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Rescued: The Children of Haiti

Aired January 10, 2011 - 23:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We're watching this story. This is a large earthquake. The damage potential is significant.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: News tonight, this disaster that is currently unfolding in Haiti. There are reports of dead bodies and fears of mass casualty.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, HOST (voice-over): One of the orphanages we went to had 200 babies, and serious problems, because they're lacking all the basic supplies.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... States is offering our full assistance to Haiti and to others in the region.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): There are so many orphans. There are 380,000 orphans. That's the count before the earthquake, and one has to imagine some of these kids are going to die while everybody waits.

S. MANASSERO: We start walking back towards the orphanage. We're walking up, and the kids are outside, and the kids were crying; they were praying. They were shaking. We weren't sure if they were okay or not. I didn't see Cendy at that point.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): When the earthquake hit, Cendy Jeune was six years old. A child caught in the chaos of an enormous disaster. An orphan swept up in a catastrophe. She had spent most of her young life at the orphanage Maison de Lumiere; The Lighthouse.

O'BRIEN (on camera): Tell me about Cendy when she came.

S. MANASSERO: She was quiet, withdrawn, distrustful.

O'BRIEN (on camera): Scared?

S. MANASSERO: Scared, but yet not. Like, she has this very tough exterior. If you see here, she's like I'm going to walk through this, and I'm going to show you that I'm not okay, but it's where I'm at and just leave me alone. You know what I mean? So she just kind of plows through life.

O'BRIEN (on camera): Tough little kid.

S. MANASSERO: She's tough, yes. O'BRIEN (voice-over): Cendy was one of 47 boys and girls under the care of Americans Bill and Susette Manassero. Christians on a mission to help Haiti's children.

O'BRIEN (on camera): What do you think she can be?

B. MANASSERO: She can probably be anything she wants to. She's a real smart kid. She has a neat little personality.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): When the earthquake hit, Cendy was one of those Haitian children whose faces cry out in the worldwide appeals for charity. This is the story of Cendy Jeune and all Haiti's orphans.

Cendy was just two when she arrived at the lighthouse. This was supposed to be her second chance at life.

CHILDREN: A, B, C, D, E, F, G.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): Cendy's parents abandoned her. Cendy's aunt, Matilia (ph), a wash lady at the orphanage wanted to help, but she was already raising five children of her own. So she took Cendy to the Manassero's.

S. MANASSERO: You don't want to talk?

O'BRIEN (voice-over): From the beginning, Cendy was quiet and detached. But she loved going to school.

S. MANASSERO: Good job. Circle the same one. This is from, like, not even a year ago back in May with Cendy, like, kind of when we first started, and then this is now.

Like this is the difference between the two. Just rally cool to see them change. She has so much anger and stuff, like she's -- I'd have to hold her, and she'd cry and cry and cry if I wasn't holding her.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): She became the baby of the orphanage. The darling of The Lighthouse staff.

B. MANASSERO: This one wouldn't even let me pick her up before.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): From the beginning, Cendy was shy, but slowly she began to warm up.

B. MANASSERO: Cendy is very private, not real trusting, very smart. Very intelligent kid. She is also very silly, goofy, and totally - I mean crazy, sometimes.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): Bill Manassero remembers when he began to break through.

B. MANASSERO: There was the day she grabbed my hand, and I just held on to her hand. I just closed my eyes and I just - I couldn't - I just didn't want to let go of her. I didn't want to let go. O'BRIEN (on camera): It was a big step for her.

B. MANASSERO: It was huge. It was huge for me that she would even do that. And then, she started --

O'BRIEN (on camera): Are you crying?

B. MANASSERO: I'm sorry.

O'BRIEN (on camera): No need to apologize.

B. MANASSERO: No. I just looked at this beautiful little girl, and I just said how in the world can anybody want to leave this, you know let this little baby go.

Let me see.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): The Manassero's were about to find out, because one day in 2007, nearly two years after Cendy arrived at the orphanage, her parents showed up out of nowhere.

S. MANASSERO: Okay, come on.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): Asking to see their now four-year-old daughter, and threatening to take her back.

