Haiti Earthquake 2010 - 2015
I can remember the sick feeling in my stomach as the news began to describe the terror and horrible reality of destruction that Haiti was enduring and all I could think about was my long time friend Marie & Pierre Prinvil and her family. There was obviously no way for us to get in touch with her so we began to try to find a way to get to her. If I could have been there the next day to help with rescue efforts I would have been. I didn't really have the connections then that I have now.
Two weeks later Chris, Christa & Charity Remington and I set off to Haiti with Marie's daughter Tahj via the Dominican Republic. Flights wouldn't resume into Haiti until mid-February so we had to fly into Santa Domingo and take a bus to the border where we met up with Pierre who drove us the rest of the way in. It was an adventure being packed into a bus built to hold about 20 but carrying probably close to 50. If experiences like those came with scratch and sniff pictures it would be bad.
We checked on Marie and the kids and they were okay, shaken, but physically unharmed. They were still sleeping outside of the house even though there was no damage for fear another earthquake would strike and they wouldn't be so fortunate. They were so thankful for the many teams who helped build their house which they described as swaying back and forth and rolling up and down with the ground as it shook but staying completely intact unlike the many homes and buildings in the area that instead crumbled with the violent jerking of the ground. It was awesome to see Deverson, my first ever "rescue" and "baby love" in Haiti.
***I was 20 years old in Dec. 2000, on a trip by myself to Haiti, when Marie sent me out with her brother Junior to rescue a infant that had been abandoned. Deverson was 9 months old, 9lbs and reminded me of ET with his boney rib cage, extended belly and stick thin limbs. His body was in fetal position and he didn't have the strength to even lift his head or cry as they tried to find a vein to start an IV but his eyes reached out and touched my soul. Ten years later he was such a grown up little boy, loving life with his mom Maire.
Little happened in any adoptions during 2010 because most of the offices and paperwork was buried beneath piles of rubble. As Haiti continued to make progress in the cleanup aspect of recovery they also began making some progress with adoptions and things began to look hopeful towards the end of 2011. In Nov. 2011 I met Heather Elyse Savage, a creche and adoption agency director who promised that she had lots of experience and could help families wanting to adopt. She was our "miracle"....or so I though. I went home after that trip and worked for months to compile our dossier, a list of documents required to show we are able/allowed to adopt. I flew our documents down the end of April 2012 ready to get officially started on the Haiti side of things only to find out that the national adoption office in Haiti (IBESR) was "closing down" for the summer to work on old adoptions started before the earthquake but not completed through Humanitarian Parole and for the slew of adoption applications and dossiers they had received since opening in the fall that they had been unable to process. It was a long, hard summer just waiting but they opened early fall and our dossier was one of the first to get in and be accepted. All that did was open the door to the next waiting room. Those of you who really know me know that I don't do waiting well so this was SO HARD! And as the time went by the kids continued to grow up. I hated missing so much of their lives.
In the fall of 2012 I began working part time for Voice of the Orphan, the agency that Heather Elyse directed, as a way to help pay down some of the adoption. I poured myself into helping other families and thought I was really making a difference until I realized that some things I was seeing or being told from the agency and/or Heather weren't making sense. The spring of 2013 rolled around and it only got worse. Families began asking questions and wanted clarification on things pertaining to the kids they were told they were in the process of adopting but instead of providing them with answers Heather punished them with sudden delays or extra "fees" and even cancelations of their adoptions! All for simply asking for evidence that these kids were truly orphans. I didn't understand punishing people for wanting to know information that we should have had and wanted to provide willingly. (I learned a lot and you can read about adoption Red Flags here if you're interested.) I began to struggle with what I was seeing but feared losing my adoption. Month after month I was told conflicting information about my own adoption, where we were in the process, how much I owed, how much donations had come in for us and about cases I was helping. I was confronted by two moms who had taken a stand against Heather and the staff and they had paid dearly for it. (You can read more about all that here on a blog started by families that were scammed by Heather Elyse and all the organizations she ran: Voice of the Orphan, Room for Grace and Giving Hope Rescue Mission.) I was basically told if I was who I said I was then I needed to step up and do something and I needed to separate myself from Heather or be considered to be a part of what she was doing. I felt helpless and brokenhearted. There was little I could really do except make noise about it and doing so would certainly stop and possibly cancel my adoption as I had no access to any of my documents. I endured months of feeling as if I were drowning in my head, as if water was on my brain. I struggled with being able to sleep at night and fought a fierce internal battle with myself about being willing to risk my adoption to help others who were losing theirs due lies and manipulations. In the end I couldn't watch or be a part of adoptive parents being lied to about their kids being kidnapped when they weren't, or adoptive parents not being told when a bio parent took their child back or worse, adoptive parents being told their child died but not even being sure if that really happened or if the child went home because they were not adoptable and Heather just didn't want to tell the truth.
I held out for as long as could, fighting God, asking how He could let me fall in love and start this adoption only to take it all away. At the end of the summer of 2013 I raised my white flag, surrendered to God and submitted a resignation letter to the staff and explained some of the reasons why I couldn't be a part of the organization any more. I set off a short while later to Haiti to try to begin the process again as I had nothing to work with. I felt defeated but saw a miracle that week as some of the staff came through, not even knowing I was in Haiti, and had my kids papers delivered to the orphanage. There were key documents missing but it was more than I had and gave me a lot to work with. Throughout the rest of 2013 and the beginning of 2014 I worked tirelessly to bring my kids home. I had a renewed strength that was fueled by the fact that other families and the rest of the staff had finally seen and realized everything that was going on with Heather and had all walked away.
At the end of June I finally the notification I'd been waiting over 4 years for.... the adoption, our kids = APPROVED!!!! We flew down the last week of July to spend some time with the kids and on July 31st they became American Citizens as they walked into the US Immigration office in Fort Lauderdale, Fl. A part of my heart didn't celebrate because it understands the pain of those who are still waiting for their families to be made complete.
It's been an amazing 5 months and with what I've learned in the journey I could write a book.... but I don't have time because I'm busy chasing 5 kids! I'm exhausted, I'm weary, I'm overwhelmed by loads of laundry and trash EVERY.SINGLE.DAY but more than anything I'm filled with peace, hope, excitement, anticipation, and LOVE!