Couple anxiously await word of Haitian adoptees
Jan. 14: Kendra and Brett Schlenbaker adopted two children from Haiti last summer, but their arrival to the U.S. was delayed by paperwork.
When I got to work this morning, I settled in my office, checked some e-mails and got on the internet to read any updates on the situation in Haiti. I came across an article on msnbc about a couple, Kendra and Brett Schlenbaker, who are in the process of adopting siblings from Haiti. With what has happened there in the last couple of days it wasn’t shocking to read that the couple from Bellingham, Washington were concerned about the well-being of their soon-to-be-adopted children.
With all forms of communication currently down in Haiti there was no way for the couple to know if their children survived the earthquake. They awaited anxiously to hear word that their kids were safe and on Wednesday evening their prayers were answered. They got the news indirectly from a church member, who was visiting the orphanage. They were told the orphanage suffered some damage but that all 90 orphans at the New Life Children’s Home, near the city’s airport, survived the earthquake.
While Kendra Schlenbaker is thankful that her children survived she is painfully aware of the devastation in Haiti. Having visited Haiti so often, she is especially concerned about the future of a country whose 9 million residents are already so desperately poor. “It weighs heavily on my mind. There are going to be orphans all over the place,” she said. “What’s going to happen to all those children?”
I have the very same thoughts and concerns. What will happen to all those orphaned children? It’s a difficult question to answer but a very real one. In the midst of so much destruction and devastation how will the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere not only begin to rebuild its infrastructure but also begin to take care of all the survivors. Many have lost their homes, their jobs, their place of worship but most importantly many children have lost their parents.
I keep seeing images on the news and on the internet of the dead bodies that lay in the streets of Port-Au-Prince. I see images of children covered in debris, with tears in their eyes, and a look of sadness and fear that breaks my heart. These children are lost, alone and scared with no one to take care of them. With the horror stories that I have heard about child slavery, and child trafficking in Haiti it pains me to think about the future that may be in store for some of these children.
A while ago I saw a special on ABC’s Nightline News, How To Buy A Child in 10 Hours (click on the link to read the transcript), about the child trafficking trade in Haiti. What I was hearing and seeing was horrifying. Children being bought, sold, and traded, as if they are livestock. The selling families claiming that they can not support the children and the buyers claiming that they can provide the child a better life and better opportunities. Children being sold to Americans, with the promise from the sellers that they can provide the “proper papers” to get the child back into the United States. Enticing them by telling the prospective buyers that once they buy the child they can use them for whatever they want. Some children sold for as little as $150. The more I saw the more disgusted I became.
(Above) Onise, 8, was given away to a family that was slightly less poor than her own. She was promised an education but instead works as a laborer in her new home.(ABC News)
In most cases, families in Haiti give (not sell) their children away because they are to poor to take care of them. The prospective owners, usually a family a little less poor, makes promises to take care of the child and to educate them. While we may take for granted getting an education, in Haiti, it is coveted. In a country, that for the most part has no public schools, parents make great economic sacrifices to give their children an education. The promise of school is like dangling a diamond necklace in front of them. Hence, making the decision to give them away easier.
However, many of these promises are often made in vain and quickly disappear when the owners get the child into their custody. Every day when the owners’ other children head off to school the slave child is forced to stay behind to do the household chores and to run errands. The slave child isn’t treated as family but is abused and mistreated. They are treated as inanimate objects used solely for the owners’ own selfish needs. These children aren’t loved or cared for and they are given the very minimum of necessities to survive. According to UNICEF, there are an estimated 300,000 child slaves in Haiti.
I can’t help but wonder where is their sense of humanity? How can these families treat children this way? Why does the Haitian government allow this? Well, the answer is simple. This is allowed because it is a way of life in Haiti. Although, it is unheard of and unacceptable here, it is a perfectly normal way of life in a country that is desperately poor. Poverty, can make the most viscious of acts seem normal. It’s survival of the fittest. One has to do what ever is necessary in order to survive.
It is very easy to turn a blind eye to these atrocities when they aren’t occurring in your own backyard. But why do we allow this? Why isn’t there more of an effort from countries around the world to end such horrendous acts. Aren’t we all a part of the human race? Since when has it been ok to allow such treatment of a human being? If we don’t allow slavery in our country why would we allow for it to be acceptable elsewhere? These helpless children shouldn’t be forced to endure such cruelty and abuse. The events of the past couple of days has made re-evaluate my own life and purpose. It has forced me to ask myself the question “What can I do to help these children?”
My sister and I were talking about this yesterday and almost as if struck by an epiphany we both felt compelled to do something. We realized that although we can not change the life of every child we may be able to change the life of one or two. We realized that we are blessed and because God has blessed us we want to share those blessings. We both decided that we want to look into adopting a child and giving that child a life that they probably wouldn’t have.
We should all take this as an opportunity to re-evalute our lives and be thankful for everything that we have and also be thankful for the country that we live in. Children are the world’s most valuable resource and whether they are Americans or not, the really are our future.
Click HERE to learn more about what you can do to help end child slavery.