She hears sorry a lot.
“I’ve been here for three years getting assistance. If I could find a little job it would make me feel better. I’m sitting here waiting for a handout. I accept it, but it’s not how I want things to be,” said Jean-Baptiste, who receives about $500 a month in cash and food assistance.
Her 14-year old daughter is living with an older sibling in Port-au-Prince. Jean-Baptiste had to leave the minor behind because only the injured and a chaperone were allowed on medical flight to the U.S.
“I have to be able to send money home for her and I need to take care of us here,” she said.
Jean-Baptiste smiles when she looks over at Peterson, as he lays on the couch watching SpongeBob Squarepants.
“He’s all I have here,” she said. “Of course, when he misbehaves I have a talk with him.”
Peterson’s father, even before the earthquake, was estranged from the family. Dr. Perlyn has become like family to Jean-Baptiste and Peterson.
Forging a bond
Perlyn, 40 , a pediatric plastic surgeon, had lost track of Peterson until one day in the weeks following the earthquake he saw the young boy at Miami Children’s Hospital. Perlyn works at the hospital, where Peterson coincidentally ended up on his arrival to South Florida.
As Perlyn pieced back together Peterson’s face and ear in the operating room, they forged a bond.
Most Wednesdays, Peterson spends time with Perlyn, his wife, Brooke, and their two sons at their Miami Beach home. Perlyn picks Peterson up from the Little Haiti apartment and on the ride to Miami Beach they chat about school and the future.
On his most recent visit, Peterson was delighted at the offering for dinner: spaghetti and hot dogs, a customary Haitian dish.
“My favorite,” he said
For about two hours Peterson plays with Perlyn’s two sons Ethan, 4, and Merritt, 1. When school is in session, he does his homework during the weekday visits.
“He has really grown into this amazing young man,” Perlyn said, as he watched Peterson play Legos with his sons. “He’s like my child, my third son.”
At the end of the night, Peterson returns to Little Haiti.
“I’m thankful for the things the doctor does for my son,” Jean-Baptiste said. “He’s showing him another part of this life. I want to see my son succeed; he’s come very far from the brink of death to where he is now.”
For herself, Jean-Baptiste said she has to remain strong.
“My son needs me. My family needs me. I’m going to continue to go to school and look for jobs,” she said. “I know I’ll get a break.”