Deseret News in Haiti: Med student discovers a daughter to adopt

Published: Monday, Jan. 25 2010 12:00 a.m. MST

Some 50 Haitian children ranging from newborn to 12 years and their care-giving local pastor had been forced out of their severely damaged, uninhabitable house, taking bunk beds out into the yard and draping towels on the sides to provide protection from the intense Caribbean sun to crudely create a makeshift shanty.

The children acted like they had never seen a Caucasian before, touching skin and hair before reaching out to hold hands. They'd certainly never seen prospective adoptive parents before.

"These are slum babies," Andersen said. "These are kids someone found and dropped off at the orphanage."

Incredibly, it was not the orphanage the two were looking for — the pastor hadn't even heard of the first.

Instead, they had stumbled across an orphanage without a home, without any recognizable name, without outside funding, without any U.S. connections and without much food.

Essentially, an orphanage without much hope, but swelling in population since the earthquake.

Surrounded by 20 eager children, Betz didn't care for the "pet-store shopping" feelings he was having, until he spotting a little girl standing off to the side by a tree. He had his "that's her" moment, walking over to kneel down by her and quietly speak in what for her was unrecognizable English.

Asked if he wanted to still look for the original orphanage, he repeated: "This is her."

That wasn't the only adoption project resulting from Thursday's late visit to the slum-surrounded orphanage. Also touched by the experience, Andersen had found his "new baby" as well, wanting to rebuild the orphanage.

Andersen has teamed with Laurent, the latter donating land for a new orphanage and the former to fund the construction of the facilities. They're already talking about building more than a house; they want to construct a school and a playground, too.

Betz, Andersen, Sindel and Laurent went to what was left of the orphanage with food, tarps and some salvaged lumber to provide the remaining children with the crudest of temporary roofs over their heads.

All of the children who had suffered cuts and abrasions from the earthquake were treated by Sindel, the lone "medico," during the quick construction efforts.

When all of the treats were gone and it was time to go, the children surrounded the men. Unable to share a common language with the benefactors, they spoke their thanks in a Haitian song.

With Andersen's help, Betz has started the paperwork for adoption and relocation of Lauren Elizabeth to the United States, working with the original orphanage, another orphanage run in Port-au-Prince by an American woman, and by initiating efforts with the U.S. Embassy.

Some Haitian adoptions take many months, even years, but Betz and Andersen hope to streamline the process and, given the circumstances and favorable climate, have Lauren Elizabeth in Texas with her new parents.

Betz is unsure how long he'll be able to stay in Haiti, but he'll take advantage of every precious moment with his little girl.

That made the first-night scene of Betz and the little girl, curled up on their mattresses placed side-by-side on the Laurent home floor, all the more tender.

e-mail: taylor@desnews.com

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