S. MANASSERO: The mom hasn't seen her in about 18 months. So she's going to be a little scared.



S. MANASSERO: Kenny, sit down, babe.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): It's 2007. An average day at the orphanage for Cendy. School, recess, a game of duck, duck goose. She's now four years old and hasn't seen her parents in two years. Then one day, they show up.

S. MANASSERO: OK, come on.

The mom hasn't seen her in about 18 months so she's going to be a little scared.

Here we are. You want to say hi? Can you say hi? Tell them that she seems like she's a little scared. She doesn't know what this meeting means probably. She saw you last time a long time ago, 18 months. Ask her if she remembers you.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): Cendy has lived with Bill and Susette for more than two years.

S. MANASSERO: She doesn't want to leave necessarily.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): Cendy's mother, Cattia (ph), is unsure what to do.

CATTIA (translated): No one was looking after her. I gave her to her father to take away.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): Johntille (ph), Cendy's father, didn't keep her either. After she showed up at the orphanage, he suspects that his aunt profited from giving up Cendy. Susette assures him that is not the case.

Tell them thank you for coming. It's important that she knows who you are. Tell them to feel free to come any time. Say bye-bye.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): Her parents leave.

B. MANASSERO: There's her birth certificate.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): Susette and Bill are the legal guardians of all of the children at the orphanage.

S. MANASSERO: We have high walls, and we have barbed wire, and we have guards. And that's not to keep our children locked in. It's to keep undesirables out. So if a parent wants to come back and take their child, we're not against that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When does she think the next time she will visit?

CATTIA (translated): Next Sunday.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): Cendy's parents never return for her. She joins the 380,000 children being raised in Haiti without parents.

S. MANASSERO: The term orphanage is a technical term here in Haiti. As you just saw, Cendy's got a mom and a dad. But when we got her, she didn't have them. The term orphanage, I mean it's a difficult one, because technically they're not orphans.

But in some sense they are, because they really don't have their mom and their dad because of the situation here in Haiti. The kids are so impoverished. I try not to judge that, because I have never lived in that state of destitution.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): Bill and Susette opened their orphanage to address just these circumstances.

B. MANASSERO: This may or may not be her baby, because a really big thing in Haiti is that babies' mothers -- or ladies will rent babies from other mothers saying that they will take care of their babies so that the mother can work, and then the baby helps her to earn a living while she's out on the street.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): At the urging of their eldest daughter, Arianna (ph), Bill and Susette Manassero visited Haiti in 2004. They were consumed by a desire to help the children.

Haiti has among the highest rates of infant mortality, child sex trafficking and child slavery in the world.

B. MANASSERO: Stay back

S. MANASSERO: Go back and stay there, right?

O'BRIEN (voice-over): A year later, the Manassero's joined a legion of American Christian missionaries in Haiti.

B. MANASSERO: Let's see if I have anything. It's very high pressure for these kids. A lot of these kids, you'll see they've got burn marks. Some of them have been hit in the head with, you know side view mirrors. Some of these kids are six or seven years old, and they get pretty badly beaten up just walking and working the street here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is what I do for school.

O'BRIEN (on camera): You started with all boys?

S. MANASSERO: All boys 12.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And this is me.

S. MANASSERO: And we just saw a slow but amazing transformation go on in their lives.

O'BRIEN (on camera): When did you start the girls orphanage?

S. MANASSERO: That started December 2006.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): Where more orphanages aim to get Haitian children adopted abroad, the Manassero's choose to raise the children in their homeland.

S. MANASSERO: I don't believe the answer is to take everybody's children in these countries and ship them off.

O'BRIEN (on camera): What is the answer?

S. MANASSERO: Every person has to do their part. You know, for us, it's to stay here and to try to raise these kids up in a way that they can give back to their nation.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): Mackinson Olvry (ph) was one of the first boys at Cendy's orphanage. His story gives hope for a little girl like Cendy. Mackinson was born in a rural village with wrenching poverty.

Life was so desperate there that his father sold Mackinson and his sister to a stranger. They became child slaves, restavecs, literally the Creole words for "stay with."

O'BRIEN (on camera): Were you restavec?


O'BRIEN (on camera): And your sister? OLVRY (Translated): The same, yes.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): Mackinson was nine. His sister was six. An estimated 300,000 Haitian children live legally as slaves. How much money did the woman who paid your parents, how much did she pay for you?

OLVRY: My sister.

