Last Friday Ydson and I traveled to Cap Haitian in the north to visit a special school, Footprints of the Son, for children with special needs.

Legally Ydson cannot travel without a letter from the hospital releasing him to travel with me to Cap Haitian for one day and a letter from a judge saying the hospital has the legal right to allow Ydson to visit another facility and that the hospital has appointed me to be the person who takes him. These are the “letters of transport” we needed, which sounds a little like what Peter Lorre was hiding in the film “Casablanca.”

Dr. Fredina, head physician at the hospital, was happy to write his letter–although it was not yet in my possession on Friday morning. But I don’t know a judge. I needed to call in a favor. One of my students is a former mayor of Anse-a-Galets and I asked if he knew a judge that could help me. All of the previous judges were fired after the horrible fiasco of the double murder in Ze Twa. The newest judge is not from La Gonave. But my student, former mayor Dahme, said, “I am still a big personality on La Gonave and I can help you.” And he did. He arranged a meeting between Ydson and the judge for last Thursday at 10:00, but I was to pick up the judge at the courthouse and bring him to the hospital. Dahme went with me.

The courthouse is an interesting mix of Greek temple and social services office. The building has a courthouse facade (it’s called the Tribunal) and a central courtyard. The clientele ranges from guys in suits on official business to the righteously indignant looking for their fair share of something. But the judge, the judge was a serious, thoughtful and ultimately a thorough individual. I doubt he wants to go down the way of the previous mishandlers of justice.

He made us wait almost an hour before seeing us. Then he called the hospital and spoke to several administrators. After that he was ready for his fact finding visit to the hospital. Accompanying the judge was his entourage which included a secretary, a couple of under secretaries, security personnel and a watch dog with UNICEF’s child protection program. How he got in the picture I don’t know, but the hospital was astir with excitement when we arrived.

And now the entire group – the judge, the secretary, the undersecretaries, the security squad, the watchdog – was followed by the hospital administrator, most of the nurses, all of the cleaning ladies, every parent whose kid was on Ydson’s wing and any patient who could walk. Everyone wanted in on the event; all claimed to know intimate details of Ydson’s past. (Li we; li pa we; he sees; he doesn’t see; his mother was 13; no she was 15.) The judge paid no attention whatsoever to the crowd, made his investigation, dictated the letter to the secretary, took a picture with Ydson (now a rock star) and explained that the letter would be ready the next day ( the day we were to leave) at 10:00. Given the speed at which anything is done in Haiti, that was cutting it a little close.

The next day at 10 I showed up at the courthouse foolishly expecting to be handed a typed official letter, signed and sealed. An undersecretary explained that the secretary was in a meeting. Wait 10 minutes. At 10:50 I said, and not really politely, that it was time to knock on the door and tell the secretary that I’m here for the letter now. The secretary came out and I knew immediately that the letter did not exist. He had the hand written copy but did not have time to type it and the court doesn’t have a printer. So we hopped in the truck and drove to a copy service shop where he dictated the letter to a guy with a laptop. Their printer had a hard time with the official paper on which it was to be printed but after several botched attempts we had a letter. Now it was noon and the letter still needed two signatures.

We drove to the hospital, got the administrator’s signature, found a hospital seal, sealed it, grabbed Ydson and his suitcase. Nurse Marcia got the letter from the doctor and Ydson’s chart; I picked up my bag; the nurse, the boy, the secretary and I piled into the truck. We slid into the Tribunal office as the plane was circling the air strip. The judge signed his name.


Ydson getting on board

And the trip? Ydson was a fearless flyer. The school and everyone connected to it was loving, intelligent and organized. If a foster family can be found that will love and care for him unconditionally, Ydson will be able to be part of their program. He’ll have play therapy, music, health care and friends. That’s the next piece. I’d like to be able to say in the very near future that the little boy who was near death and abandoned on December 25th, who fought back to life, can have just that–a life.

with love and affection from La Gonave–Nancy