Molly Hightower: How Do You Measure a Year in the Life?

On Tuesday, Haiti suffered a magnitude-7 earthquake that has spread devastation to the already impoverished country. As of Wednesday, Port Orchard residents Mike and Mary Hightower were anxiously awaiting word from their daughter Molly, who was working with disabled orphans in a suburb of Port-au-Prince.

I checked in on Molly’s blog to find out a little more about this young woman and what motivated her to spend a year working in such challenging circumstances. I did not find a saint. Just an upbeat 22-year-old with a taste for Starbuck’s and Taco Bell, a love of children and a deep well of compassion.

Molly’s blog is aptly enough named “525,600 Minutes” from the lyrics of the song “Seasons of Love.

Molly and Child
Molly and Child

Another Port Orchard woman, Rebekah Miner, was also in Haiti, working as a nurse. Thankfully she escaped unscathed. Read her story at this link.

Molly Hightower, in her blog, describes herself as “A 22 year old from Port Orchard, WA, who just graduated from the University of Portland and is avoiding getting a job. I majored in Psychology, Sociology and French, and plan to get my masters in special ed, counseling or education.”

She arrived in Haiti in June, 2009 for a year of work with NPFS, Nos Petites Freres et Soeurs (Our little Brothers and Sisters in French-speaking Haiti).

Here are some excerpts from the blog that give a glimpse into Molly’s day-to-day life in Haiti.

Sept. 27
“Here are some pictures of my abandoned babies at the hospital. I have 4 currently, and I take them to Saint Germaine for physical therapy 2 to 4 times a week depending on how healthy they are. (Here she posts several photos of adorable-looking children like Jolene, below, showing she is also a capable photographer.)

Jolene
Jolene

“Norma has shown me how to massage them, how best to help Jolene walk and little stretching exercises to do in the pool. I never thought I’d be doing any sort of physical therapy here, but I enjoy it!

– My first little girl is Jolene, whose been with me since the beginning and IS STARTING TO WALK! I took a video of her walking in her crib on the soft service and posted it on youtube:”

Oct. 17
“Going to the hospital has become so difficult, because I have to search for the weaker babies every time I go. They are constantly moved from recovery to urgent care to special needs, and without a parents to sit with them when they are in the sick room, I have become that person. I sit with the other Haitian mothers for as long as I can holding whichever baby is sick, but this leaves less time for therapy with the healthier kids.”

Nov. 16: Molly talks about coping with circumstances most would find depressing or hopeless.
“Of course, there’s always sadness to focus on if you choose to. You’ll look down and see the burns someone put on Yvonne’s legs, maybe in an attempt to burn the seizures she often has out of her. Clotaire will get to excited from singing to us and have an epileptic fit. And then Watner, who was found burning in a pile of garbage as an infant, wanders over from the kindergarten looking for a treat. He only has half his fingers and scalp.

But then, Fabien comes in and trips all over herself to run and give you a hug, and Inderra makes eye contact with you from across the room and starts to laugh uncontrollably. You gotta focus on the good.”

Of the older children, one of Molly’s favorites is TiBeth (“ti” as in petite for small), a girl with Down Syndrome who is frightened to get off the school bus and usually throws a fit. Molly has to coax her off with her sunglasses.

Through it all, Molly gets by on her ability to see things with a sense of humor. This, also posted on Nov. 16:
“I left Kay Retreat at 9:30, and before I even made it to the office at 10:00 I had been knocked down by a very excited special needs girl giving me a hug, helped an 8 year old out of the wet cement she stepped in, and proofread a speech someone wanted to give in English. It was a normal day!”

In the same post, she describes Damien, one of the children lucky enough to be adopted.
“Damian Frechette (after St. Damien hospital, where he was abandoned, and Father Rick, who gives his last name to the abandoned children) is 2 years old and the cutest kid you could imagine. … He’s running around everywhere and talking up a storm (in creole, of course) like a normal 2 year old. He wanted to throw pillows and eat chocolate chips and stare at all the cars out the window all night, so we let him, because volunteers are meant to spoil the children from the hospital!”

Dec. 3: Another horrific day.
The Universal Day for the Handicapped
“The volunteers started off at mass at the hospital, with Father Rick back in town. After that, we went to bless the babies that died in the hospital the night before, which I’ve never done before. It was devastating to see them be unwrapped, cleaned, blessed and rewrapped to be buried. 2 children died last night, and 3 more the night before so there were several bodies on the tables. The hospital, on average, loses 2 or 3 children a day.”

Dec. 24 and 25, Christmas in Haiti
Except for the tropical weather, Christmas is like Christmas everywhere, and Molly shows the Haitian orphans are just typical kids at heart.
“Caterina gave me a candle, Maeve gave me a funny Christmas hat, and Lucrezia gave me a beautiful beaded necklace. We made our wishes for each other for the coming year, and I think everyone’s for me started with “Molly, you’re so young…”

“There was tons of food, and gifts for all the kids and staff. Everyone was enormously excited to receive their presents! Yvonne showed all 75 people her new purse and necklace, and Kenzie would not stop racing his toy car around the crowded room! It was very fun to see the kids so worked up and receiving so much attention.”

Dec. 30
In her most recent post, Molly talks about a difficult situation that she handles with typical grace and care. Jaques Cristo is an American-born “very, very smart” 7-year-old whose mother had dropped him at the American Embassy in Haiti. The orphanage is asked to care for him until his fate – probably foster care in the United States – can be determined.

He calmly told me his mother left him and wouldn’t be coming back, and that he thinks his dad is in Miami. Jacques was born in Brooklyn, so he’s an American citizen, but neither of his parents are. He speaks English and Creole fluently. He was born with a cleft palette and has already had several surgeries, but needs another soon. Maybe his mother didn’t receive a visa to go to the US with him for the surgery, or maybe she couldn’t afford to send him on her own. I’m trying to give her the benefit of the doubt- but what kind of mother just leaves her child, especially when he’s old enough to know he’s being left?
They spent the evening eating M&Ms and Doritos before she tucked him into bed.
“I spend almost everyday with the abandoned babies in the hospital, and it’s difficult to comprehend why and who would ever give them up. I’ve never encountered an abandoned child who is so aware of his situation, or one who feels the pain so freshly. It broke my heart.”

My thoughts: From what I understand of mothers who place their children in the care of others, most of the time, it’s done out of sheer desperation that is unimaginable to those of us who have food, money and the mental and physical where with all it takes to raise a child.

I feel enriched after reading Molly’s blog and my thoughts are with her family.

Oh, and here are the lyrics to the song:

Seasons of Love
525,600 minutes, 525,000 moments so dear. 525,600 minutes
How do you measure, measure a year?
In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights, in cups of coffee.
In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife.
In 525,600 minutes – how do you measure a year in the life?
How about love? Measure in love.
How about love? Seasons of love.

2 thoughts on “Molly Hightower: How Do You Measure a Year in the Life?

  1. I have been touched by Mollys story. I really wish she was here today, even thou she has touched so many people already, I beleive she would continue her mission as she didnt seem to think of the stuff bad around her, but the positive in everything around her. I wish there were more people like her in the world. The world would be a much happier place to be. She seemed like such a loving, caring person who was in the right place to help soo many people……

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