by Laura Conners
By Holt International
The road to bring Manel home from Haiti was a long one, but one we would travel again and again.
After deciding that international adoption was the answer for us, Scott and I quickly chose Haiti. At first, we were leaning more toward Ethiopia since our niece is from Liberia. Once we read about Holt’s Haiti program, however, we both felt pulled in that direction and knew in our hearts that this was meant to be. After applying to Holt in April 2008, we were quickly matched with Manel who, at that time, was nine months old. I remember seeing his big brown eyes in the photo that Mike Noah sent to us, and I knew that Manel was my little boy!
As we watched the news coverage on the evening of the earthquake, Scott and I were numb with fear for Manel’s safety and for the Haitian people. We saw the Haitian government buildings in ruins and knew that our adoption paperwork was lying amongst the rubble. A long night followed before we heard from Holt and found out that the children and staff at the Village were safe. I just remember feeling so helpless and didn’t know how to answer the questions from family and friends on what was going to happen.
When the talk of Humanitarian Parole started, Scott and I were afraid to believe that Manel’s case would qualify. Within days, though, we received a phone call from our senator’s office, our governor’s office, and our social worker telling us to believe it. A miracle was happening and we began to prepare for Manel’s arrival. I remember the day Scott called me from work and asked me if I was ready to travel to Miami to go meet Manel. What a feeling that was! We left that evening and spent the next day at the airport waiting for the plane carrying the first 14 children. We grew close to several other adoptive families during that long day.
We were not able to see Manel until the following day, but when his eyes met mine, and I heard him yell “Mommy!” the anxiety of the last two years of waiting for him melted away as he jumped into my arms. Manel immediately jumped for his daddy, as well, and he even recognized Charlotte, who was giggling non-stop next to me. It was a wonderful family moment. I credit the staff at Holt Fontana for showing Manel our family photos and preparing him to eventually join our family. He really seemed to know who we were.
Manel is doing very well with us in Michigan. He is a happy, excited and bright child who wins fans wherever he goes. He has become an energetic hockey and baseball fan, and his love for hot dogs, potato chips, and root beer seems to highlight his transition from Haitian to Haitian-American. Manel embraces every opportunity to flash his charming smile.
We show Manel pictures of his Holt friends and caregivers from the Village and he still responds with excitement to Mansour Masse’s picture. I feel bad that Manel will someday learn about the devastation the earthquake caused his country and the emotions that will come with that knowledge. But we will work hard to preserve Manel’s heritage and continue to teach him about his homeland.
Laura and Scott Conners
Charlotte, 7 years old
Manel, 2 years old
Grand Rapids MI
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