by Mary Ferreira

Port-au-Prince, Haiti – The number of children living on the streets of Port-au-Prince alone doubled to 4,000 since the 2010 earthquake says UNICEF. They’re everywhere – darting in between cars – trying to survive in a country mired in poverty.

They clean cars to survive. Anyone driving in the Delmas area can spot five to 10 of them at a time working hurriedly to catch the next car. Often most drivers prefer not to have their cars cleaned; others pay some 50 gourdes – just a little more than one US dollar – for a quick job. With that money, street children can barely buy a piece of bread and a plastic packet of water –essential items in the sweltering heat of this Caribbean nation.

We met 16-year-old Jean Leonel who has been a street child since the earthquake struck, killing both of his parents. It’s a dangerous life but Jean Leonel believes there’s no other choice for him. He said, “Imagine if I go to live with my grandmother, she’s old and can no longer work. I have to stay here and work so that I can earn some money to care for her.”

His reasoning is one held by most street children who are committed to helping their relatives. For boys like Jean Leonel, they opt to remain on the streets instead of registering at shelters designated for them where they’re guaranteed hot meals, regular showers, and decent living. Jean Leonel says it’s tough now due to the economic crisis but he continues working the streets of Port-au-Prince hoping that one day he’ll be able to return to a normal life. Here’s a short clip of Jean Leonel’s story.