Two Haitian women and an infant are residing temporarily at the SOLVE Maternity Home because they have nowhere else to go, officials there said.
Leopoldine Simon, 24, had been visiting the United States when the catastrophic Jan. 12 earthquake hit her native country. She has been unable to go home.
A friend brought her to the SOLVE offices on Eighth Avenue West, according to Donna J. Vellenga, the executive director of SOLVE, a nonprofit agency that helps those with unplanned pregnancies.
A few days later, on Feb. 13, Simon gave birth prematurely to a son, Paul Samuel Synor. He weighed only 4 pounds, 14 ounces and struggled in the hospital for two weeks before he was well enough to be released, she said.
The home is also sheltering Simon’s Haitian mother, Elmita Chery, 52.
Normally, when a child at the maternity home reaches six weeks or so, the mother moves out, but Leopoldine, who has some nagging, yet treatable, maladies, will remain.
“Leopoldine is the exception to our rules because she has a unique situation,” said Gwen Washington, SOLVE’s house manager, who has also had to negotiate a language barrier, since the two women speak only a little English.
“When Samuel came home, Grandma just stayed. Once it happened, we thought: ‘How can we throw her out?’ We are God’s hands and feet, we have to open our arms to her and be open to her.”
“I go, ‘Honey, we will not make you homeless,’ ” added Washington. “We really need the community to help us.”
Simon said in an interview Friday that she had completed her studies in administration at the Universite Publique du Sud Aux Cayes, and had come to the United States in mid-November.
Her home was destroyed in the quake, she said, and her husband, Isaac Synor, 30, is living in the streets along with other family members, fighting starvation.
“They have no food, and live on a subsistence level,” she said.
A Sarasota resident, Martha Monosiet, befriended the two women.
“They have absolutely nothing to go back to, their house was destroyed, there are no jobs, you just depend on the international community (relief agencies) to stay alive,” said Monosiet, who just returned from a relief mission to the stricken country.
Last month, she and her husband, Frederic Monosiet, flew to Haiti to help transport and distribute thousands of pounds of medications and medical supplies.
Monosiet said she was shocked at the unremitting devastation and horrendous human suffering she saw in Port-au-Prince.
“We saw thousands of people living in refugee camps, sanitary conditions are horrible, a lot of contagious diseases we will start seeing,” said Monosiet.
“For example, skin diseases like scabies. People don’t have any means of showering or washing clothes, they’re living in close quarters, lots of young children and babies with infectious diarrhea.
“People are living in the streets,” she said. “We saw a distribution of rice that was supposed to start at 9 in the morning, and people lined up at 3 a.m.”
For more information, call 748-0094 or visit http://www.manasotasolve.org/
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at (941) 745-7031.