Welcoming Haitian orphans

  • January 20, 2010
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Haitian orphans arrive at Pittsburgh airport on Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2010.

Once again, we are witnessing the painful realities of child immigration. The Haitian earthquake has torn apart families and threatened children.

Throughout history, war, natural disasters, political situations, and poverty have forced children to relocate by themselves without the protection of their parents. No matter what the reason, child immigration reminds us of the daunting task necessary to rebuild a life in a new land in the face of unspeakable loss.

It was heartwarming to watch the 54 Haitian children arrive at the Pittsburgh airport to a crowd of people awaiting them with open arms.

“We’re going to save the 54 kids and lead them to great lives,” Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell told Fox News in Haiti. “They’re happy, good kids despite all the things that have happened to them, despite being orphaned, despite being in a hurricane (sic-earthquake). I’m amazed at how happy these kids are. I think everyone of us in Pennsylvania has a wonderful feeling.”

Our communities and our schools must nurture and sustain that “wonderful feeling.”

In a Frankfurt, Germany high school, my mother gave a very brief, poignant speech in 2008. Remembering how she was treated seventy years earlier when she first came to America – classmates called her “Kraut” and “Dirty Jew” — she looked out at a group of students and said these words:

“I see faces in this room from all over the world. What do you do to make those students who you call “foreign” feel they are a part of your community?”

What will we do?

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