O'BRIEN (on camera): Yes, you and Mona?

OLVRY: 120.

O'BRIEN (on camera): 120 Haitian dollars. Which is like $10, $12 U.S.? Someone bought you for $12? Do you ever think about that? It doesn't make you mad, angry?

O'BRIEN (voice-over): Mackinson's not angry because he says he understands his parent's desperation. Haiti had an 85 percent unemployment rate even before the earthquake. But he hated life with the woman. She made him call her "auntie."

OLVRY (translated): She would hold me and beat me. When she was finished I would run away. She would beat me when I didn't bring money for her.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): With that memory in mind, Mackinson takes us to one of Haiti's worst slums.

OLVRY (translated): This is where I used to live.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): We're looking for the auntie who kept him as a slave. And what will become of Cendy when a powerful earthquake strikes.


O'BRIEN (voice-over): La Saline, a sprawling slum at the edge of the sea.

O'BRIEN (on camera): This is not earthquake damage.

OLVRY: Not earthquake. No.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): It's part market, part trash heap. A place where sewage and animals and children share space. There are children everywhere, living just like Mackinson once did.

O'BRIEN (on camera): It seems like this just goes on forever. Ooh, it's hot.

OLVRY (translated): She's the wife of the person who live here.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): His home was this tin hut with his sister and three adults.

O'BRIEN (on camera): May we go inside? What do you think when you come in?

OLVRY (translated): I say God thank you.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): The hut is 10 feet by 12 feet, steaming hot and rank with the smell of sewage.

O'BRIEN (on camera): Wow.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): The auntie who kept Mackinson is gone. This woman and her husband still live here.

Each day, Mackinson followed a trail of children from La Saline in to the streets to beg. He's come so far But sharing his past is painful.

O'BRIEN (on camera): So you'd run out into traffic basically?


O'BRIEN (on camera): And have someone -- do you want me to wipe your car down?


O'BRIEN (voice-over): The life he once lived passes by in a flash. Child slave; street beggar. His life of destitution ended when he approached a missionary who took him to The Lighthouse.

O'BRIEN (on camera): When you came, did you want to help every single person?

S. MANASSERO: When I came, I did, and I was told not to by very well meaning people who have been here for a long time. They said put blinders on and do nothing but what you've been called to do or you'll get scattered.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): A tough decision every time whether to take on one more child.

O'BRIEN (on camera): This is a drop in the bucket to what Haiti needs.

B. MANASSERO: It's the, you know kind of the old story of the kid you know sitting there throwing starfish in to the sea. You know, and you know there's thousands of them. A person walks up and says why are you throwing that? You think you're going to do any good? You're just going to throw a few in?

And the kid says, looking at the one that's in their hands, well but for this one, it's really going to make a difference. You know? And that's really it, you know, it's one kid at a time.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): The starfish. Children, like Cendy Jeune with no place to go. And Mackinson, a former street beggar.

OLVRY (translated): This is my new home here. O'BRIEN (voice-over): Just the kind of children the Manassero's were looking to help.

S. MANASSERO: Our criteria in picking children is the high risk child. It could be a child putting on the street; that whose parents sent them from the countryside to earn some money. There's nobody out there advocating for them. They can get hit by a car. They can get raped; murdered.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): At first, Mackinson was suspicious of the white Americans running the orphanage.

O'BRIEN (on camera): Were you afraid?

OLVRY (translated): I heard from other kids that they would treat you badly.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): Instead, he got food, a place to live, an education.

O'BRIEN (on camera): What would you like your next job to be? IF you could pick anything to be?

OLVRY: A mechanic.

O'BRIEN (on camera): You'd like to be a mechanic?


B. MANASSERO: He's definitely not a classical definition of an orphan, but when you have a child who's living on the streets, sleeping on the streets, begging to survive. In that regards, they are in a situation where as it's as if they have no parents.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): Mackinson says he found religion at The Lighthouse. And in religion, he has found hope. His parents are Baptists who also practice voodoo. He's adopted the devout Christianity of the Manassero's.

O'BRIEN (on camera): Would you be adverse to your kids -- if one of the kids in the orphanage said actually I'm not a believer. I don't really want to go to prayer service. I don't particularly believe in Jesus Christ. Would they still be fed and educated and loved?

