For two long years, Mike and Sandy Hurtubise have worked to adopt a set of 5-year-old twins from Haiti. All they needed was one last passport stamp and a couple of visas, Sandy said Monday. But last week’s devastating earthquake derailed those plans, and now the Hurtubises fear for their children’s safety. Both children survived the disaster, but the orphanage was destroyed. The 135 orphans have little shelter or access to food and clean water.
For two long years, Mike and Sandy Hurtubise have worked to adopt a set of 5-year-old twins from Haiti.
The couple had hoped to have little Angela and Angelo out of their cramped orphanage and running around the Hurtubises’ Rochester home this month. All they needed was one last passport stamp and a couple of visas, Sandy said Monday.
But last week’s devastating earthquake derailed those plans, and now the Hurtubises fear for their children’s safety.
Both children survived the disaster, but the orphanage -- the House of God’s Children in Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital – was destroyed. The 135 orphans in House of God’s Children have little shelter or access to food and clean water.
“We did get news that it’s very dire,” Sandy said. “The kids have to get out of there, or some of them are going to die.”
The couple was told humanitarian visas have been issued to the orphanage’s children, and the only remaining requirement for their evacuation is approval from the U.S. State Department. The Hurtubises spent Sunday and Monday trying to contact U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin’s office to put pressure on the State Department. They also contacted local media to encourage others to do the same.
The Hurtubises have spent many sleepless nights worrying about the children they’ve already come to adore.
“We’ve been over there four times,” Mike Hurtubise said. “They (the adoption agency) allow you to spend time with your kids, so you get to know your kids before you bring them home and love them. They’re your kids, and it’s awful every time you have to leave.
“Knowing that they’re over there suffering and not being able to bring them back home - it’s very difficult,” he said.
“We just want them home,” Sandy added.
Sleeping on the ground
Staff from For His Glory Outreach, a Christian ministry that supports the orphanage, were able to contact adoptive parents about an hour after the earthquake struck.
“Somehow, they had gotten a phone call out before all the phone lines went down to let us know that the kids were all OK,” Mike said, though they learned that one of their caretakers was killed in the rubble of the orphanage.
The Hurtubises have since relied on email alerts and news reports to keep track of the children.
The 12-foot wall that formerly surrounded the orphanage collapsed, and some of the orphanage’s remaining supplies were consequently stolen, she said.
The children are sleeping on the ground in a courtyard, open to the elements, she said.
On Sunday, For His Glory Outreach staff told the Hurtubises and other prospective adoptive parents that an airplane is standing by, waiting to transport the children to Miami as soon as the State Department gives the OK.
John Normoyle of Durbin's staff confirmed Monday night that the Hurtubises had been in contact with Durbin’s office, though he was limited in what he could say due to confidentiality issues.
“The State Department and the orphanage have determined that the twins are safe, and we will continue to work on this case. But it’s too soon to determine a timeline,” he said.
Twins are fighters
For Mike and Sandy, the waiting is the worst part. However, they take comfort in the fact that the twins have already shown they are fighters.
Angela and Angelo were born on September 6, 2004 in Cite Soleil, a tin-shack slum near Port-au-Prince notorious for crime. Their mother was so poor she sometimes could satisfy their hunger only by feeding them dirt biscuits.
They were two years old when their mother brought them to the orphanage, along with their older brother, Isaiah. Isaiah later died. Angela was so severely malnourished that orphanage staff doubted she’d ever walk again. But the girl’s health improved and she has thrived.
Angelo overcame a severe head injury that occurred when he was struck by a ceiling fan in a freak accident in 2008.
“They’re survivors. They’re just so happy to be alive,” Sandy said.
The Hurtubises soon hope to introduce their family and friends to the their family’s newest additions. (The couple already has three children – Adam, 23, Toby, 22, and Alicia, 17.)
“We just want them to have the love of a family,” Mike said.
Love at first sight
Sandy and Mike Hurtubise said it was love at first sight when they met their adopted twins. The couple made the decision to adopt orphans from Haiti in 2007.
On a mission trip, Sandy said, she spent four days at orphanages.
“We just decided that after really talking about it and praying about it, that what we needed to do was adopt a couple kids,” Sandy said.
“That fall in 2007, we started this whole process of doing home studies and everything you have to do to get into the process. … It’s a long process.”
The couple met Angela and Angelo in late February or early March of 2008. They since have visited Haiti three more times to get to know the twins better.
Mike even met the twins’ birth mother, who gave her blessing. As of Monday, the Hurtubises hadn’t heard if she survived the earthquake.
Despite the worry of the last week, the Hurtubises described their adoption process as “wonderful.”
“Three years ago, if you would have told me (they were adopting twins from Haiti), I would have said you were crazy, just because it’s not what I thought I would be doing,” Mike said. “But, it’s funny how things seem to work out.
“The first time we met, we fell in love with them instantly and I knew then that we made the right decision.”
The couple hopes the earthquake disaster will inspire more people to help, or even adopt, children from Haiti.
Amanda Reavy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Want to help?
The Maison des Enfants de Dieu -- the House of God’s Children’s Orphanage -- in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, is supported by For His Glory Outreach, a Christian ministry.
It serves 135 children who have been abandoned or lost parents or whose parents can no longer care for them.
For more information or to donate to the ministry’s efforts, go to www.forhisgloryoutreach.org.
183rd members deployed
Five members of the 183rd Fighter Wing in Springfield have been sent to an Air Force Base in Arizona to support earthquake relief efforts in Haiti.
From Arizona, the group will help coordinate delivery of disaster relief supplies to Haiti.
It is the first mobilization of its kind for Illinois National Guard forces, according to Col. Rick Yoder of the 183rd.
Twelve more unit members will join efforts at the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Ariz., later, Yoder said. The guardsmen initially were sent for a 30-day stint, although the assignment could be extended.