Around 11:00 the Night of the Earthquake…..

About 11:00 that night….

Like I said last time, the internet was burning up the night of the earthquake in Haiti. People all over the world were trying to figure how bad it was and how people can help. Much of the traffic and communications seemed to be happening on Twitter. Those who were on the ground in the earthquake zone who were on Twitter were getting all of the attention. Different news organizations would ask questions and the answers from the people on the ground were like a front row seat to a disaster. Scary and sad and fascinating at the same time.

And then it happened, Ann Curry (then of the Today Show) posted something on Twitter to this effect, “Looking to set up an interview with someone in Port Au Prince who speaks English.” (Not everyone in Haiti speaks English). I put in a quick instant message to the stateside office (out in Colorado) and verified that there was a cell phone working at the orphanage. I then responded to Ann Curry, “I have people I work with just outside of Port Au Prince. They can talk.”

No response. At that point, I think Ann had approximately the same number of followers as the population in Chicago. I really didn’t expect a response. I mean, Ann Curry talking to me?

And then it came, @tvanderwell, Ann Curry has requested to follow you on Twitter. According to their rules, you can’t message someone directly if you aren’t “following” them. Of course I said yes.

A little later, I get a direct message from Ann (maybe it was her staff, I don’t know and it doesn’t matter) and I passed on the phone number and names etc.

7:00 AM on Wednesday, January 11, 2010 as the Today Show opened up, it jumped immediately to a live phone interview between one of their anchors (who will remain nameless) and the director of “our” orphanage. Don’t tell me that Social Media can’t accomplish good.

I don’t know how many people saw the interview but I know it made more people aware of the plight of kids in Haiti.

And I kept the e-mail that said, “@tvanderwell, @anncurry is following you on Twitter.”

Tom

Haiti – a Decade Later

Haiti – a Decade Later

I’ll always remember where I was on January 12, 2010 at 4:53 PM.

I was sitting on one of the bar stools that we had around the island in our house that we owned at that time. At that time, I was a banker and I was done with an appt outside of the office that didn’t give me time to go back into the office. So I came home and got caught up on some work stuff there instead

At that point, I was lurking on Twitter a lot. I say “lurking” because I was really only talking to a few people on a consistent basis. Most of what I used twitter for at that point was to follow a bunch of news people and organizations to keep up with what was going on in the world. Why?

Well, it was very simple (or I thought so), the market that controls interest rates does best when what it thinks will happen actually happens. So, the market thinks that oil prices are going to go up and they do, not a big deal for the market (speaking in grossly simplistic terms) because that’s what they were thinking would happen. So keeping track of those type of movements in the markets was very beneficial to my clients because it helped them with at least an inkling of what mortgage rates might do.

So, back at the ranch, I’m returning e-mails and such and I had a program called Tweetdeck running. You can specify certain twitter accounts and any time they tweet something it will show up on there. You can also specify certain names, phrases, terms etc. for it to search on. I had put in Port au Prince, Haiti – because that is the capital city of the country where two of my children were born.

I believe it was 5:02 PM on January 12, 2010 that my computer scrolled a little box up in the upper left corner that said the following:

LA Times reports massive 7.5 earthquake in Port Au Prince Haiti at 4:53 PM EST. Casualties expected to be massive.

My heart sank. I had a lot of friends there. I had/have a lot of friends who had or were adopting from Haiti. I was on the board of the orphanage – with lots of employees in Haiti – many of whom were not at work. This was bad. Really bad.

As in, God, why are you allowing this? Bad. As in, “I shook my fist at heaven and said, “God, why don’t you do something?”

Within an hour, darkness settled over Haiti but from what I’ve been told, quiet didn’t come. Sobs of grief, the cries of the wounded, the sounds of impromptu rescue teams trying to pull people to safety. All night long.

Depending on who you listen to, anywhere from 80,000 to 300,000+ people lost their lives on that day or would soon because of injuries sustained on that day.

And while the people on the ground in Haiti were working in horrific conditions trying to figure out what happened, what’s been damaged, who can be rescued and more, all night, there was another group of people who weren’t in Haiti but were burning up the internet trying to figure out how bad it was, what was needed to help and how to get there.

