Thursday, July 31, 2008

Meeting Daniela

In April we traveled to Haiti to meet Daniela for the first time. Our flight from Seattle didn't leave exactly on time.  That meant that we would not have time to sleep in Miami before continuing on to Haiti.  Then, the airline that goes to Haiti called, and told us that our flight to Haiti would be leaving from Ft. Lauderdale, and not out of Miami as we had booked.

Getting on the small plane
 to Haiti was interesting.  We boarded 2 hours later than we were supposed to, with no reasons given. The only thing they seem to care about is your weight (they weigh you on the luggage scale).  Your baggage is never checked for rocket launchers or hand grenades.  Of course there are no bathrooms on this short flight, but one experienced traveler brought his own plastic bag (aka: Stadium Buddy) so that he was prepared when he needed to go.

Our flight was scheduled to be 2 hours, and fly direct from Ft. Lauderdale to Cap Hatien.  We'd been awake for about 26 hours when we boarded the plane, so I nodded off eventually.  As we landed, Tina asked me where Exuma is.  She pointed to the sign that read, "Welcome to Exuma International Airport."  I replied that it must be the name of the airport in Cap Haitien.  Wrong.

We had landed in the Bahamas.  It seems they weighed us originally so they would know how much fuel they could carry.  Evidently, with my fat butt on board they could not hold enough fuel to make it to Haiti.  We took off and flew for another hour and a half to Haiti. Our scheduled arrival was 8 AM.  Our actual arrival was noon.

It was comforting to see the local fire department was prepared for any mishap.

Arriving at the orphanage, and seeing Daniela for the first time is a moment I'll never forget.  She was promptly handed over to Tina, and curled up in the comfort of her mother's arms. 
 We spent 9 days with Daniela, and it was awesome. 

We even had the chance to meet Daniela's aunt, and 4 of her 5 cousins.  They had tried to care for Daniela for 3 months after Daniela's mom died.  When we arrived at their home, they called the neighbors to come and see the baby. They were amazed that she was still alive!

This family made many sacrifices to care for Daniela, and many decisions that would prove to save her life. We will always be grateful!

We are currently working with the people of Compassion International to try and get this family enrolled in the Child Sponsorship program.  If that happens, this family will get some desperately needed help.

I will post more about our experience in Haiti later. If you have ever traveled to Haiti, or to any other nation with extreme poverty, we would love to hear your comments about how it impacted you.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Adopting Daniela

For several years my wife and I had talked about adoption.  She was adopted, so it has always been on our minds.  We've had many brief discussions about it over the past 5 years, but they never went beyond casual talk.

On Sunday, May 27th, I was coming home from work at 7:00 in the morning.  I was listening to a radio show, discussing international adoption.  It intrigued me, and I had this nagging feeling, that I needed to bring up the topic again.  When I got home, I told Tina what I'd heard, and that I think it's time for us to make a decision... either we will, or we won't adopt.  I told her, it is something that I would like to do.  She wanted to also.

It didn't take long for us to decide what country to adopt from.  We'd been long time sponsors of children in the Dominican Republic through Compassion International.  Haiti, and the Dominican Republic are both on the island of HispaƱola.  We've seen children in the DR living in suffocating poverty.  We've also learned that Haiti is 5 times poorer than the DR.  Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.  We decided that Haiti would be a good country to adopt from.

We began searching for an orphanage, and eventually settled on a care facility, where the main goal is to take in sick children, and get them well.  They want to keep families together whenever possible.  When a child in their care has no family that is able to care for her, they work with an orphanage to handle the adoption.
Daniela was born on February 19, 2007.  Her mother was very ill, with a fever so Daniela was not permitted to nurse.  Her mother passed away not long after Daniela was born, and her aunt and uncle (below) did the best they could to care for her. 

Unfortunately, Daniela didn't do well, and in desperation, they took her to the orphanage when she was 3 months old, and weighed 3.5 pounds.

Daniela was brought to this place on June 4, 2007, just days after we had decided to adopt.  She was not available for adoption, but was listed as "status to be determined."  It was noted that her aunt and uncle love her very much, and were trying to decide if they would be able to care for her.

