By KATE LUDLOW
BERTRAM — In January 2010, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit the Caribbean country of Haiti. The already turbulent nation suffered the loss of approximately 316,000 lives, while approximately 300,000 more were injured. At least 1 million people were left homeless as a result of the earthquake and subsequent flooding.
As the world reached out with humanitarian aid, Hill Country Fellowship in Burnet was reaching out to its members to adopt the children impacted by that catastrophe.
The French family, Allen and Kimberly, along with sons Kirk, 14, and Jared, 11, were at their church a week after the earthquake when talk turned to the work that Mission of Hope was doing in Haiti.
Hill Country Fellowship had long supported the missionary work that the foundation was doing in Haiti. A call came out for families to adopt the orphaned and injured children, and the French family was taken with the idea.
“We discussed it. We prayed about it as a family,” said Mrs. French.
Then, Kirk came home after hearing a song on the radio.
“It was Britt Nicole, ‘The Lost Get Found.’ Basically, it said ‘if nobody does anything, nothing ever gets better,’” said Kirk. The family decided to open their home to a child.
They contacted Mission of Hope, which works alongside SHARE Adoptions, an international adoption agency located in Burnet to let them know they were willing. A short while later, they learned who the new addition would be – a four-month-old boy named Smider.
“We know practically nothing about his biological mother. She was a teenager, and walked up to the orphanage one day and just said, ‘here, I can’t take care of him,’” said Mrs. French.
In the aftermath of the earthquake, many Haitians found themselves unable to regain even a semblance of normal life, and child abandonment was reportedly rampant. Mission of Hope and Sparrow’s Home deal with, as Mrs. French says, “The children nobody wants. The ones with Down’s Syndrome or amputations.”
Sparrow’s Home, a sister organization of SHARE Adoptions brought Smider home to the French family. Their youngest son, Jared, was 9 at the time, and the Frenches were long past the part of parenting where diapers and late-night feedings comes into play.
“It’s hard, late in life, but it’s well worth it as you can imagine,” says Mrs. French. “It’s that natural with Smider. But still, it was a good night the first night he slept through the night.”
Though there is no official diagnosis, Smider likely has Russell-Silver Syndrome, a disorder that appears at birth, and presents itself through low birth weight, below-average growth, and short height. As a result, Smider is much shorter than the average two-year old, though his development is right on track. He does still require a feeding tube every 2.5 hours due to a high narrow palate, but the Frenches realize this is nearly insignificant compared to what he faced in Haiti.
“He wouldn’t be alive if he were still in Haiti,” said Allen French.
The Frenches say their friends and families were on board from the start.
“They might have thought we were a little crazy, but they were totally supportive,” says Mrs. French.
“He has a fan club,” says her husband. “When I call the doctor’s office, they don’t know who I am until I say Smider’s dad. Then it’s instant recognition.”
Smider’s brothers agree.
“I calculated, he’s got 1,221,333 girlfriends,” says Kirk.
“The whole church has adopted him,” says Mrs. French. “He’s very popular, and we have good support.”
“He’s the excitement,” adds Kirk.
His extrovert ways are even a perfect match to Jared, who describes himself as a quiet person.
“He’s a lot of fun,” Jared said.
Smider is currently 26-months old, and as of yet, is not officially adopted by the French family. He lives with them on a medical visa, while SHARE Adoptions works towards finalizing the paperwork. “We’re just thankful that he’s with us while that is happening,” says Mr. French. “We have received one call from Smiders lawyer, telling us everything was under control. We live our life and raise our son. We don’t worry about it.”
Though Smider is a typical toddler, who is into playing with trucks and balls, and loves dancing, the Frenches are anxious for him to know where he came from.
“Kirk and I are learning Haitian Creole. So we can teach him that. We are all for him being aware of who he is,”Mrs.French said.
As a small thank you to the country that gave them their son, the Frenches also try to give back to Haiti.
“It’s God’s work. It really is a miracle,” says Mrs. French.