'I Had a Lot to Give'

Susan Scott Krabacher with a child at the Mercy House Orphanage . >>Narrated Slideshow (Ron Haviv / VII for washingtonpost.com)

The child was stiff, unable to move her arms by even a few inches.

The young girl, appearing almost like a doll, had just been found abandoned in a hospital and wasn't thought to have much life left in her. But in her last days, Carol would find some comfort at the Mercy and Sharing Foundation, sharing space with many other orphans.

Susan Scott Krabacher comforts Carol in her arms, noting how she responds to human touch. But she is surprised Carol is still alive.

"We got her too late," she says. "When I saw her she had that death stare. I don't think she has a lot of time left."

Krabacher, a former Playboy model, founded the orphanage in 1995. Returning to her religious roots, she left her life at the Playboy mansion to establish a group that now cares for thousands of Haitian children.

As she moves through the children's rooms, she is greeted at every turn. She takes time to sing the ABC's or chat with the Haitian staff. She knows every inch of the orphanage and the stories behind each child. Krabacher hopes to move to a new facility near the ocean, where she says these island-born children will see the water for the first time.

Krabacher laughs with an orphan at Mercy House. >>Narrated Slideshow (Ron Haviv / VII for post.com)

Children who share a room filled with wooden bunk beds take every opportunity to run around. The orphans, segregated by their condition, are required to stay inside because of security concerns. The mentally challenged and handicapped children, according to Haitian law, stay in a building apart from the others. But in the courtyard, they all intermingle and play together, a sight rarely seen on the streets of Port-au-Prince.

Krabacher says she can relate in some ways to Haiti's people, especially the children. She had a troubled childhood and was forced to seek her own way in the world.

"I felt equal with the poor," she says. "I wasn't educated, they weren't educated. I had a lot to give and they had a lot to give. I had a lot of love and I wanted to change things and they needed things to change. So it was a perfect match."

Award-winning photojournalist Ron Haviv is on the ground in Port-au-Prince documenting the run-up to Haiti's presidential and legislative elections. >>About This Blog

By washingtonpost.com |  February 5, 2006; 9:00 AM ET
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