PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Soulful notes of light singing rose Sunday through the coconut and almond trees of an earthquake-riddled orphanage where the children have no hope of adoption.
Four teenagers — three girls and a boy — poured their hearts into a song about being candles burning in the future. They sang in their native Creole about growing straight and tall, not listing like a seedling in the wind. A younger boy wearing a Green Bay Packers T-shirt kept the beat with light touch on the tambou drum.
The beautiful music countered the ugly destruction that surrounded them — the concrete buildings in shambles, the protective compound wall reduced to rubble.
The 50 or so children at the Children of Jesus orphanage about 10 miles outside the capital city survived the widespread Jan. 12 ground shaking. But they have nothing left.
St. George resident Rebecca Maesato wants to change that. Prospects are bleak.
"What we're trying to do is get the money to rebuild," said Maesato who has adopted eight sons from Haiti.
As director of Children in Need, she escorts volunteers from the United States to four orphanages in Haiti, but they mostly offer comfort with love and attention, not bricks and mortar.
The earthquake rendered food scarcer than it already was. And Maesato is leery about leaving much because crumbled wall can't protect the center from an onslaught of hungry neighbors.
"I'm giving them one or two bags of rice a day, but the main thing is getting a secure wall," she said, estimating the cost at $20,000.
But truthfully, what the orphanage needs is a new start, from the ground up, save the trees.
The children sleep in a makeshift shelter built from cinderblocks and bed sheets strung over rusted rebar. There's a well, but the water is unclean. The latrine is overflowing. Children go in a bucket, then haul it to an adjacent field.
As Maesato guided visitors around the rubble on a Sunday afternoon, all of the children sat at a long, wooden table, sawhorses covered with plywood, really. They chattered little, eating bowls of rice, perhaps their only meal of the day.
Because Children for Jesus is not registered with the Haitian government and does not have U.S. or foreign sponsorship, the kids won't be adopted. This will be the home in which they grow up, the one in ruins.
No child left the table to cling to a white stranger as children in many Haitian orphanages do. Do they know they will never live with a mother and father? Have they given up?
Perhaps not. Perhaps, in their hearts, they believe the words in a song about candlelight and growing up tall and straight like a tree.