January 19, 2010

Bringing Samuel Chancelet home: a couple's desperate journey

Posted: 04:17 PM ET

Editor’s Note: Joe and Jill Wilkins of Portland, Oregon, were in the process of finalizing their adoption of a little Haitian boy, Samuel Chancelet, when the earthquake struck. Samuel Chancelet is safe, but they are still desperately trying to bring him home. They will be documenting their journey and updating the LKL blog regularly on their progress.

We don't even know how to express how we feel into words. As we try to type, the letters don't seem to capture the right thoughts. We have so many emotions running through our minds. Neither one of us had slept much more than three to four hours of sleep over the past five nights, so we are am exhausted.

But both of us are finding we are getting energy from others who are supporting us and praying us through this. When we allow ourselves to step back and look at what has transpired the past five days, we are overwhelmed.

If you would have told us on Monday what we would be facing this week and the effort that would be required for such a journey, we would have said, “We don’t think we can do that.” Our personal journey to have our own family has already been a long road and our hearts were already feeling down about what we still had to endure to bring Samuel Chancelet home.

Check out a photo gallery of Joe and Jill Wilkins and Samuel Chancelet

It all started at 2:20pm PST on Tuesday when a fellow adoptive friend sent me an email stating: “I missed the exact details, but something like earthquake in Port-au-Prince and tsunami in Haiti!”

Our world has been turned upside down since that time. We sent our application to adopt from Haiti in July 2007 and it was submitted to Haiti in December of that same year. Here we are, January 2010 and we still don’t have Samuel Chancelet home. But a couple of weeks ago, we thought we were SO CLOSE. We could see the light at the end of the tunnel, as we figured there were five to eight months left, by our estimates (which is “short” when it comes to Haiti adoption timelines). We were pretty much closing in on the end of the Haitian side of things! We felt HOPE.

And then the earthquake hit. We immediately felt a heavy burden on our hearts to make a difference. There has been no such time when both of us have felt a passion to have an impact like this – for both our orphanage and our son. We have no idea how everything transpired, but things just kept moving – and moving FAST.


When I had the request from the God’s Littlest Angels orphanage to help assist in an effort to get a desperately needed charter flight to the orphanage, as well as spend time volunteering, I knew God had called me to go. So before I knew it, I had made plans to leave my job as a teacher and get on a plane (sadly, leaving Jill behind).

Today, I am in Miami purchasing and gathering supplies. I am working with other families who are adopting or have adopted in the past. We are committed to giving this effort all we have. We have plans to leave on a chartered flight tomorrow. We have 10 doctors flying with us as well, so we have been working to stay in touch on the plans. We will land in PAP and take five trucks up to the orphanage (it is about 16 miles up the mountain).

Our small team has been picking up medical supplies and are needed items today in Miami. People are amazing. We just ate lunch at Boston Market on Miami Beach Blvd. and they gave us a discount and fed us well. We are seeing so many people just anxious to help in whatever way they can.

I will be taking video along the way for you to see. I am eager to share this journey as we work to bring Samuel Chancelet home. I feel like I am representing so many people who wish they could be in my shoes to help the people of Haiti. I am going to be a changed person when I return.

Jill and I were just in Haiti over Christmas. We left a country that was in order and functioning. We both love this beautiful country. It is one that makes our hearts smile. Our next trip was supposed to be to get Samuel Chancelet and we were looking forward to that day so much. But instead, I am scared for what I am about to see in Haiti.


This has become my full-time job this past week. I have been taking days off from work because this has to be my focus. I didn’t have a choice; I need to do everything I can to bring Samuel Chancelet home. I also have a deep connection and love for God’s Littlest Angels, and somehow I knew all of my work experience in program management, marketing and communications/social media needed to be focused on helping with this effort.

