Port-Au-Prince, Haiti – Five years ago in the frantic and confusing days following the devastating Haitian earthquake, a traumatised boy named Sonson Yvenord was found at a makeshift orphanage.
Sonson’s mother and father were killed when their home collapsed after the 7.3-magnitude quake struck on January 12, 2010. The boy’s older sister was missing.
The deadly temblor had ruined the Caribbean nation, killing more than 200,000 people and leaving another 1.5 million homeless.
Sonson, 8, survived the falling debris but was left with just the clothes on this back, and shredded plastic sandles about four sizes too big. At the orphanage he was understandably in shock, terrified, and constantly wiping away tears.
Five years later, Al Jazeera found Sonson again. He‘s 13-years old now and still lives in the same orphanage, but everything else in his life has changed. He‘s put on weight and looks healthy, and the wounds from falling rubble have long since healed.
He studies every day in a small classroom in the orphanage and he can now read and write and will graduate from middle school next year. He wants to be a mechanic when he grows up.
“I go to school, I go to church, I can sleep well, and play with my friends,” Sonson said. “That is what makes me happy.”
|A screen shot of Sonson Yvenord at the orphanage in 2010|
And he’s got something else back: his smile.
Things are far from perfect at the orphanage, or in Haiti for that matter.
Reverend Jeannis Mario who runs the home said money is tight, and the orphanage is about $2,000 short each month of the funds needed to operate as he would like.
Corners have to be cut. Sonson and the other 22 children at the home receive two meals a day, rather than three. But Mario said he‘s grateful for money they get from a Brazilian church that keeps the kids they have housed, fed as best they can, and in school learning.
Any extra money each month he puts towards constructing an extra classroom, which is being built little by little.
Five years after the tragedy, Haiti has slowly been reconstructed with new roads, buildings and homes. But many here continue to live with the earthquake’s devastation. An estimated 80,000 people are still in tents, and three-quarters of those residing in the capital Port-Au-Prince do so in slums.
The country’s political turmoil is also making life difficult. Opponents of President Michel Martelly have mounted growing street protests in Port-Au-Prince, accusing the president and his family of corruption.
Demonstrations took serious turn in recent days with some calling for civil war.
The 2010 quake’s legacy is still being felt back at the orphanage. Reverend Mario said he had to turn away 18 mothers who asked him to take in their children last year.
“It’s bittersweet,” he told Al Jazeera. “I’m sad because I cannot help the number of children brought to me, but I am happy because I can at least help someone like Sonson.”
Follow Gabriel Elizondo on Twitter: @ElizondoGabriel