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Haiti: Adems, aka Samuel, poster child for hope

05-01-2011 Feature

In the horror that followed the earthquake of 12 January 2010, dozens of children became separated from their parents. Some of them were too young to give rescuers details of their families. Many of those children have now found their parents, thanks to the posters that went up all over the country. The family that took him in called him Samuel, and it was one of these posters that gave Adems back his real name and his family.

Olga Miltcheva accompanied the ICRC team that went to see Adems two months after he returned home.

The ICRC vehicle leaves Delmas, the busy, noisy main road that runs through Port-au-Prince. This area still shows heavy damage from the earthquake, and the streets are narrow. The driver stops the vehicle with a smile. "End of the road." The team continues on foot, through a series of courtyards. Women are washing clothes. Children are playing.

This maze of streets and courtyards is home to Emmanuel and his family. Emmanuel is a police officer in his thirties. A big man, proud of his job. He radiates a certain strength, but there is something else. The dignity of someone who has suffered greatly, but is not about to make a thing of it. The quake killed Adems' twin brother, seriously injured his sister and partly destroyed the family home. Adems was missing for several months.

The day everything changed

"When the earthquake came I was out at work," sighs Emmanuel, after politely setting out a few chairs in front of his home for the ICRC team. "There used to be a wall here, and my children were sleeping next to it. The wall collapsed, killing Isaak and leaving Christie (5) with a serious head wound."

Adems was only slightly hurt. In the middle of the tears, the dust and the panic, their mother went to get help for Christie. Adems was taken to a neighbour, who passed him on to another neighbour. A few hours later, when Emmanuel finally managed to make his way across town to his home, no-one knew where the little boy had gone. "We were just devastated," he recalls. The family left no stone unturned in the search for little Adems. They tried radio announcements and they toured the IDP camps. All in vain. Then, one day, a neighbour recognized Adems' photo on an ICRC poster.

A real poster child

Emmanuel's story is interrupted by the gleeful cry of a small tornado on legs, as an impish, healthy-looking little boy arrives home from the crèche with his mum. "Wow, Samuel, you've changed!" exclaims Isabelle, the ICRC delegate responsible for the "restoring family links" programme. Before hastily correcting herself: "Oops, sorry, I meant Adems!"

Samuel is the name given to Adems by the family that looked after him immediately after the earthquake. They took him to the national TV centre, hoping to put out an announcement, but the place was in ruins. After spending some time in an IDP camp, Adems was registered by the ICRC and placed in SOS Villages, one of the best orphanages in Port-au-Prince. Not knowing his real name, or that of his parents, the ICRC published his photos along with those of twenty others on one of the posters that went up all over the country. And finally, Adems came home.



Adems, two months after being reunited with his family.
© ICRC / O. Miltcheva


Adems with his father.
© ICRC / O. Miltcheva