By Rebecca Perry
A local family was able to breathe a sigh of relief after adopting another child from Haiti against all odds.
“This is a light in the darkness,” said Laurae Richards of Westford. The proud mother of six explained that she and her husband had started the adoption process in February 2009 and thought the worst had happened when they heard news of the earthquake.
“I thought that we would never get our little boy, that everything was lost and buildings we needed to have our paperwork sent to were destroyed,”
Richards said. “We would have to start all over again, but where would we even file our paperwork if the buildings were gone? It was terrible, thinking we would never be a family. “
Miraculously, a local man retrieved their adoption files out of the collapsed building, which allowed the Richards to bring their child into their Massachusetts home within a few days.
“For us, and so many that have watched the devastation, even if they’re not connected to Haiti, when they hear the story of how the files where found among the rubble, they feel a sense of hope – a sense that maybe something good can come out of such terrible situations”
Horrifying images and rising death tolls monopolized the news after the catastrophe on Jan. 12. Despite how devastating this time has been, there is still hope and things to be thankful for.
“This is our light of hope and it has touched many others who hear the story, and our story is not the only one,” Richards said. “Many children are coming out of Haiti when most adoptive families thought all was lost.”
Due to the terrible conditions brought on by the earthquake, the U.S. embassy agreed to issue humanitarian parole visas to four children being adopted by families in Massachusetts, one of which was Amos, the young boy the Richards recently welcomed into their family.
“This visa allows us to finish the adoption while Amos lives here with us, versus waiting till all the paperwork is done in Haiti,” Richards said.
This is also a blessing, she said, since the two girls the Richards had adopted in May 2008 had to wait 28 months before being allowed into the U.S.
While in Haiti, the girls and Amos were under the care of Pastor Rigaud Antoine, who runs the Kingdom Kids orphanage, school and ministry in Port-au-Prince.
Laurae Richards is not only the proud mother of three Haitian children, but also the president and founder of a non-profit organization dedicated to helping educate children in need.
“Servants for Haiti was started to help children, believing that children are the future,” Richards said. “Through sponsorship you are helping an orphan to be fed, get medical care and go to school. It is all just $25 a month, less than we spend on coffee in a week.”
Servants for Haiti also runs mission trips twice a year to help Pastor Rigauds Antoine’s school and church.
“We serve side by side with the Haitians that will use this school and go to this church,” Richards said. “Each team helps more towards the completion. Teams are what build the relationships, and it is those relationships that help a team member to return again and again.”
Richards has been going to Haiti since 2000, and her family started making the trip in 2004. She has visited more than 20 times.
“People say to me serving Haiti is what you do, but for my family and myself it is not what we do, it is who we are,” she explained. “My oldest three children can’t imagine life without Haiti. My oldest son has gone 10 times and is now making choices in college that will allow him to help in Haiti too. And my oldest daughter wants to teach so she can teach either here or there. I even paint Haiti, and have art shows. This art comes out of love and homesickness for the people in Haiti.”
During this critical time the Richards and Servants for Haiti have been collecting money and supplies to give directly to Pastor Rigaud Antoine. More mission trips have been scheduled along with the usual one coming up in June 2010.
Those interested in becoming involved with Servants for Haiti, donating to their cause or sponsoring a child, can visit their website at http://www.servantsforhaiti.org. All Fitchburg State College students, faculty and staff can give to MassPirg, which is also donating funds to this cause.
“The Haitian people are beautiful, their spirit to survive and smile through are amazing. And it has the ability, if you let it, to touch your soul and change your life.”