S. MANASSERO: Absolutely.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): Two years later, at age 18, Mackinson aged out of The Lighthouse, but was hired as the caretaker of the Manassero's guest house.

O'BRIEN (on camera): Will you go back and help them one day?

OLVRY (translated): My vision is to help them. I want to build two or three hospitals for free. Whosoever does not have a house, I can help them. Just like Susette is doing. I would have my own orphanage too.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): But Mackinson's dream, and the dreams of Cendy Jeune and all Haiti's children were about to face a major setback when a powerful earthquake up ends their life.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, babies! Hi. Look at you guys!

O'BRIEN (voice-over): Volunteers are critical for the Lighthouse. This group included Amiese Kubicki (ph), who wanted her stepdaughters to learn the value of giving, and Robert Taylor (ph), a builder.

AMIESE KUBICKI, VOLUNTEER: I was with Cendy that day, that morning. She was excited about being with the kids and what they were going to learn that day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Duck, duck, goose! Duck, duck, goose!

KUBICKI: We had just finished playing and taking pictures. We were just being silly. And we had been spinning around in circles, and I had just stopped from spinning and went over to reach for my purse, and there's sound started to come.


O'BRIEN: This is Amiese's home video, hours later, after dark.

KUBICKI: Today is Tuesday, and the earthquake happened at about 5:30 (INAUDIBLE) 5:45. And we're back at the orphanage with all the kids.

O'BRIEN: Injured and dying people flood the orphanage. Medical triage is set up in the courtyard.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Father God, I just ask for your healing over this man.

KUBICKI: I didn't see Cendy at that point. We had this huge area, they call it "the bin (ph)," where we could keep the kids, the boys and the girls outside in the bin area. It had all open space, so it was -- every aftershock, at least we knew nothing was going to fall on those kids and they were going to be OK.

That's when I saw Cendy because Cendy was out there, and she had her hands up and she was praying. That was the first time I had seen her out there, was on the ground praying with the other girls.

O'BRIEN: Miraculously, little Cendy Jeune and all the Lighthouse kids have survived the earthquake.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is the house behind that came crashing down on a family while everyone from the orphanage, the girls' home and the guesthouse, were saved.

O'BRIEN: After the disaster, Cendy became even more reserved than usual. Her caregiver, Navi (ph), says she was always selective about who she talked to. Now she seemed traumatized.

NAVI, CAREGIVER (through translator): She's a child. She doesn't understand this. She sees things that are broken. She sees people who are sick, bleeding, but she doesn't understand that it was an earthquake.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A little more light!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Help people carry her leg, and then the top part of her.

S. MANASSERO: Last night, we had two amputations done. One here, one there.

O'BRIEN: Marc Kenson has also survived, and immediately started helping in the clinic.

OLIBRIS: It's good, it's not good.

BILL MANASSERO: If we needed tables, and you know, beds set up or whatever, he would be there, the first one to help -- to help do that.

ROBERT TAYLOR, VOLUNTEER: You're in good hands. I love you, brother. I'll catch up with you, OK?

O'BRIEN: Robert Taylor, the builder, has taken on the role of doctor.

S. MANASSERO: This house here became, like, the triage center. So we've seen, we're calculating, like, 500 people. They were just coming. We were overloaded, understaffed.

TAYLOR: I have to go now. I haven't had any sleep in 27 hours.

O'BRIEN: Two days later, everyone's energy is running out.

BILL MANASSERO: And these people have not -- oh, haven't seen a doctor?

O'BRIEN: The Manasseros are overwhelmed.

S. MANASSERO: My husband came out. He shut the gate. He got an interpreter and said, We need to close the doors. We're understaffed. We have no meds to take care of all of you out here. We are so sorry.

O'BRIEN (on camera): How do you do that?

S. MANASSERO: He's, like, We have to. There's just no way we can function, Sue (ph). There's no help.

(CROSSTALK) O'BRIEN: ... every fiber in your body. I mean...


S. MANASSERO: It does, but all of us are around the clock trying to take care of kids and all these people, and my family.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): With the clinic closed, Susette goes to search for Matilia (ph), the aunt who gave Cendy a way to the orphanage. No one has heard from her.

(on camera): Do they have a lot of damage here? Is everybody outside, is that what's going on?

