John and Allyson Halpin know it will take more than a paper airplane to deliver help to the people of Haiti – but a simple, folded jet is a start.
The Green Bluff couple learned that lesson in April 2003 when they visited the country as part of a mission to adopt two children. The guests from the Inland Northwest constructed basic paper airplanes during a trip to an orphanage – and soon found the homemade flying machines were a hit.
“It’s just the plain things we don’t think about,” said John. “They don’t have the paper to make airplanes.”
|John and Allyson Halpin have adopted three children from Haiti since 2004. The Green Bluff couple, who also have three biological kids, are emphasizing themes of hope and healing after a 7.0 magnitude earthquake devastated Haiti earlier this month.
The impoverished nation with an unemployment rate of 70 percent received another setback earlier this month when a 7.0-magnitude earthquake left thousands dead and reduced many parts of the country to rubble. In the Haitian capital of Port au Prince alone, some 600,000 people were left homeless.
Back in Spokane County, the Halpins did their best to communicate with friends in Haiti following the Jan. 12 quake. John and Allyson gathered updates on three orphanages facilitated by a group called Foyer de Sion.
While two of the buildings sustained serious damage, the 225 children staying at all three sites there were safe and well. Workers at the orphanages were also uninjured, although Allyson received news that “all the staff had lost family members and friends.”
Gladys Halpin, 18, is the oldest child in the Halpin family and is currently a student at Spokane Falls Community College. She arrived in the U.S. in 2004 along with David, now 7. Rosemitha, 11, joined the family in 2008.
Gladys first heard reports of the earthquake on the evening of Jan. 12. Since then, she has been trying to retrieve news of those she knows in her native country.
“It’s tough,” Gladys said. “I could hardly look at the news because it made me cry. I’m just grateful that people are helping and that people are noticing Haiti now.”
Gladys, currently studying to be a youth counselor, is saving money for a trip back to Haiti to provide support for earthquake survivors. Davis has also spoke of going back to help.
As for her transition to the U.S., Gladys said it has provided her with a chance to build a promising future.
“I appreciate the opportunities I have in America, being able to go to school and learn” she said.
John and Allyson say they gained an appreciation for the spirit of the Haitian people when they first visited the country in 2003. The humble conditions – including challenges like intermittent electricity – also made an impression, particularly when the couple returned to Spokane.
“So many things we take for granted here just don’t exist down there,”
Allyson said. “I went back home and heard people complaining about things but I had seen what it was really like to go without.”
In the aftermath of the earthquake, John and Allyson say they have been encouraged by the way the U.S. and other countries have rallied in the recovery and rebuilding effort – but emphasized that the awareness must continue.
“People have been wonderful but I hope this isn’t just a blip on the screen,” said Allyson. “I hope that Haiti will not disappear like it has in the past, that people will want to keep helping. If everyone does a little bit, it will make quite a difference.”
One way to provide support is by sponsoring a child through a program called Sion Fonds. Donations cover costs for education, health care, employment training and community improvements.
“We’re just an average, middle-class family but we were able to buy goats to send to a family in Haiti to help them build a better life,” Allyson said.
Working with a group called International Adoption Facilitators, Allyson continues to serve as an intermediary between adoptive families and Foyer de Sion orphanages. John said the family’s three Haitian children have turned the Halpin household into more of a home.
“They’re special, they each have a different personality,” he said. “Each of them has taught us in one way or another how to be better people.”
Want to help?
To learn more about sponsoring a child in Haiti, visit www.sionfonds.org. To find out more about donating to the earthquake recovery effort, go to www.hopeforhaiti.com. To learn more about adoptions from Haiti, visit www.foyerdesion.org.