The first time I met Papouche he was 8-years old and living at Lafanmi Selavi, a home where hundreds of street children lived and went to school, bathed and ate everyday. I have photographed him more than any other child I know in Haiti for the simple fact that he loved having his picture taken, even when he was feeling shy or in a bad mood. I watched him through the years as he grew taller than me.
When Lafanmi Selavi closed in 1999, Papouche had no where to go and was living back out on the streets. I didn’t know what happened to him until one night we discovered him in front of a restaurant begging for food. A year later we ran into him by chance walking through Port-au-Prince with three boys carrying buckets of water… so we joined them. Along with some other boys from Lafanmi Selavi, Papouche was living at a smaller group home and going to school again.
We had Photography Workshops with the boys there and took them on a field trip an hour north of Port-au-Prince to Fort Jacques – none of them had ever been there before – and they all took beautiful photographs. It was at one of the home’s group birthday parties that I learned Papouche was an amazing dancer – his partner was a young girl and it was an incredible display of this back and forth interaction of very serious soul. They blew me away. Eventually Papouche grew too old for the group home and was told it was time to leave. As you can imagine, he wasn’t ready and although he was given some money, it still wasn’t enough to live on his own.
It was around this time that we fully incorporated Zanmi Lakay because the needs of children were not being met, and we wanted to help. Papouche is one of the recipients of our Education Fund and has been going to trade school to learn carpentry. We also help pay for his rent and other necessities.
I am happy to report that I finally found out today that Papouche is still a survivor.