needs to raise funds for the estimated $60,000 in annual operating expenses.
To learn more about the foundation’s efforts and to donate, go to www.haitichildren.org.