Haiti's Children Adjust to New U.S. Home

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Madjany Mouscardy is 11. She's been in the U.S. for two weeks after surviving the earthquake in Haiti.
CBS

It's the start of the school day at Silver Shores Elementary and - for a handful of students - the beginning of a new life filled with unfamiliar faces.

Haiti has begun a weeklong period of mourning for the more than 200,000 people who died in the earthquake a month ago Friday. That's long enough for some Haitian children to start over in two south Florida counties, reports CBS News Correspondent Kelly Cobiella.

Madjany Mouscardy is 11. She's been in the U.S. for two weeks after surviving the earthquake.

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"I opened the door to go down the step and then everything fall on me," Mouscardy said.

She screamed for help but no one came, so she rescued herself.

"I took everything, and I took it off," Mouscardy said.

"You pushed it off? All of the bricks?" Cobiella asked.

"Yes, and then I see something, the sky, and I'm like 'Oh thanks God,'" Mouscardy said.

Mouscardy is among the hundreds of children brought to Florida on military planes and private flights. Most have relatives in the United States but little more.

Some arrive able to tell their stories in English. Many more only speak Creole or French like 5-year-old Ryan Estil, who says he has no friends in this new country.

Principal Angela Iudica has 12 students from the quake zone, a lot for her small school but only a fraction of the Haitian children now in need of education.

Schools in Miami Dade and Broward counties have taken in more than 1,300 students from Haiti since the earthquake, but the impact of the disaster spreads beyond those children who lived through it.

Florida is home to more than 200,000 Haitians, the largest population outside of the country itself. Many still don't know the fate of their family members. Delphine Gervais is one of a thousand specially trained school counselors. One boy approached her for the first time last week.

"Senior in high school, athlete, very centered student, he finally came to me and was like 'Ms. Gervais, you know, I haven't heard from my dad,'" Gervais said.

Schools are trying to help the children they have while hoping the federal government will foot the bill of about $7,000 per student each year. No one knows how many more will come or how long they will stay.

Mouscardy, for one, doesn't want to return to Haiti.

For now, at least, she and the other children feel safe and loved.