S. MANASSERO: This is Matilia.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know why she's crying? She's crying because she doesn't know if her son's alive or if her son died.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): Matilia's eldest son, Daniel, is missing, presumed dead.

S. MANASSERO: He's 25.

O'BRIEN: He supports his mother and five siblings.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She feel like financial life, it's over for her because Daniel was the one who financialed the family.

O'BRIEN: It is devastating to Cendy's relatives. There's so much need here. There's no electricity, no oil or food. Tens of thousands of children are sleeping beneath makeshift tents.

(on camera): Do you have water? Do you have food?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No water. No food.

S. MANASSERO: So we've got orphans. The orphans get the most.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): Susette brings food to the people she knows, but she cannot spare more.

(on camera): Are these children who will be adopted?

S. MANASSERO: Yes, they all have families, for the most part.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): This place has children sleeping outside in overheated playpens.

(on camera): Oh, don't cry. Don't cry! It's OK. Shhh. Don't cry. Don't cry. Shhh. It's OK.

(voice-over): It's just too much to bear. They're out of everything. The little ones are losing strength.

S. MANASSERO: There's lots of people, actually, that are -- at night, all these people just fill this place up.

O'BRIEN (on camera): Oh, everybody comes to sleep here?

S. MANASSERO: They're sleeping here because they're afraid to sleep indoors.

O'BRIEN: Right. Of course. Oh, God! This country is, like, full of sadness! Jesus! God!

O'BRIEN (voice-over): Susette can't help them. The Lighthouse is also running out of food and water.

(on camera): Does it ever feel like 60 kids is just a drop in the bucket?

S. MANASSERO: All of us get overwhelmed, like, have gotten overwhelmed. But I just really realize that everyone...

O'BRIEN: You mean you're human?

S. MANASSERO: I am human.


S. MANASSERO: Remember that old -- you know, the starfish...

O'BRIEN: Right.

S. MANASSERO: (INAUDIBLE) throwing -- for that one starfish, it makes a difference.

O'BRIEN: That one starfish...


S. MANASSERO: It meant something for that one, and that's what I'm learning.

I'm trying to think about what we should do.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): But back at the Lighthouse, more starfish are about to wash ashore.

S. MANASSERO: This young woman, her baby just came from Cite Soleil (ph). She was found crying on the street.

O'BRIEN: The Lighthouse is at the breaking point. Is there room for more?



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my gosh. No, no, no.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): It's been days since the earthquake. The orphanage has no more room, not much food, but needy people keep showing up.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: These guys are just -- they started crying in the streets, so they helped her.

S. MANASSERO: We'll have to think this through.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Her house collapsed. So far all, I know is her mom was killed. She has nowhere to live.

You're all by yourself? Where's your momma?

O'BRIEN: A debate breaks out over whether the Lighthouse can take this woman and her 3-month-old baby girl. Susette says no.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Were you here when they said last call for water? I'm sorry.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know where anything is.

O'BRIEN: Susette's daughter, Arianna (ph), wants to let the woman stay, though food is running out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We may have some more bread (INAUDIBLE) from over there. So I think we're pretty good for a couple of days.

O'BRIEN: The mother has not eaten in a week.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, she breast-feeds her.

O'BRIEN: Arianna is persuasive.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's beautiful. I think God actually spared her life, you know, this little one. It's a miracle. Most babies died with their parents. But God saved her life.

O'BRIEN: Susette relents.


O'BRIEN: They add two more to their shaky circumstances.

Because of the aftershocks, Cendy and the girls are sleeping outside. She is surrounded by anxiety and grief. Her best friend, Erte (ph), was trapped in the rubble.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I feel everything falling. I saw dust. That's all I could see. And there was a pillar to my right and the roof was on my left. And I heard people crying, yelling for friends. Some, time I can't sleep at night I'll be, like, thinking about it so much.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't see the future. (INAUDIBLE) broke everything in Haiti.

O'BRIEN: The Lighthouse boys begin to dream of a different life.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (SINGING): My dream is to fly over America so high, my dream is to fly go to America and go to school.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If we stay here, we're not going to have anything in the world.

O'BRIEN: It's been almost two weeks since the earthquake, and the situation at other orphanages is even more dire. At the Maison des Infants orphanage, just two miles away, the babies are sick.

