Port-au-Prince, January 2011
Port-au-Prince's broad shoulder
I immediately knew whom to hand the Flag to: Mesye (Monsieur) Milfort Bruno. Who else? He’s an old friend and the most decent, most loyal en kindest person I’ve ever met during the many years I’ve travelled to and from the poorest, most tragic country in the Western hemisphere, Haiti.
Milfort is 62 years old, or perhaps 64, he’s not quite sure.
He owns the souvenirshop full of mouldy knickknacks that stands right in front of the Hotel Oloffson in the heart of Haiti’s capital city, Port-au-Prince. Journalists, like myself, are the only customers he has left. After the reign of terror of Papa Doc and Baby Doc Duvalier in the 60s and 70s, the Aids epidemic in the 80s, the military coups in the 90s, the hurricanes in the first decade of the new Millennium and the earthquake that hit Haiti on January 12, 2010, there is no tourist left who would even consider spending a holiday in Haiti.
Injustice, nor deep poverty could ever destroy Milfort’s morals and his conscience. He always remained the counselor and the broad shoulder to cry on for everyone in the neighbourhood. A word of comfort for the widow next door, a cheerful remark for the depressed, a slap for the child who skipped school and lied about it, a couple of Haitian Gourdes to help a neighbour buy a plate of rice and beans. Even the police, feared by most, respects and consults Milfort.
Milfort’s wife died when their three children were still little. The eldest, a son, runs his own tiny printing shop. He lost his beloved daughter, whom he was very proud of, in the earthquake when a wall came down on her. The youngest, Frankie, was brain damaged in a traffic accident. Like a little animal, anxious of daylight, terrified of people, he stays in his small, dark bedroom. Only Milfort gets through to him, with food, a toothbrush, a washing cloth, clean pants...
Milfort did not quite understand what the Flag was about, nor why he received one, but he thinks it is a very pretty flag and made me promise to thank the Foundation. He will not fly the Flag of Compassion though, because that would make her dirty.
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Linda Polman: Port-au-Prince's broad shoulder