It was intended to be the Christmas toy giveaway in the church. Christmas. Church. Cité Soleil. Boy. The nearly naked boy.
In Cité Soleil [site so-lay, Sun City] the poorest slum in Port-au-Prince, the chaotic capital of Haiti, Analiesse Isherwood (’11, Behavioral Neuroscience) came bearing gifts for the Christmas toy giveaway in the church. Boy. She saw the boy on the dirt street in Cité Soleil, naked but for a scrap of undefinable cloth. Plastic bottle on a string. Sitting in the passing tap-tap with her mission team, Analiesse Isherwood had the sack filled with toys – real, American toys – she had spent all her spare dollars on.
She was here to help boys much like that boy, nearly naked, playing with a bottle on a string.
“In my head I had seen this picture of a child accepting this toy and being emotional and touched and overjoyed at having this toy,” Isherwood says, describing how the dolls and stuffed animals and trucks and balls were lovingly pyramided at the front of a church packed with Haitian children and their parents who had assembled for prayer and gifts from an American medical mission team. But instead of a touching moment, Isherwood says, the toy giveaway “ended up breaking out into a mob, and we had to be escorted out by security, shoved into our tap-tap and driven away as fast as we can.”
As she was hurriedly stuffed into the tap-tap (think pickup truck with a tall canopy and benches in back), Isherwood remembers looking over her shoulder to see people throwing punches in a scrum over the toys.
And this was before the earthquake. Two weeks before. “I remember walking away confused at the face of poverty,” Isherwood says.