PRINSBURG -- A helping hand from west central Minnesota reaches all the way to the north coast of Haiti, where it is aiding the relief efforts for orphaned children along with victims of the earthquake.
Volunteers and staff at the Children of the Promise orphanage near Cap-Haïtien have been keeping a very hectic pace ever since the magnitude 7 earthquake devastated the country's capital, Port-au-Prince, on Jan. 12, according to Jan Bonnema of Prinsburg. She and her husband, Bud, launched the orphanage nearly 10 years ago, and are in daily contact with those working on the ground to care for the children as well as refugees from the earthquake in Port-au-Prince.
Donations and help from volunteers from the Willmar area are benefiting the work at the orphanage immensely, said Jan Bonnema.
The orphanage works mainly to place orphaned children with new families in Haiti, but also helps arrange for some adoptions by families in the U.S. and Canada.
Bonnema said that the orphanage was overseeing the transport of 12 children this week to Port-au-Prince so that they could begin the final leg of their journeys to new homes in the U.S.
Volunteers with the Christian mission Agape were flying the children the 90 miles to Port-au-Prince.
There, they will meet with U.S. embassy officials and Haitian government officials. U.S. Homeland Security has been working around the clock to keep the adoption process moving and aiding the efforts to unite the children with new families, Bonnema said.
She said the paperwork and approval for their adoptions were processed long ago, but the earthquake destroyed virtually all of their records, razed the government buildings and in many cases, killed the government officials and judges who were familiar with the cases.
The children are ages infant to no more than 3 or 4 years, and the need to move them through the earthquake-stricken capital city is "logistically crazy,'' said Bonnema. The orphanage has been able to secure a place for their safe care in the city, and the Agape volunteers have been very generous to find space on their planes to transport the children.
Bonnema said they hope to move another 12 children through Port-au-Prince and to U.S. families in the week ahead.
She said the arrest of one group of U.S. citizens who had attempted to move children from Haiti to the Dominican Republic has not adversely affected the efforts by Children of the Promise.
The village where the orphanage is located has seen earthquake refugees from Port-au-Prince. At least 10 people have taken refuge in the village church, which offers little more than a cement floor and walls.
Bonnema said she is not sure how many more orphans Children of the Promise may see as a result of the earthquake.
A drive is now under way in Willmar to fill two containers with supplies for the relief effort. The goal is to ship the containers from Willmar on Feb. 15 or 16 to Cap-Haïtien, which has port facilities. Items may be brought to Lu Lu Beans, 1020 First St. S., Willmar.
Financial assistance is greatly needed as well, and donations for the orphanage or shipping costs can be made at the North American State Bank offices in Willmar, Belgrade or Elrosa.
These are the items most desired for the containers:
Liquid hand soap and hand sanitizer
Bars of soap (Ivory)
Disposable diapers (sizes 1-3)
Snacks for kids (cereal, crackers, granola bars in large quantity) -- bulk more important than brand
Snacks for special needs kids (pudding cups, instant oatmeal, nutri-grain bars, etc.) rice baby cereal
Formula (Similac/Enfamil, Isomil/Pro-so-be, Lacto-free)
Pediasure Blankets Fitted crib sheets
Boys 2-3 shorts and T-shirts
Sweatpants for the cold days (12 month - 3T)
Shoes (2-4 especially)
Pediatric colostomy supplies: bags, clamp, adhesive
Infant liquid vitamins
Infant liquid iron drops
Cotrin (trimethoprism/sulphamethoxazole syrup for peds)
Cephalexin liquid for peds Mebendazole