The Haitian town of Belladère rests more than 80 miles from Port-au-Prince, along the border with the Dominican Republic. In the center of town is the restaurant Chez Emie, where Nadia Fleurimé works as both a cook and a server. If you ask her about her daughter Narlie, she will smile, and ask you if you’d like to meet her—she’s playing in the yard at the side of the restaurant. They are together, and in the aftermath of the January 12 earthquake, this scene would have been hard to imagine.
Nadia was living in Port-au-Prince and running a quick errand when the earthquake struck. She rushed home to find Narlie seriously injured. Part of the house had fallen on her as she lay in bed. Family members were able to pull Narlie from the rubble, and she was taken to a hotel being used as an overflow hospital. After a few days she was taken to Haiti’s General Hospital. Nadia was with her daughter day and night.
Doctors soon realized they were ill-equipped to deal with the severity of Narlie’s wounds, which included a badly injured leg and a severe head injury that caused so much swelling only one of her eyes opened. Doctors told Nadia that Narlie would be transferred to the USSNS Comfort, an American ship docked off the coast of Haiti and operating as a hospital for the most severely injured, but that she wouldn’t be able to accompany her daughter.
Narlie was discharged from the Comfort three weeks later and placed in another hospital, where she continued to receive treatment—but her family believed she was still on the ship. The hospital had no information on Narlie’s family, so they called Heartland Alliance to ask for help.
Heartland Alliance led the UNICEF-funded Family Tracing and Reunification Project in Haiti, which worked to identify thousands of children separated from their families after the earthquake. Our child protection officers were able to get several key clues from Narlie about her life: the name of her school, her teacher, and the church her family attended. Armed with these details, Heartland Alliance child protection officers were able to track down Narlie’s mom, who had left the capital to live with her cousin in Belladère, a town undamaged by the earthquake. Nadia was overjoyed to finally learn news of her daughter after weeks of fear and uncertainty. Narlie and Nadia were reunited on April 9, nearly three months after the earthquake. Equipped with a reunification kit from Heartland Alliance packed with clothing and household items, they returned together to Belladère.
Narlie lost part of her right ear in the earthquake. She will need plastic surgery in the future, and she continues to walk with a pronounced limp. But she is alive today and has been reunited with her mother. For Narlie, as for many in Haiti, there is still a long road to recovery ahead. Thanks to Heartland Alliance and our local partners, many children will face this road with their parents at their side.