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Orphanage started by area couple unharmed

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PRINSBURG -- Tremors from the magnitude 7.0 earthquake that struck Haiti were felt Tuesday afternoon at the Children of the Promise orphanage, a facility created by a Prinsburg couple that is currently staffed by a family from Willmar.

Area churches and families that support the orphanage, and local families that have adopted children from the orphanage, were relieved to learn Tuesday night that everyone there was unharmed.

"They felt a lot of the movement, but our buildings are fine and our babies are fine and our staff is fine," said Jan Bonnema, of Prinsburg, who along with her husband, Bud, founded the Children of the Promise 10 years ago.

Field directors at the orphanage, Jamie and Jenny Groen of Willmar, contacted the Bonnemas soon after the earthquake hit to let them know everything was all right, said Jan Bonnema.

"We have an amazing staff down there now that we're keeping in contact with," she said.

The orphanage is located in Cap-Haïtien on the country's north shore about 90 miles away from the capital city of Port-au-Prince that was devastated by the quake.

The orphanage is currently caring for about 60 children, said Bud Bonnema. It has a staff of 60 Haitians and eight U.S. and Canadian helpers on-site.

While the orphanage is undamaged, supporters are still experiencing anxious moments, Bud said. They are waiting to hear word on the condition of their many friends in Port-au-Prince and the surrounding area.

There is limited phone service and communication is extremely difficult in the country right now. The orphanage has a satellite that allows some Internet communication.

They learned that one friend, a nurse, was OK after hearing her interviewed Wednesday on national television and radio programs.

The facility where Children of the Promise had been coordinating their adoptions was destroyed in the earthquake, said Jan Bonnema, who is concerned that the 18 adoptions that were nearly ready to be processed and the 20 more waiting to be placed with families could have a long delay. She also worries about the orphanages located in Port-au-Prince that may have been damaged.

Most of all, they worry about how many new orphans were created in the earthquake and how many more mother-less and father-less babies will be brought to their doorstep.

As it was, the orphanage was "getting babies left and right," said Jan Bonnema.

"It's a rough country without this happening," she said. "Eighty percent of the people don't have enough food the way it is."

Bud Bonnema said the earthquake has him and others concerned about the weeks ahead. The orphanage relies on Port-au-Prince for the many supplies, like food and medicine, it receives.

But the orphanage has connections with missionaries who fly older-model airplanes that can land on grass. If the orphanage gets extra supplies from local relief efforts, their staff could distribute them to victims in Port-au-Prince, said Jan Bonnema.

Without outside assistance, rebuilding the island nation will be a "monumental task," she said. "This is a huge, huge task in terms of rebuilding."