This is the first photo (below) we saw of her, from June 4th.  We completed our application to adopt, and sent it in on our 19th anniversary, June 11.   We spent the next few months getting our dossier put together.  There are many steps, including a psychological exam, home study, medical exam, letters of recommendation, and many other documents.  
During those months, I knew Daniela would some day be our daughter.

We could not receive a referral of a child until our dossier was submitted.  Fortunately we completed our dossier right at the same time as Daniela became available for adoption.  Her aunt uncle had made the very difficult decision, that they would not be able to care for her.

Since last fall, our lives have been a roller coaster.  Her files had been sent to Port au Prince to start the adoption process in December.  In February 2008 we learned that her file had been lost.  We also learned that some families had recently been turned away, because they already have children.  Haiti is considering allowing only childless families to adopt from their country.

In March Daniela entered IBESR, which is the first step of the adoption process.  We don't know how things will go, but we do believe she is our daughter, and will be home with us some day.

We are looking forward to meeting Daniela in person for the first time very soon.  She's come a long way in the past year, and so have we.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Magdalena - Sometimes We Forget

Magdalena is another one of "our" girls in the Dominican Republic.  Our family has sponsored Magdalena through Compassion International since she was 6 years old.  As of Feb. 28, 2008 she is 11. 

Magdalena lives with her mother, brother and sister.  Not long after we started sponsoring her, her mother and father separated.  Today, Magdalena says she thinks of me as her father. 

Magdalena is a shy, sweet girl who writes letters to us often.  Up until January 2008, she used to say that she can't wait to meet her "sisters."  In January, Magdalena met her sisters, when we went to the Dominican Republic on a Sponsor Tour with Compassion International.

Seeing Magdalena in person, it's easy to forget the poverty she lives with every day. In September of 2007, Magdalena nearly died of dengue fever.  Dengue fever is a disease that is transmitted by mosquitoes.  It also goes by other another name, "break bone fever" because victims often have contortions due to the intense joint and muscle pain.

Had Magdalena not been in the Compassion International child sponsorship program, it's likely that her family would not have been able to get her the medical attention she needed.  Magdalena was admitted into the hospital for 9 days and received intravenous fluids, and medicines to help her recover.  Compassion provided both financial support, as well as social and spiritual support to Magdalena and her family.  This support was vital in her recovery.

Unfortunately many children around the world aren't as fortunate as Magdalena.  Here's a few statistics:

• 6.5 million children die every year of hunger related illnesses
   That's 12 children every minute

• The average life expectancy in developing countries is half that of developed countries

• According to the United Nations, poverty is defined as living on less than $1 per day

You can help a child like Magdalena for just $32 a month. To learn more, go to

Monday, February 4, 2008

Meeting Juan

On January 14, 2008 my family and I were in the Dominican Republic on a Compassion International Sponsor Tour. That evening we had the pleasure of meeting Juan David Dominguez.  Juan is a college student in Compassion's Leadership Development Program who is being sponsored by 12 firefighters from Valley Regional Fire Authority.

The Leadership Development Program is offered to students who have graduated from Compassion's Child Sponsorship Program.  Only the top academic students, who have demonstrated excellence in leadership in their schools, churches, and communities are eligible to be in the Leadership Development Program.

Juan entered Compassion's Child Sponsorship Program at the age of 6.  One year earlier his father had died in a construction accident.  Juan and his family were devestated.  Juan's mother worked very hard to keep the family together.  Having Juan in the Compassion development center meant that he received Christian mentoring, education, health care, food, and a safe environment.  After school 3 days a week, Juan received a meal at the development center, and often there was enough leftovers that he could bring food home for his family. This helped his mother maintain the family.

In 1998 Hurricane George struck the Dominican Republic and wiped out their family home.  They did not have much, but lost all of their belongings.  Through the help of Compassion, their house was restored. Juan's mother continued to work hard as a maid, and eventually she managed to save enough for concrete floors and electricity.

Juan's sponsors during these years were in Australia.  Though they were never able to visit him in person, they sent frequent letters of encouragement.  Juan tells me he looked forward to those letters and kept every one of them, reading them over and over.  Juan says without Compassion, his life would be "a disaster".

