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by Madison Moyes
My legs were starting to get cramped up from sitting in the small airplane. Why did I have to get the middle seat again? My mom and sister always got the outside seats. “We’re here!” my mom said. I leaned over my sister to look out the window. “Wow, it’s beautiful!” I sgaid, almost shocked. The small island looked like it could be swallowed up by the ocean surrounding it. There were big mountains covered with beautiful green trees. I could see tiny little shacks stacked up one side of the mountain; they looked as if they were all going to slide off at any second. I had never thought of Haiti as being such a beautiful place.
The moment we stepped off the airplane, I felt as though I had just run straight into a brick wall. It was so hot that it was difficult to breathe. My mom saw the looks on my sister’s and my faces and laughed, saying, “Welcome to Haiti.” She had been here many times before. My mom had fallen in love with Haiti and the Haitian people about three years ago when we adopted my little brother, Robby, from Haiti. She had become so passionate about helping this small country that she and her friend started an organization called Haitian Roots. The program finds people to sponsor children so they can have a chance to go to school. They also fund-raise to build schools and employ teachers to improve the education system.
When we left the airport, we were greeted by my mom’s friend, Harry, who owns and runs an orphanage. He drove us to our hotel to drop off our luggage, and then it was straight to the orphanage to get to work. As we were driving, I noticed the city looked so much different on the ground than it did from the airplane. It didn’t look like the same beautiful place I had just seen. There was garbage everywhere, piled all along the streets; the people were walking right through it like it wasn’t even there. The smell was so strong it burned my nose. I guess I’ll be breathing through my mouth this entire trip. I also couldn’t believe how many people there were packed into this tiny city. How does everyone fit on such a small island? I realized that my fingers had started to go numb from holding the seat so tight. Driving in Haiti was absolutely terrifying! There seemed to be no speed limits or traffic laws at all. There were cars flying in every direction and I could hear the sound of honking cars all around me. Oh, please let me make it out of here alive!
It seemed as if everywhere we drove, people on the streets would stop and point and stare at us. “Blanca! Blanca!” I heard some of them yell. “What does that mean?” I asked.
“White,” Harry answered, “Ya know it’s not every day you see a car full of white people in Haiti,” he laughed. He pointed to the right and said, ‘Here we are.”
There was a giant wall with cartoon characters painted all over it. We drove past the gate up to what looked like a big house. This is the orphanage? It was nothing like I had imagined. We walked in the front door, and I saw to the right of me a room filled with cribs. I have never seen so many babies in all my life. There were two or three to each crib. The room smelled so badly of urine that I could almost taste it as I breathed. I was trying to fight the strong urges to gag. The sound of crying babies overwhelmed my ears.
My sister and I picked up the two babies closest to us. “You won’t be able to put them down until they fall asleep!” my mom warned us, loudly shouting over the pitiful cries. My mom was right; if you picked up a baby and then tried to put him or her down before they had fallen asleep, they would go crazy! I watched a baby boy screaming on the floor after he had been put down by one of the nannies. He was so frustrated; he began to bite his own arm. I felt so overwhelmed by all the babies and the crying, I wished I could take care of all of them.
“Come on, girls. Let’s go upstairs.” my mom said. We followed her up the stairs to the second floor where we saw there were about five different rooms filled with children of all ages. There’s more! I couldn’t believe how many kids there were! My sister turned to my mom. “How many are there?” she asked.
“About eighty,” my mom answered. “Come here,” she said, “and I’ll show you where your little brother used to live.” We walked into another room filled with cribs, and my mom walked over and pointed to the crib in the corner, “That’s the crib your brother spent most of his life in until we brought him home.” she said. I walked over to the crib and saw a beautiful baby boy lying inside of it. He looked up at me and smiled and reached his tiny little hand through the bar of the crib. I took his hand and held it in mine. I looked into his big, brown eyes and realized that not too long ago that was my baby brother laying inside there. I felt a big lump begin to rise in my throat. My brother spent two years in this orphanage. How long would this baby stay here? Would he ever get a family? I felt the strongest wave of sadness wash over me and I couldn’t hold back the tears anymore. I had to get out of there. It was too much. I couldn’t take it.
I walked outside and my mom followed. “Madi, what’s wrong?” she asked.
“It’s not fair!” I sobbed. “What if some of these kids never get a home? What if they are never adopted?” My mom held me in her arms while I cried. She didn’t say anything, she just held me. The truth was that a lot of the children will never be adopted and never get a family, and we both knew it.
I couldn’t help but think back to a couple of weeks before we left for Haiti. There was a dance coming up at school. I had been so nervous that the guy I liked would ask someone else, or I wouldn’t be able to find the perfect dress if he did ask me. My mom and I spent hours and hours dress shopping, trying on dress after dress. At the time, shopping, a boy and the dance seemed like a big deal to me. As I stood there in my mom’s arms thinking of all these sweet children who don’t even have a home, I realized how much that dance didn’t matter. Inside the house I could hear my sister playing ring-around-the-rosie with the kids. I could hear them all laughing. Just a simple game had brought them so much joy.
How could they have so little and be so happy? There are many who have so much but are still unhappy. How could they live in these conditions and still smile? How could an airplane ride to a small, foreign country be so life-changing? How could small, dark-eyed children with an infectious smile alter my whole life? What is important and meaningful to me?
That trip to Haiti changed my life! It changed the way I view the world, and for that I am forever grateful.
When I returned to my high school, one of my friends ran up to me and said, “Can you believe Sam bought the same jacket as me?” My friend didn’t know, nor could she understand what I had just experienced. Before my trip, I might have really felt her pain, but I had been through a life-changing experience and realized how silly some of my concerns had been before the trip. Going to Haiti made me realize how much I have to be grateful for and how there are so many people suffering in this world who need others to help them to have a better life. I am grateful that my mom has taught me that we all can make a difference in this world. I loved going to Haiti. I loved working at the orphanage and I cannot wait to go back, even with the sickness and the sadness I am ready to go back and make even a little difference in the life of a child.
The children of Haiti are still waiting for Their Answer. Give the Haitian children who came to the U.S. on Humanitarian Parole a voice. Here’s what to do: Contact via phone and/or email your Representative and respectfully request their support of the Help Haiti Act. For detailed information regarding the legislation, please read below. To find your Representative, please click here. 2) Once you have contacted your representative, please let us know by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org
HELP Haiti Act (H.R.5283)
The HELP Haiti Act was introduced by Representative Fortenberry in response to the needs of 1,200 children who entered the U.S. through Humanitarian Parole after the earthquake in Haiti on January 12, 2010.
Using Humanitarian Parole to unite children with their adoptive families was a true act of humanitarianism. Unfortunately, a barrier still exists which causes significant and undue delays in providing American citizenship to these children. This is especially critical for older children who continue to ‘age out’
This bill grants no special considerations to the children but rather places them on the same path to citizenship enjoyed by all other internationally adopted children.