Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Godmother, Part One

   Being a godmother here in Haiti is a pretty common thing.  They have godparents for everything.  Children, marriages, graduations, any big life event.  Not only do the Catholic Haitians do this, but all Haitians seem to do this.  So, needless to say, I've been asked to be a godmother quite often.  It is the responsibility of the godparent to financially and emotionally support the person in certain respects (sometimes in all respects).  Often, I decline.  "No, mesi.  Not this time, sorry!"  That is my typical response.  However, I have said 'yes' on occasion.  I am the godmother to several children here.  Sonson (Margarethe's son) is one of my 'fyel' - godchildren, as well as a couple other children that I delivered.  I have varying degrees of responsibility with them all.
   A few weeks ago, Mackenson asked me to be the godmother of his graduation.  Normally, I would have given him my pat answer "No, mesi.  Not this time, sorry!"  But, his case is different.  I first met Mackenson about seven years ago, when he came to my clinic as a young teenager with an injured leg.  He had been dragged by a horse and had some muscle damage.  I told him he might need to go to the hospital.  He cried. I didn't know it then, but he wasn't crying from the pain or from fear of being hospitalized.  He was crying because he was a restavek and he was afraid that his family would not like spending money on him at the hospital.  He was correct.  Shortly after his injury, while he was recovering, his foster family told him they didn't want him anymore, because he would be more expensive now that he was 'injured' and couldn't work hard.  He had to find a different place to live.  This is when the boys' home started.  We rented him and several other boys a home in Jacmel where they could continue their schooling under the supervision of a Christian chaperone.  Mackenson did well in the home, and has come to his last year of school.  He graduates on June 22 of this year.  Through these past seven years, I've given him advice from time to time, listened to his struggles and hopes and dreams, tried to find him work, and generally filled in the role of a concerned family member for him.  He has a mother who lives very far away and is ill.  His father is deceased.  So, when Mackenson asked me to be the godmother at his graduation, I realized I would be the only 'family' representing him there, and I just had to say 'yes'.
   Here's the catch:  the graduation is a big ceremony.  There will be hundreds of people there.  The godparents have an actual speaking role at the ceremony.  There are specific things I am expected to say and do and bring.  And, ex-president Duvalier (you may know him as "Baby Doc") will be officially presiding over the affair.  So, no pressure.
   I had a big sit-down talk with Mackenson the other day, where I took notes about all that I needed to prepare for.  The big event happens in less than a month.  I'll let you know how it goes!