February 4, 2010
Posted: 11:25 PM ET
God's Littlest Angels is an orphanage in Haiti. Founders, John and Dixie Bickel, along with their children, came to Haiti in 1991. The Bickels are originally from Illinois. In 1995, the Bickels adopted Steve and Markenson, two of the babies from their nursery.
Before serving in Haiti, John worked for the GTE phone company. Today, John serves as Field Director for the mission. With his knowledge in electronics and maintenance, he also performs the much needed task of equipment maintenance and repair.
Dixie is a registered nurse and has 30 years of experience in pediatrics and intensive care nursing. She serves as the Orphanage Director.
The following is their account of life in Haiti since the devastating earthquake...
From God’s Littlest Angels Orphanage in Haiti… Life changed for everyone in Haiti on 12 January 2010 at 4:55 PM. It also changed for all of us at God’s Littlest Angels Orphanage! I was in my office working on some legal papers when the shaking started. Immediately, I knew it was an earthquake. I have lived through 3 small earthquakes in Haiti, but they did not compare to this one! As I pushed back from my desk and tried to stand and move toward the door of my office, the room was shaking so badly that I was only able to take about three steps before I stopped.
In my mind, I could see the three story orphanage falling down around me. I stopped, bent over holding on to my desk and prayed for God to keep the house standing! If it had fallen, they never would have found us all! There were 152 children, 32 volunteers and adoptive families, and 50 staff at the orphanage when the earthquake hit!
We were so thankful that our orphanage did not fall and nobody was seriously hurt from the quake. Lots of things were broken, but nothing that I could not live without. I am also so thankful that our internet and telephone stayed on during the whole time. We were able to be in touch with journalists and families to let them know what was happening and how awful the devastation was in Haiti.
During the first two weeks after the earthquake, I worked day and night to get paperwork completed and arrangements made so that adopted children could join their “forever” families in the USA, Canada, Holland, Luxembourg, and France. All of the children eventually traveled to meet their adoptive families except for the French children. The French government decided that the children could not travel if their adoption was not totally completed. We have 14 French children waiting now for the French government to decide if they will make an exception and allow the children to go home with their adoptive parents. Many of their documents are buried in the debris of government buildings!
We rushed to get the children in the orphanage out to their adoptive families because we did not have enough food, water, and medication right after the earthquake. Most of the children had been in the orphanage months if not years already! We also knew that many people were hurt, homeless, and dead. We wanted empty beds so that we could take in homeless children and those that were orphaned.
But UNICEF has decided that all orphaned children are better off in tent cities rather than in established orphanages with structure and routine. Many orphanages are empty right now with trained childcare staff being laid off because the children are not being placed in our homes. Our orphanage has three teachers and 75 staff members to care for the children. The building is structurally sound and can house 150 children but only have 18 today. Surely, the children would be better off here?
UNICEF has never liked international adoptions and UNICEF has a lot of clout in Haiti. They feel that the child staying with their families is the best answer. I totally agree except most families bringing children for adoption are living on less than $2.00 per day and cannot afford to care for their children! It is not unusual for us to get children who are 2 years old and weighing less than 15 pounds. We also receive many children whose mothers died in childbirth. No child should be raised in an orphanage. I truly believe that a family is the best thing for every child!
The first 3 weeks after the earthquake, we were so busy surviving and working to get children who were residing in the orphanage at the time of the earthquake to their parents, that we really did not have time to be afraid much. After the initial 7.0 earthquake, the earth rolled under our feet 24/7! Everyone at the orphanage had motion sickness from the constant moving of the earth. We had more than 60 aftershocks that registered 4.0 or higher in the first 2 weeks. None of us expected the aftershocks to last so long nor take such a toll on our nerves!
We heard last night that the death count is over 200,000 and there are still bodies buried in collapsed buildings unaccounted for. Will the Haitian government ever really know how many people died in this earthquake? I doubt that they will ever know since many were buried in mass graves due to the fear of disease.
We are receiving children into the orphanage that are being brought by their mothers and displaced children whose parents are lost. The mothers tell us that they are trying to sleep outside wrapped in sheets lying on the cold ground with 2 or 3 children and sometimes newborn babies born since the earthquake! They come asking us to take in some of their children. These children are for short term care. Many are already sick with colds, pneumonia, dehydration, and diarrhea. God is filling up our orphanage with children off the street and we could not be happier!
We received four children on Wednesday. We gave the mothers tarps to put over where they sleep, blankets, and food to help them. We have been distributing relief items as quickly as we are getting it in. We have two more containers waiting in the USA to be shipped to Haiti and plan on bringing in 200 tents to hand out to people living on the street.
I want this blog to inform you about the children that are coming into God’s Littlest Angels and also about what is going on in Haiti. We have already found the families of two of our displaced children. We took posters with photos of the children down to the big city hospital and also put their names over the radio. The parents called within a day wanting to come get the children! It makes all of us at the orphanage so happy to see the families reunite!
My blogs always end with….And life in Haiti goes on…because it does go on. The Haitian people have been through many trials and disasters. I sit here typing listening to my staff sign outside my window at 9 PM at night. Even in all of this devastation, their spirit survived!
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