International Rescue Committee (IRC)

Haiti: A son’s return, a father’s joy [Photos]

Family reunion in Haiti

  • Oservio Janvier walks up concrete steps to his in-laws' house to pick up Genald.
  • A smiling Genald is glad to back in his dad's arms
  • Genald looks around his relatives' home one last time as the adults do paperwork
  • Oservio and Genald walk toward the IRC car for the ride home
  • Oservio rests his hand on his son's head as they walk back to the IRC car
  • An overjoyed Genald and Oservio are back at home in Oservio's tent.

After losing his wife and his home to January's devastating earthquake, Oservio Janvier lost touch with the relatives who found and cared for his son in the chaos that followed. Nine months later, an IRC family tracing team's detective work brought an overjoyed Oservio and his little boy, nine-year-old Genald, back together.


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Family reunion in Haiti

  • Oservio Janvier walks up concrete steps to his in-laws' house to pick up Genald.
  • A smiling Genald is glad to back in his dad's arms
  • Genald looks around his relatives' home one last time as the adults do paperwork
  • Oservio and Genald walk toward the IRC car for the ride home
  • Oservio rests his hand on his son's head as they walk back to the IRC car
  • An overjoyed Genald and Oservio are back at home in Oservio's tent.

After losing his wife and his home to January's devastating earthquake, Oservio Janvier lost touch with the relatives who found and cared for his son in the chaos that followed. Nine months later, an IRC family tracing team's detective work brought an overjoyed Oservio and his little boy, nine-year-old Genald, back together.


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All Haiti Slideshows >

The International Rescue Committee’s Family Tracing and Reunification team has had a busy few months in Haiti, helping 139 family members separated by the January 2010 earthquake find each other. I was on hand for their 100th reunification last month in Port-au-Prince:

It was hard for him to hear us shouting over the Saturday morning din of downtown Port-au-Prince – a cacophony of honking, puttering taxi engines and whirring generators.

"Oservio! Oservio!"

Tall, thin, and looking a bit anxious standing on the corner, Oservio Janvier was waiting across the street for us to pick him up. He finally saw the two case workers, Gina and Aliene, waving from our IRC car and scurried across the road to join us.

When he sat down, he was grinning ear to ear. His face wore the kind of happiness that can't be masked – absolute joy in knowing that he was about to be reunited with his son.

At the time the quake struck, Genald was at school. Oservio, who worked as a mason, was out on a job. Oservio’s wife, who was at home, was killed when their house collapsed. Oservio’s in-laws found Genald in the chaos that followed. Distraught and unable to care for his son, Oservio asked them to take Genald in with their own children, and the two lost touch soon after.

When the IRC caseworkers met young Genald months later, the boy was still living with his aunt and uncle in their house, but said that he missed his father terribly and wanted to see him again.

Gina and Aliene finally tracked Oservio down near his old home, the rubble of his former neighborhood within sight of the tent where he’d been living.

“That’s my boy!” he said when they showed him Genald’s photo. One week later, here he was, on his way to go pick up his son.

As we inched our way across town through traffic, I asked Oservio how he felt. “Happy,” he responded in Creole, his smile missing a few front teeth. “It’s been a long time.”

The reunion itself was a blur. As soon as we parked, Oservio jumped out of the car and hurried towards his in-laws’ home. He darted up stone stairs, through narrow passageways and across gaping ditches. All he could think about was his son.

Genald was waiting for him, all smiles despite being sick with a fever, and embraced his father as soon as he walked in the door. He already had his few possessions tied up in a black plastic bag, ready to go.

Gina and Aliene took a few moments to complete some paperwork, having Genald’s current guardians sign over custody to Oservio, and then the boy said his goodbyes. He went around the small room, giddy, kissing and shaking hands with his aunt, uncle and cousins. Then Oservio put his arm around him and they walked out together.

On the drive back across town, Oservio and Genald sat together in the wide front seat of the IRC vehicle, the sick boy snuggled into the father’s arms.

“Are you going to sleep with me tonight?” Oservio asked his son in Creole. Genald nodded yes. “You have a fever because you were sleeping without me for so long.”

The boy smiled.

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