I always like to share what I’m reading with the kids, so after reading The Big Truck That Went By, I borrowed from the library I Came From the Water by Vanita Oelschlager. I Came From the Water uses very simple language and few sentences per page to describe a story of a Haiti boy, a baby during the 2004 flooding and a young child during the 2010 earthquake. The boy received his name, Moses, after being pulled from a basket in the water and he lives at the St. Helene Children’s Village. The book describes a second wave of orphans arriving after the earthquake and of the damage of the Chlorea epidemic, though unlike The Big Truck That Went By it does’t get into the origins of the Chlorea epidemic (UN soldiers). Rather it describes the need to wash hands and watch what water one drinks and then says:
“The people who came with Father Rick helped some get better. But some went to Heaven. I want to go to Heaven too. But not until after I am a very, very old man.”
The simple descriptions makes the book sound safe and comforting even while dealing with floods, earthquakes and epidemics. The pictures are bright and colorful. The map in the front of the book shows where the island is located and the map at the back of the book shows how the island is divided into two countries and where the boy’s hometown is in relationship to the capital and St. Helenes. There are some information pages in the back with photographs the people and places.
The internet always provides avenues to explore stories further. The publisher, VanitaBooks, has a website and as I surf there I realize I’ve read some of their other books (including Magic Words, which I blogged about). I Came From the Water definately lives up to the goal listed on the front page:
Our books help children work through those life experiences we adults call ‘growing up.’ … In each we try to tell a story that kids and their parents will see as honest, informative and leave them smiling at the end. – Vanita Oelschlager
One of the organizations mentioned within the book NPH International, which Father Rick belongs to, has its own website where you can read other stories of Haitian children. Browsing through the website I smile to see that the children there are not available for adoption but are assured that they will not be asked to leave the institution until they are adults. The community there will be their “forever home” and they won’t be sent off to foreign countries but instead allowed to maintain contact with what remains of their families. Hopefully that protects them from child trafficking such as that organized by Laura Silsby in the aftermath of the earthquake. I wonder what portion of the decision making and such comes from the local people in Haiti and what portion is decided by their international organization.
I Came From the Water certainly doesn’t treat Moses like a child in need of further rescuing, but as a child who can help others within his community, with a bright future ahead. I wish I could show the book to people who, right after the earthquake, defended Laura Silsby’s actions arguing that any child in Haiti would be better off adopted in Canada even if taken illegally and never reunited with their families back home. Yes, the book glosses over some of the hardness of life, but the existence of hardness doesn’t mean a total absense of joy either.