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

Something New…….

First, if you are reading this, thank you.   It means a lot to know that someone cares to take the time.

Secondly, for about 3 months, I’ve been doing a good bit of my writing about adoption, orphans, vulnerable children, family preservation at The Apparent Project’s website.    You can read the posts there at http://apparentproject.org/our-blog/.

I’m going to start, when I post something over there, posting an excerpt of it here and a link back so that you can read and decide if you want to read more.

I hope you will. 

Thanks!

Tom V

Once Upon a Time – Not a Fairy Tale

Once upon a time, there was this family.   The story isn’t completely written yet but this family adopted two of their kids from Haiti.

While they were in the process of adopting from Haiti, they discovered something that really bothered them……

Many of the children, the estimates run upwards of 70% or higher, many of the children who are in Haitian orphanages aren’t orphans in the strict sense of the word.

What’s the strict sense of the word “orphan?”   The strict sense is that a child is an orphan if they have no parents who are living.   According to many “big” organizations, there are in excess of 140,000,000 orphans but if you apply the term in its strictest sense, the number drops to be between 15,000,000 and 20,000,000.

Do the math – what’s the difference between 140,000,000 and 20,000,000?   Yes, that’s right.

One hundred and twenty million children who are considered orphans and living in orphanages who have birth families.   Families that want to take care of them but for a variety of economic reasons are not able to.

They are known as poverty orphans.   Poverty and the lack of food has driven their parents to bring them to an orphanage in hopes of a better life.

If you take the numbers for Haiti, there are estimated to be around 430,000 orphans.  70% of that would be 301,000 orphans in Haiti are poverty orphans.

If their parents, their biological parents, had a way to care for them, then they could stay with their family.   301,000 kids who could have mom and dad tuck them in bed (or mom or dad).   301,000 kids who could know who they belong to.   301,000 kids who wouldn’t have to wonder why Mom and Dad gave them up.

This family (go back to the top) decided this wasn’t acceptable.

And so The Apparent Project was born.

Come back tomorrow for installment #2 of the story.

TJV

It’s Messy And It Hurts

My thinking on this subject has evolved and changed quite a bit over the years.    I used to be ignorant – blissfully ignorant.

But unfortunately, I’ve seen too much over the last 12 years.   Too many mistakes, too many well intentioned efforts gone wrong, too many times where families were hurt rather than helped, too many situations where children will bear scars for their entire life because of what happened.

What am I talking about?   Orphan care and the National Adoption Month celebrations.   I used to get excited about these and I used to be a strong advocate for doing events like this which raise awareness.

Not so much any more.

Am I still pro-adoption?   I absolutely am.    There isn’t a day that goes by that I’m not grateful that God has seen fit to allow me to be the parent to all five of my children.  Becoming an adoptive parent has allowed me to get to know some incredibly awesome people.    It has stretched me, taught me, broken me, molded me and totally reshaped my priorities.

But this year, I have gotten to the point that I don’t like the Orphan Sunday celebrations any more – at least not the way most of them are done.    Probably one of the most common “orphan sunday” posts I’ve seen on Facebook has the statistics of how many children in the US are in foster homes waiting for adoptive families.    It then says something like, 

There are 101,000 children in foster care waiting for families.  There are over 300,000 churches in the United States.   If one out of every 3 churches would adopt a child from foster care, there would be no orphan crisis.”

This statement is true in a couple of ways and false in some other very important ways.

It’s true – if one family from 1 out of every three churches adopted from the foster care system, every single one of the children in foster care would have a permanent home.   That would be wonderful.

But this is not a true statement for a couple of reasons:

  • It would not end the orphan crisis.   Because today there are more children being put in foster care.    And tomorrow there are more children being put in the system.   So, a year from now, there won’t be zero orphans in foster care, there would be a totally new “batch of orphans.”
  • Churches don’t adopt children, families do.   From personal experience and from talking to many adoptive parents, I think that most people could describe the situation in these terms,  “There are people at my church who want to help but don’t know how.   Most people don’t want anything to do with us and some of them are outright hostile because we make them uncomfortable”     I know that they are saying “churches” because it’s a way to represent the problem – but let’s be honest, most churches don’t do well with helping raise adopted children who come with battle scars.   (See previous blog series on “Not Okay’”)

I could go on in greater detail on the messy sides of adoption (and later I will).   But let’s just that there is a growing feeling that the positive feeling about adoption is being overshadowed by an acknowledgement of the pain that comes with adoption:

Pain for the adopted child – for what they lost to get to this point, for the changes they have to adjust to, for the unanswered questions about the who, why, what of their past.

Pain for the birth parents – no matter what the situation, giving up or losing a child raises questions and causes pain.

Pain for the adoptive parents – while usually the least, the pain that adoptive parents go through is real also.   Changes to their parenting styles, constant struggles, helping a wounded child try to heal, losing friends and family who don’t understand, it all hurts.

And then there’s the system, I could write a book on that, and the way that it pits one part of the system against another and rather than working together  they continue to make life more challenging for everyone.

Adoption is messy.    It’s painful.   It is necessary.

But it’s not the complete answer on how to care for children who are struggling.   There’s more that can be done to help children, but it’s not as clean, not as clear cut but it reduces the number of orphans who need families.

Join me as we work on examining the options and alternatives.

But remember,  James 1:27 says,  “True Religion is to care for orphans and widows in their distress. “

NOT

“True religion is to adopt an orphan.”

Everyone can do something and everyone must do something.

But it’s not an adopt or else scenario…….

TJV