(on camera): What had they been feeding the baby?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): White rice, a little bit of milk.

O'BRIEN: For a newborn baby's, he's eating a little rice mush?

(voice-over): It gives the babies chronic diarrhea.

They're desperate to get out. So the next day, the orphanage workers load over a hundred children into overheated buses and vans and head for the U.S. embassy. Just 330 Haitian children were adopted by Americans in 2009, but they helped persuade to U.S. to increase adoptions because of the earthquake.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's hot, and my van is even hotter. And you put all of the little babies on there because it's a more comfortable ride, but it's hot. And we've got children throwing up. What if I make the wrong decision?

O'BRIEN: They are turned back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We just got a phone call from some guys over at the embassy. They said not to bring the kids right now. There's still some paperwork that needs to be done.

O'BRIEN: All of the sick and hungry children return to their orphanage.

At the orphanage, Planting Peace, Haitian director Jean Dubon (ph) is critical of the missionaries who adopt away Haitian children.

(on camera): It seems to me that some the orphanages do adoptions, and some are sort of caretakers of children.

JEAN DUBON, PLANTING PEACE: I would say some of the adoptions agency, and there are some shakiness -- I don't know. I have to say that. But it was...

O'BRIEN: We'd probably say sketchiness.

DUBON: A sketchiness.

O'BRIEN: It's not exactly on the up and up, you don't think?

DUBON: Right.

O'BRIEN: Why not? DUBON: Because there is big money involved in that, an agency that they're with adoption and there is big, big money involved. And it kind of becomes like a business. When a child grew up and then leave the, and Haiti has nothing, nothing back.

O'BRIEN: You think that faith-based groups should not mix the religious part with the giving part?

DUBON: It cannot be.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): Marc Kenson's sister is among those who've left. When he goes to visit, she's gone, adopted away to a family in Texas.

(on camera): Is it fair to say that Mona thought her best chances were to leave Haiti?

OLIBRIS (through translator): I don't know what she was thinking. I love my country. But if I had the opportunity to leave, I would do it so I could come back and help my country.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): Two weeks after the earthquake, conditions have become even more dangerous. Yet the Manasseros remain committed to their mission.

BILL MANASSERO: The idea is not that we're coming in to necessarily rescue or anything. What we're try to do is to facilitate the Haitian people to be able to do it themselves.

S. MANASSERO: You want to stay with us, too?

O'BRIEN: But soon the Manasseros are talking about walking away from everything they've built in Haiti after armed gunmen attack the orphanage at night.


O'BRIEN: Two weeks after the earthquake, the orphanage felt almost normal again. Cendy and the girls got ready for bed. Marc Kenson cleaned up the guesthouse. But outside, the security guards are nervous. Parts of the walls are still broken from the earthquake. Suddenly, something stirs in the dark.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I woke up to a gunshot blast. When we got up, the guard out back here had chased off a band of thieves.

O'BRIEN: As many as 20 armed thieves come over the wall of the guesthouse. The volunteers are terrified.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Marc Kenson got a rock in the back of his head. Basically, at that point, there's a cop that lives across the street, and he came out and fired his weapon and dispersed the crowd.

O'BRIEN: Robert Taylor had come to do construction. Then he became a medic.

TAYLOR: I'm just worried about you as anything else.

O'BRIEN: Now he's taking charge of security.

TAYLOR: I want that thing full of gas all night, OK? I don't want this to go off.

They're kind of casing the place right now. They're kind of looking to check our defenses, see where we're weak, see where we're strong.

O'BRIEN: The next morning, every group of men on the street looks like they could be the thieves.

S. MANASSERO: Do you think it's the ones?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Those four guys walk back and forth, walking back and forth (INAUDIBLE)

O'BRIEN: The city is short on food, water and fuel. The orphanage has them.

S. MANASSERO: If they want food, they can ask us. We'll give it to them.

O'BRIEN: Privately, Susette begins to wonder if they should leave Haiti altogether.

S. MANASSERO: In a minute.

O'BRIEN: Susette turns to the police for help.

S. MANASSERO: Can you follow me?

O'BRIEN: They descend on this Christian orphanage.

