PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — The 63 girls who live at the House of Girls of God Orphanage on a mountainside in Port-au-Prince still sleep outside, nearly three weeks after the Jan. 12 earthquake.
Paula Thybulle, the orphanage’s director and founder, welcomed a Catholic News Service reporter and photographer to the orphanage today, saying it’s been a difficult job keeping the girls calm and getting them back into a regular routine.
“Until now they are traumatized,” Thybulle said.
The orphanage sustained enough damage during the magnitude 7 temblor to close several classrooms and the dormitories.
The orphanage is one of the several programs in Haiti supported by the Haitian Ministries of the Diocese of Norwich, Conn. Emily Smack, executive director, said the diocese provides $70,000 annually to the orphanage and the other programs.
Smack, Lyn Tolson, assistant director, and Dr. Tom Gorin, a pediatrician, are in Port-au-Prince for five days to visit the projects the Haitian Ministries program supports. They wanted to know what they could do in the U.S. to help the programs continue and return to regular operation.
The orphanage in Port-au-Prince’s Village Lamothe neighborhood is in a holding pattern. While it gets electric power from a generator and the staff has been able to cook meals for the girls, classes are suspended because the teachers have not returned from caring for their families in the aftermath of the disaster.
Thybulle, 70, said she worries about the orphanage’s future. She would like to find another location for the girls, but the disarray around the Haitian capital will make that a difficult task. Even if the right place is available, it will take money to rebuild what already exists.
Thybulle, who started the orphanage in 1987 after holding jobs in the Haitian government and in the United States, said the project is what’s driven her for more than 22 years. She said she’s not ready to retire because if she did “I would die.”
For now Thybulle is working as hard as she can to hold the orphanage together. But she seemed tired after nearly three weeks of nonstop work.
“I don’t want to turn my back on the girls,” she said. “I love them a lot.”