Kathleen Porter

I first traveled to Haiti in the summer of 2008 not really knowing what to expect. What I found was a country with very limited resources but full of beautiful, proud people. Volunteering with the kids in Kenskoff really opened my eyes to the needs of the country. There were so many kids without much who were still happy, smiling children.

Even though they didn’t have much, (family, food or toys), they were some of the happiest kids I have ever seen. I helped out in English class and taught the kids broom hockey. It was a very fun week with the kids and it was hard to leave them.

Immediately after my trip, I began researching adoption in Haiti as a single mom. I was 36 years old. Haiti was in my heart and I knew I needed to help out at least one child. I can’t change the world, but I can change the world for one child.

I returned to Haiti the following year in 2009 and also began my paperwork for adoption around the same time. This time, my brother and I set up a computer lab with donated computers for the kids in Kenscoff. This was another rewarding trip. Just seeing the kids’ faces light up from typing their names on a computer was such a highlight. My brother and I were also able to take in a local soccer game between two neighboring towns. This was unlike any sporting event I had ever witnessed. Although we were the only two outsiders at the game, we were made to feel very welcome by the proud Haitian spectators. After the trip, I returned home and continued working on my adoption paperwork and my home studies. In November, a 10 month old boy was referred to me. His name was Darjeau and his parents could no longer afford to feed him. He had been in an orphanage since he was 7 months old. I flew back to Haiti to meet Darjeau on December 28th and instantly feel in love with him. After verbally accepting Darjeau as the one I wanted to adopt, I flew back to the US to wait for my paperwork to get pushed through the courts in Haiti. Nothing happens quickly in Haiti.

While waiting for my paperwork, the massive earthquake struck on January 12th, 2010, 11 days after I had left Haiti. I didn’t know if Darjeau was alive or not as his orphanage had collapsed and no one could reach them until the next day. My mom called and told me she was going down to Haiti to help the people with other doctors and nurses. Two days later, I was told that Darjeau was alive and the kids were living outside. However, they were running low on food since his orphanage collapsed in the massive earthquake. I have never felt so helpless in my life. There was no way to reach my mom in Haiti to see if she could get to Darjeau. She was busy helping the wounded in the earthquake.

7 days later on January 19th, I received an email that told me to fly to Miami the next day to pick up my son. My boss at work gave me a bunch of miles and I flew to Miami the next morning. When I landed in Miami, I received a phone call that said Darjeau was in Fort Lauderdale and I needed rent a car and drive there to pick him up. I left the Miami airport and went to rent a car in order to drive to Ft. Lauderdale. While I was waiting in line, when I received another phone call from a lady who was sitting next Darjeau on an airplane in Puerto Rico. “Is he okay?” I asked frantically. She assured me he was fine and he was eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. She told me they were on their way to Chicago and to meet them there. I asked her if she was sure and she told me yes. I took the shuttle back to the Miami airport and caught the next flight to Chicago. After flying all over the country for Darjeau in one day, I was able to finally catch up with him after midnight on a very cold night in Chicago. I will never forget the man at the airport finally handing me a very dirty, exhausted child. I don't think I set Darjeau down for an hour but rather just watched him sleep in my arms. Nevertheless, it was the beginning of the best decision I have ever made.

Kathleen Porter