S. MANASSERO: See these four guys walking around?

BILL MANASSERO: Right at our gate with guns.

S. MANASSERO: They were shooting at my guards.

O'BRIEN: The police deliver a single recommendation: Get more guns.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I got to make one more announcement, OK?

S. MANASSERO: Explain what happened last night.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, OK. You guys heard gunshots last night. There were approximately 20 men. They were armed. They had guns. They tried to get into the guesthouse. They tried to get into our new house that we're renting. So right now, we do not think it is safe to be here.

O'BRIEN: It's no longer safe to sleep outdoors. The Manasseros want to move Cendy and the girls into their basement, but the aftershocks still scare the girls.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I experienced twice earthquake, and I won't have, like, peace in my heart to sleep in a basement.

S. MANASSERO: Erte (ph), we're in a situation now where we have to choose between sleeping in a house or dealing with people that have guns. Which one is more scary to you?


S. MANASSERO: We don't have a lot of time.

O'BRIEN: Night closes in. They move indoors.

BILL MANASSERO: They all want to sleep in our living room, they can do that. You know, we'll figure out a way. They'd still be in our house somewhere.

S. MANASSERO: OK, they're just petrified.

BILL MANASSERO: ... shotgun shells, security guards. Somewhere, I must have missed that chapter in the missionary manual about that.

O'BRIEN: Even as the children move into their home, Robert offers Susette a way to leave Haiti.

TAYLOR: If I could pull off a ranch in Florida and we get a plane here to make it all happen, would you be OK with that, leaving all this behind? Would you be OK?

S. MANASSERO: Temporarily, I guess.

Since the quake, this is our first school day.

O'BRIEN (on camera): What would have happened to Cendy and Marc Kenson if you had done that?

S. MANASSERO: They would had been left behind. I don't know.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): Instead of leaving the children behind, the Manasseros stay and open their own school.

(on camera): Could you ever see yourself, like, when you were thinking about these armed gunmen, leaving without all...

S. MANASSERO: That's why we couldn't leave.

O'BRIEN: Couldn't leave the kids behind.


O'BRIEN (voice-over): They've kept the orphanage open. Marc Kenson Olibris can still dream of helping other children the way that the Manasseros helped him.

S. MANASSERO: I remember early on, when we first came here, the original boys that we had, they made a comment to me. I'll never forget it. One of them said, When things get tough, you guys are going to leave us. I will never, ever, ever forget that. And I'm, like, No, we're not. We're not going to just take off just because we can.

O'BRIEN: And Cendy Jeune can still go to kindergarten, even as three quarters of Haiti's schools are in ruins.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Before the earthquake, the student, they are -- they're usually happy when they come to work. But after the earthquake, I can say they're very sad.

O'BRIEN (on camera): The students are affected?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, they're very sad.

O'BRIEN: It's hard for them.


O'BRIEN: Will Haiti recover from this?


O'BRIEN: Will Haiti recover?


O'BRIEN: Never.


O'BRIEN: Never?

(voice-over): Despite his lack of hope, he's teaching Cendy how to read.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Show me the letter "I." Good. Clap your hands for Cendy! All right!

O'BRIEN (on camera): What would you hope for her to be? What for you would be Cendy at her best?

S. MANASSERO: A self-assured child who loves herself, loves others, loves God.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): This earthquake isn't the greatest obstacle, only the latest.

S. MANASSERO: Bad things happen. Earthquake happen. Orphans happen. Poverty's here. I wish we didn't have to live here. We're here because we feel we're supposed to be here. Cendy's with us because I believe she was brought to us, so we're trying to do the best we can with her. You know, there is no absolutes. There is no perfect. O'BRIEN: No absolutes, no perfect, just two orphans who've faced an uncertain future until the kindness of strangers changed everything.

These are the children of Haiti's future, rescued so one day they can rescue their nation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (SINGING): What are we going to do about these children? Are we going to...


O'BRIEN: I returned to Haiti since the Manasseros decided they would stay at the orphanage, and I took my 9-year-old daughter Sophia. We stayed at the Lighthouse so she could see how Haitian children lived day in and day out. She met Cendy and Mackinson. They still live at the orphanage, dealing with the incredible challenges of the aftermath of this terrible disaster.

I'm Soledad O'Brien, reporting for "In America."