It’s a cold Christmas night in Seattle and I’m up at 3 in the morning. I miss the warmth of Haiti.
Readers, I have a request. Does anyone remember Rose Mina Joseph?
I wrote about her back in September after breaking the news of abuses by UN soldiers caught on cell phone video in Port Salut, Haiti. Beyond the incident captured by the video, it turned out that soldiers from the local Uruguayan UN peacekeeper battalion had had children with a number of local Haitian women. UN regulations strongly advise against this, given the “unequal power” levels inherent in any such relationship. Some of the women (photos) and their children had been all but abandoned by soldiers who had finished their deployments to Haiti. But the soldiers are absolutely forbidden from having sex with minors, much less impregnating them. The country’s legal age for sexual consent is 18.
Rose Mina became pregnant five days after turning 17 last January. The father was Uruguayan peacekeeper Julio Posse, seen in the photo below of her birthday celebration. Posse was sent back to Uruguay last summer for what the UN later admitted was a “very serious breach of the Code of Conduct.” The UN mission said:
As a disciplinary measure, the soldier was repatriated and banned from serving in other UN missions. He is required by his hierarchy in Uruguay to assist the young girl and her to be born baby. We are following up on whether he was sanctioned, what was the sanction, and whether he has executed it, as well as on the continuation of assistance to the girl and the baby.
According to Rose Mina, her son’s father sent a small amount of money once since her story was covered in the press. A flurry of journalists visited her in those days at the tiny ramshackle home she shares with her mother and uncle. They cook under a thatched roof covering behind the house.
Apparently I’m the only one who gave her a phone number before leaving. We’ve kept in touch since then. Normally Rose Mina is reserved and soft-spoken. She doesn’t say a whole lot. But on Friday she called me and was upset that I hadn’t called her sooner. I called her back.
She immediately launched into a long, flowing tirade against “Julio.” He told her he would send money again, but has not. Recently she called him and he claimed he couldn’t talk because he’d been in an accident. He picked up again when she called another day, sounding perfectly normal, then abruptly hung up on her.
Rose Mina is infuriated that he hasn’t followed through on his promises and has lied to her. She’s decided to name her son Anderson Joseph, instead of naming the boy after his father, as she had planned. For good measure, she called all the other journalists who interviewed her “thieves.”
Here are the text messages she sent me after we talked. She’s always had a funny way of writing. A translation:
“Hi, how are you? Where are you? I’m not doing well at all because the father doesn’t ever call me, he doesn’t send money for me and the child. Merry Christmas. . .Ansel hello, it’s Rose Mina. The foreigners in MINUSTAH never sent any small amount of money for the baby. Try to call them for me so they can send it for me. Merry Christmas.”
What happened that to the “continuation of assistance to the girl and the baby” pledged by the UN in the statement above? Hasn’t one of the UN’s many humanitarian agencies partnered with its peacekeeping mission to provide Rose Mina a minimal level of support?
No. When I first wrote the story, I pleaded with the woman who sent me that statement, the UN mission’s public information officer, to follow through on the helping Rose Mina and her child. The baby hadn’t been born yet. Rose Mina worried about not having enough money to pay the only hospital in the town.
A few weeks later, not long before she gave birth, I called the the PIO back. Once again, she brushed me off, assuring me someone was following up. Rose Mina said nothing happened. So from Port-au-Prince, I wired Rose Mina some money myself.
Here finally is the request. I’d like to wire Rose Mina some money again. But I’m barely keeping up with my work in Seattle. Just last week, I wired a friend in Cite Soleil $70 USD, in part because his mom died and the morgue was about to throw her body out (here’s a photo of the transfer). For Rose Mina, I’d like to encourage you to make a donation to this PayPal link. If y’all hit $50, I’ll throw in $50 myself and we’ll send her an even $100. Maybe we can do even more than that. If anyone needs more documentation to feel comfortable about donating, let me know. The dollars that you donate to my PayPal account will simply reimburse me for $50 of the wire transfer, which I’ll send using my credit card and Western Union at a local Vietnamese market. I’ll update this post with a photo of the the transfer receipt and again when I get word that Rose Mina has received it.
That’s pretty much it. I don’t like asking for money, nobody does. But I’m just a little too upset and not quite rich enough to not try this. Especially with all the buying stuff and gift giving going on around these parts. Rose Mina deserves better.
As does another close friend, who was promised assistance from two large, well-known international aid organizations. They removed her (and by extension her five children) from a beneficiary list without informing her or apologizing. But that, like so much of what goes in Haiti, is another story – yet it’s really the same at its core. Haitians and their nation are treated as less than sovereign with rights.
Update: Wow! This worked quickly. In the seven hours since I posted this, two readers have donated $75 between them. I was expecting more of a series of smaller donations. I’ll chip in $25, save my other $25 for someone else or a future remittance to Rose Mina, and send out the wire transfer as soon as I can (photo forthcoming). Thank you Nathan Yaffe and Kathleen O’Flynn. (If you’d still like to make a donation to Rose Mina, just label it “for Rose Mina” in the purpose line in PayPal checkout.)
*Rose Mina gave me permission to share all this with you. Additionally, you or I could both try contacting the UN mission’s PIO Sylvie van den Wildenberg at 011 509 3702 9042 or firstname.lastname@example.org, but that’s likely to go nowhere. And please let me know if you have an idea for how to help Rose Mina in a non-financial way, such as linking her with effective legal counsel or a women’s group with a presence in Port Salut. Finally, I want to note that while I try to act in such a way that doesn’t lead someone consider me as an exploitative person or a thief, I have never given nor offered a source or interviewee money before publishing an article. On occasion, it’s something I’ve volunteered well after whatever journalistic work I’ve done involving them has been completed.