Adele Charles and Medika Mamba


Surveying the turquoise shack, nestled on the side of a mountain, I wonder how Adele Charles and her family survives here. Will the baby asleep on the bed wake up to slow drops of rain that drip through holes in the ceiling? Will a stronger cascade burst through the cracks like a waterfall?

But Adele Charles has more pressing concerns than the strength of her home, which she has already repaired several times after hurricanes took down its walls and transformed the dust floor into a deep sea of mud.
At 58, Charles is remarkably beautiful for a woman who breathes a life of adversity. Her skin bears very few lines and the gray and white streaks that weave through her cornrows echo softness, not age, that spreads from her eyes to her smile. But when Charles holds her feeble, two-year-old granddaughter, Vanessa, wrinkles of worry sew seams on her forehead. “Malnoui” she whispers, as she points to Vanessa legs, hands and feet that are swollen from nutritional oedema, retention of water in body tissues caused by a protein deficiency. Charles cannot find a job, her husband died of tuberculosis a decade ago, and Vanessa’s mother is mentally ill, which keeps her from working. The only money they have comes from generous neighbors who provide enough for three or four meals each week. Whatever else they consume is what they have managed to squander. Charles has been bringing Vanessa to Hospital Justinien for the past three weeks, and thinks that Medika Mamba will save her granddaughter from starving. “Her belly was always in pain,” she said. “Now she will finally know what it’s like to feel full.”charles_vanessa.jpg