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

So, What Grade would you give the Teddy Bears?

How did they do? How did we do?

If you look back, we had three goals we wanted to accomplish:
• Make sure that the U.S. government, in particular, the State Department is aware of and watching out for the good of our kids.
• To strongly urge the U.S. government to communicate with the new government in Haiti that the U.S. State department is watching and wants the new Haitian government to make sure our kids were okay.
• To get humanitarian parole so that we could bring our kids home safely and soon (and finish the paperwork later.)

Let’s address the last one first. Did we get humanitarian parole for our kids? Nope. Realistically, did we expect we would? No, but we also knew that if we went in asking for three things, we had a better chance at getting two of them than if we went in asking for only the two. In addition, it ended up being okay because within approximately a month from that time, the Haitian government picked up and began processing adoption paperwork and approximately 4 months after the coup, we went and brought our two kids home because their paperwork was finished.

What about the other two? While they are somewhat intangible and hard to measure, I would say that those were successful. Throughout all of that, I ended up on a first name basis with a lady named Michelle Bernier-Toth in the State Department. She was very in touch with us and was an excellent person to work with. She assured me that the State Department would be watching out for our kids and that she wanted me to keep in touch with her if we heard anything that might be even close to resembling a problem.

I just did a quick Google search on Michelle and she is now the Director at the State department who runs the department that is in charge of emergency services. In other words, when there is a crisis over seas and there are Americans who need help, her department helps. That was what she was doing in working with us back in 2004 and now she’s running the department. Thanks, Michelle!

Overall, the Bear-a-Van and the meetings in Washington were, I believe a success. The ultimate goal wasn’t achieved but the other “steps” were and it also generated positive publicity and gave us, the helpless parents at home, something to do where we felt like we could at least try to make a difference.

It turns out that about 6 years later, a lot of what we learned after the coup would become very useful in helping adoptive families after the earthquake in 2010. But that’s a story for another day (actually more than one day).

Tom

Childhood trauma leaves scars

Childhood trauma leaves scars?  For those of you who parent children who have suffered trauma when they were younger, you’re probably reading that and saying, “uh, yeah, tell me something I didn’t know……”  That’s not really news.

No for those who are in the middle of parenting children who have been through trauma (adoptive parents, raise your hands – I see you) we know what this can be like.   But that’s not why I kept this article.

What’s newsworthy about this article is that a major college and a fairly substantial city government (Madison Wisconsin – I know, it’s not Chicago, but it’s not Borculo Michigan either) are acknoweldging it and are taking steps to do something about it.

I’ve talked to so many people who have, over the years, suffered through so much grief and guilt feelings because they have been either directly or indirectly that their child’s struggles, their child’s actions, their child’s attitudes are the fault of bad parenting.   The “system” is starting to see that the problem just isn’t the adoptive parents or whatever parents the child(ren) have, the problem is that there was significant trauma that happened when the child was younger.

We’ll talk a little bit later – but a LOT more about the fallacy called, “All you need is love” and how that is true for everyone.”  (It’s not!)

Tom

 

 

Childhood trauma leaves scars that are genetic, not just emotional, study affirms The researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison wanted to study the impact of childhood stress on genetic chemistry. Author: John Schmid, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Published: 11:14 PM PDT July 22, 2018 Updated: 11:17 PM PDT July 22, 2018

Source: Childhood trauma leaves scars that are genetic, not just emotional, study affirms | krem.com

Boy, was I Naive……

If you had asked me before we started this adoption journey what it would look like, I probably would have told you something along the lines of this:

• We’d figure out where we were going to adopt from.
• Then we’d work with the people in charge and eventually figure out who we were going to adopt.
• We’d bring them home – and things would be noisy and crazy and full of adjustments.
• But after a while – maybe a year, maybe two – we’d settle into the new normal and life would go on pretty much as it was – just with more kids and more noise.

Boy was I naive’.

If our adoption story had gone that way, here’s a sampling of what I would have missed:
• I would have missed hearing Haitian roosters who couldn’t tell time – and crowed at 2:00 in the morning.
• I would have missed the sounds of Haiti in the night. It truly is musical.
• I would have missed getting to know some truly amazing people who have given and currently still give so much of themselves to help others.
• I would have missed the privilege of sitting with others in their pain and sadness – a privileged place that few are allowed to enter into.
• I would have missed a lifetime of learning about poverty, corruption, the 3rd world, racism and problems that are worth fighting against.
• I would have missed getting to know some great kids – Michno, Sonia, “Small Man” Peterson, Kenbe, Judith and Kerby and many more.
• I would have missed out on seeing some miracles – and not only did I see those miracles, I got to, I get to see those miracles as they turn from children without a future to children who healed and have a future and are a blessing to many. Elli, Roselaure, Danny – you are just a few of them.
• I would have missed out on conversations with an 80 year old lady in the hospital who told me that God gave her a second chance at life through a successful heart surgery and I gave her a chance to make a difference for kids in Haiti. There is a building at the orphanage named after her.
• I would have missed the opportunity in 2011 to sit on the porch at the orphanage late at night – in shorts and a t-shirt – while messaging with my wife who was at home in the middle of a major snow storm with wind chills approaching 30 degrees below and well over 2 ft of snow falling in 2 days time. I missed the storm and I’m still grateful.
• I would have missed out on being uncomfortable.
• I would have missed out on getting to know people at my current church – people like Christy and LeMaar and Susie and Pastor Darrell and Laura and…….
• I would have missed out on learning about and getting to know the people at Potter’s House School.

Boy was I naive’. Boy am I glad I was wrong. Has it been easy? Not a chance. Would I trade? Maybe for a day or two every now and then.

But not a chance.

TJV