If somehow God wanted to use my experience to make a difference, then I wasn’t going to get in the way. I wanted to go to Haiti, but in my heart I knew I needed to stay in Oregon so that I could work the stuff in the background. It has been a really important effort. A day might be made up of talks with congressional staff, a lobbyist, or someone who wants to donate supplies. It might be a newspaper or TV interview and then I shift to sorting through boxes of medical supplies. Or I might be faced with working my way through government paperwork in the hopes that our adoption won’t get left behind.

I call friends to see if they have contacts in the military for helping with the safety of our charter flight and then quickly shift to thanking the donors who have just given money to help our cause. The phone rings off the hook with updates, news, interviews and questions. And then I need to work on key messages for the parents or help to update websites to best portray our story. There is never a free moment and I feel guilty when I leave my computer for fear of missing something or not being able to help someone.

And sometimes you even get a surprise phone call, like the one that came from the Larry King Live show! My heart came alive when I talked with the producer. I had energy that I didn’t know was in me. More HOPE for getting our plea and message out to the public, congress, and others who might help. This was the opportunity I had been praying for. While you always wish you had more time to tell “the story” we pray the message was heard. The goal is to get the children out of Haiti and free up space and when you get Larry King to say something like, “Red tape in an earthquake, it's a joke” on your behalf, I think you can call that a win. We cannot thank Larry and CNN enough for helping tell our story.

And, as I type I just received an email from Joint Council to send in various documents regarding our adoption. I was frantically trying to get everything put together. I had to locate documents and photos to show proof of our adoption history. This could be what we have been waiting for! It needed to be the priority of the day…seems like I keep getting new things thrown at me.

We are worried about Samuel. He is “safe” but they don’t have the food they need. He is not eating like he should. He isn’t getting his diaper changed. Riots have started. We are scared for his safety, given the orphanage might be “better off” than many places.

We have been amazed over the past few days at how good people are, how much kindness, dedication and generosity exists in a crisis such as this. You are all making our burden lighter. Your amazing spirit is what is keeping us alive and going and it gives me encouragement that we will get Samuel Chancelet home soon.

Filed under: Haiti Earthquake • Larry King Live

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jen byrd   January 19th, 2010 8:08 pm ET

Bless you, Bless you, Bless you!

I hope your family is together....soon! ❤
God Bless!

Teresa   January 19th, 2010 10:24 pm ET

Many blessings to this family and all willing to adopt.

We, too, would love to add to our family with a child or sibling group. Just heard from the governor of Pennsylvania on LK that there are children from the group brought in last night that are in need of families. We are ready and willing and have been attempting "in-state" sibling adoption.

Let us know. We are Catholic and have a Catholic Charities at our parish.

God bless,

Sharon Wilkens   January 20th, 2010 12:03 am ET

Sammy is my grandson. We are longing to have him home with all of us. Our kids have had a long, long, painful road to becoming parents, and they will be wonderful parents. Please, please help him to come home.

Judy Stephenson   January 20th, 2010 12:09 am ET

I was so upset at the orphan's story that I wrote the President to try to cut red tape for these adoptions to go forward. I happily learned that the orphans have been flown to Penn. because of the Gov. of Penn. You have been super. We sure can use great news like that! Congrats to all the new parents of these kids!

Harmony A Thomas   January 20th, 2010 1:56 am ET

Our hearts are with you and looking forward to embracing Sam!
You both are doing great!

Leslie brooks   January 20th, 2010 12:56 pm ET

Joe and Jill
Thanks for the updates. We are all concerned here at Greenway and are keeping you in our thoughts and prayers. Godspeed to you Joe and Samuel. You are missed and loved. Leslie

Jacques Julmice   January 20th, 2010 11:20 pm ET

Joe, Jill,
You guys are doing an honorable thing. I'm receiving posts on this thread via email. Feel free to reach out to me if you and your family are ever in GA; Nancy and I, and our two daughters would like to have you over for some Haitian food. Thank you on behalf of the Haitian people.

God Bless you,

Gary   January 30th, 2010 1:17 pm ET

How sad. Why do white people feel the need to adopt blacks? Let blacks adopt blacks. By the way, where are they?

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