In October 2007 Juan graduated high school.  This is quite an accomplishment for a child living in extreme poverty.  Not only did he graduate, but he received his school's "Most Excellent Student" award.  After a series of interviews, Juan was accepted in Compassion's Leadership Development Program.  Juan's goal is to become a pediatrician.

Juan's sponsors in the LDP are twelve firefighters from Valley Regional Fire Authority in Washington state.  These sponsors have made a commitment to sponsor Juan for 6 years.  Some have already expressed an interest in attending Juan's graduation.

Juan will attend Universidad Autonoma de Santo Domingo. Established in 1538, it is the oldest university in the New World.  Juan dreams of becoming a pediatrician so he can care for children in the impoverished communities of his country.

You can read more about Juan at

Sunday, January 27, 2008

A life changed.

This is Yefredy.  My family learned about her after seeing Amy Grant talking about sponsoring a child through Compassion International Since then, Yefredy has become our beloved daughter, and a sister to our children.

My family hadn't been consistent in tithing at church.  We wanted to, but just couldn’t seem to make it happen. I had been working for 12 years as a freelance graphic designer.  My income was like a roller coaster.  Once the bills were paid, there never seemed to be anything left.

After hearing Amy Grant speak about Compassion International, we decided to sponsor a child.  We knew if we made a commitment to a child, we would take care of that first, and budget for our necessities with what was left.  We went on Compassion’s web site, and selected another child, named Yonalda.  After sponsoring Yonalda for a year, we decided we could afford to sponsor a second child.  That’s when we found Yefredy.

One of the great things about Compassion is that they not only allow you to write the child you sponsor, they encourage it.  They even offer sponsor tours for you to visit the child you sponsor.

We wrote letters to the children we sponsor, and sent the check once a month.  For a long time, the letters we received from Yefredy were the simple letters you’d expect from a child.  She told us what she was doing in school, and what games she liked to play.  As time went on, the letters became more personal.  She told she was living with her grandparents, and that her mom and dad worked a long distance away.  They visited when they could.

As Yefredy grew she faced a lot of hard times.  Then one day we got a letter telling us that she was very sad because her dad had died. Within a year we got another letter from her asking that we pray for her grandfather who was having surgery.  By this time, she was asking us in every letter when she would meet us in person.

My wife and I always thought it would be fun to meet her, but always said, ”We can’t afford to go this year. Maybe some day.”  We had three daughters of our own, and were very busy.  We got a bit lazy about writing letters.  Then everything changed.

In February 2005 we got a letter from Yefredy thanking us for the Christmas gift she had received from us.  She also wanted us to know that she was sad because she missed her father.  She was also sad because her grandfather had died.  Lastly, she was sad because she hadn’t gotten a letter from us in a long time. She told us that she thinks of us as her family, and wants us to never forget her. 

That letter hit me like a ton of bricks.  Child sponsorship had been little more than sending a check, and writing an occasional letter.  This child viewed it differently.  We were people who loved her, and cared about her.  She had shared her deepest pain with us, and she wanted to know that we were getting the message.  

That day we made reservations on the next Compassion sponsor tour to the Dominican Republic.  Then we wrote to Yefredy, and told her we were coming to visit her in January 2006. 

Meeting Yefredy was one of the greatest days of my life.  My wife and I were able to hug her, and tell her we love her.  We laughed with her, and cried with her.  The day we saw her in person, she became real.  She became our beloved daughter.

Today, Yefredy is 15.  She's overcoming poverty, and is a year away from high school graduation.  Her dream is to enroll in Compassion's Leadership Development Program, and go to medical school.  

My family went to visit our sponsored children again in January, 2008.  It was the third time I've been able to spend time with them.  We hope to be in the audience when Yefredy graduates medical school.

Thanks to Compassion International, this child born into poverty has overcome great adversity, and is already changing lives.  She started with mine.  I am forever changed by the experience.

Please sponsor a child today.  If you already sponsor one, please consider sponsoring another.

If you have a Compassion story you'd like to tell, post your blog on Shaun Groves "Shlog"