I remember, about 1:00 the next morning, all of the kids from the orphanage were sleeping on the driveway (imagine trying to get 90 kids to sleep on a driveway?) I was able to connect on Facebook with one of our volunteers. When they ran out of the building, she had her computer in her back pack, so she had it. She spent quite some time but located a spot just outside the main building where she could get a weak wifi connection through the router in our building (our buildings were shaken but remained standing.) She and I talked for about a half hour and the information she was able to share with me turned out to be a great comfort to the adoptive parents whose kids were at the orphanage and were worried, literally sick, about them. No one was hurt at the orphanage. We found out later that one of the orphanage’s employees lost 11 family members that day.

Finally, at about 4:00 in the morning, after spending a couple of hours on the phone with another board member trying to wrap our heads around what happened and what to do next. I fell in bed knowing that the sun would come up in a couple of hours and with it a “better” chance for those in Haiti to see how bad it was.

What they saw when the sun came up, it was worse than you could ever imagine.

Tom

Adoption and Human Trafficking–A Series of Thoughts…..

As many of you know, in addition to writing here on my own personal page, I also write for The Apparent Project.   That writing can be seen at The Apparent Project.

I just started a new and probably rather lengthy series of blog posts that I’m going to do addressing what I see as the obstacles and challenges of both adoption (particularly international) and also human trafficking.   The articles are going to not only point fingers at what isn’t working well but will also have ideas (both systemic and individual) that can be done to improve things for children and families.

The basis for the discussions are two articles that were written about international adoption and human trafficking – particularly human trafficking, child trafficking, in Haiti.

If you want to read the articles, you can find them at http://tomvanderwell.net/important-articles/.

Some of it will be written here, most of it will be written on the Apparent Project website.

I hope you read, join the conversation and share it with others also.

Thanks for caring.

Tom V

Change of Plans

​Originally, as I had written previously on here, I was planning on writing a book this month.   It would be a book written by an older adoptive dad (me – my kids have been part of our family for over a dozenyears) to a younger adoptive dad – one who is either thinking about adopting, in the process or has their adopted child(ren) home for a shorter time.   Kind of a “Dear Younger Me” type of book.

I am on Chapter 7, but I have decided to pause the writing of that book and write it at the time when I can give it the attention it deserves.   Why?   A couple of reasons:

1. Hurricane Matthew – as the scope of the disaster in Haitit becomes larger and larger, my heart breaks for the people I know and the people I don’t in that country, the country where two of my children were born.   I want to have the time to do some encouraging, some praying, some writing to help those who are suffering there.   

2. The U.S. Election – Prior to the election, while I had many conversations with people about politics, I made a concious effort to stay away from politics on the blog.   The results of the election and the reactions to it and the actions of many since then have given me the conviction that our country is seriously hurting right now and that now is not the time to be silent on these issues.   In good conscience, I didn’t feel that I could support either major party candidate, but I know many people who I feel are good people but chose positions that I question.   The issues, why the choices were made, where is the church’s role in all of this and why now is not the time to be silent, these are all issues that I want and feel I need to write about, explore and wrestle with.    There is too much at stake.   

So, the book about adoption is being put on hold and I want to do more to help people remember the suffering in Haiti and to wrestle with the issues that appear to be shaking our country to it’s core.

I hope you’ll continue to join me and that you’ll add your input in a tasteful, thoughtful and organized manner.

Thanks,

Tom

P.S. I will also be writing about AID, Development, Adoption, Trauma and how to help families in Haiti avoid putting their kids in orphanages over at http://apparentproject.org/blog. 

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The man on the pier – and the church on the shore?

If the church is truly going to be pro-adoption, it needs to be prepared to help after the man on the pier jumps…..

But what if, instead of saying “we only know how to say jump,” the crowd had rushed to the end of the pier, with arms outstretched, yelling “Hang on! Help is on the way! Don’t lose hope!  We are right here with you.  You are not alone!” as they threw the man a life ring?

Source: The man on the pier — Key Ministry