“I don’t think I could ever love a child that isn’t biologically mine.”
This sentiment is one that every foster and adoptive parent has heard probably within the first five minutes of proclaiming their desire to care for a child that was brought into the world by someone else. It’s difficult to determine if this mentality is bound up by culture, geography, personality, or a complicated mixture of them all.
Maybe you’ve heard it. Maybe you’ve said it. I used to think this way. While some families cannot imagine being bound by biology, others cannot fathom the world otherwise.
In Haiti (as in many other countries) this thought process is rarely–if ever–evident. When parents die or experience debilitating poverty, children find love and refuge in the homes of close family members, extended relatives, or friends.
Worldwide, 135.5 million children have lost either their mother or their father, while 17.6 million, a substantially smaller group, have lost both their parents. Saraphina falls into the latter category.
In 2008, by the bedside of her dying, widowed friend, Frimose whispered the words, “I will raise her as if she came from my own womb.” The woman's last and dying wish was that Saraphina be cared for within the loving home of Frimose.
And thus, Frimose began the hard work of parenting a grief-stricken 8-year-old girl.
Looking back now, Frimose says the early years were challenging, but she focused on keeping Saraphina in school and church. Many orphaned children in Haiti will miss school for 2-4 years after becoming orphaned due to the cost of tuition, the overwhelming grief, or other extenuating circumstances. Because of this, it’s not uncommon to see a 17-year-old in 4th grade or a 21-year-old still in high school. The children don’t lack intelligence; however, many of them lack the stability of a family.
Frimose knew that focusing on Saraphina’s education and spiritual development would provide consistency for her in the midst of brokenness and chaos.
Frimose hasn’t been caring for Saraphina alone, though. Pastor Carlos’ church in Haiti supports Saraphina through the Home Based Care Program, ensuring she receives the spiritual, physical, emotional, and mental care needed to continue growing and ultimately thrive. Frimose sees Pastor Carlos as a “spiritual father” to Saraphina, and a constant source of encouragement to both of them.
Saraphina was up against the world in many regards as an orphaned 8-year-old girl in Haiti. Her journey has been a difficult one, but it’s a journey filled with hope. Saraphina will graduate from secondary school on time. It’s difficult to explain just how rare this is for children who have been orphaned, but suffice it to say, Saraphina is somewhat of a miracle. She is a beautiful, smart girl who loves to study French and dreams of one day being a lawyer.
Did you catch that?
The little girl who lost it all is now dreaming big dreams in a home filled with love, stability, and the opportunity to hope. Saraphina’s story could have been so much different if not for the local church and the sacredness of that whispered promise.
Frimose rewrote Saraphina’s story the day she said, “I will raise her as if she came from my own womb.” What a powerful love.