Hands, hearts across Haiti: Blount family adopting child, helping impoverished Haiti
By Melanie Tucker | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
A little girl who deserves a second chance and a Blount County family with hearts big enough to make that happen are drawing some much-needed attention to the ravaged nation of Haiti.
Jeff Ledford is a deputy for the Blount County Sheriff’s Office who thought he had seen everything in his 16 years as a community servant. But when he arrived in Haiti back in January, what he saw not only changed his life forever but also set into motion the adoption of the 12-year-old girl the Ledford family will now be bringing home.
Working on a plan
Ledford was part of a group of about 15 from Foothills Church who arrived in the village of Camatin to help build a cistern. They stayed for seven days and had the construction project 90 percent complete. It’s now finished. While there, Ledford said his heart went out to the students living in the town’s orphanage. One girl in particular, 12-year-old Christella, stole his heart away.
The whole experience of being there, of seeing families living in them most primitive of conditions, weighed heavily on Ledford when he returned.
“I had never been on any kind of trip like this,” he said. “I was home for three or four weeks before I could even talk about it.”
When he was finally able to relay his experiences, Ledford said he talked to his wife Kyla about adopting Christella. The family already includes a 21-year-old daughter, and three sons, ages 4 to 13. Ledford admitted he had already decided before this trip that they were done having any more. “But God had a different plan for us,” he said. Kyla was just as excited as he was.
The required paperwork to complete the adoption has been turned over to authorities in Haiti. The Ledford family now waits for word they can go and get Christella and bring her home. Ledford said it could happen as early as December or as late as a year from now.
A desire to help
But the images of what he saw in Christella’s homeland aren’t going away just because Ledford and his family get to give her a second chance at life right here. That’s why Ledford has started a Feed the Children campaign. He’s raising as much money as he can to take back to Haiti on Sept. 15. He’s also enlisted the help of the Papa Murphy’s locations in Maryville and on Chapman Highway in Seymour.
Here’s how it works: Patrons can purchase food at the two Papa Murphy’s between 4 and 8 p.m. on Monday and Tuesday, and the stores will donate 25 percent of their proceeds to this Feed the Children project in Haiti. A simple way to make a difference.
The money raised will go to help feed the children in the school in the village of Camatin. These students of varying ages get two meals a day, Ledford said. He said he hopes to raise enough money to be able to feed them for weeks.
Unlike here, there is no government assistance for hungry and impoverished families in Haiti. Adults and children often don’t even own a pair of shoes. If food is received, it’s often stretched to feed a family for weeks, not days.
“I thought I had seen poverty and hunger,” Ledford said. “They don’t exist compared to the levels there.”
Life lived anew
Ledford stayed at the orphanage on a previous trip and will do so again for this next one. There is no refrigeration, no electricity, no hot water. Baths are taken using rain water.
The Ledfords talk with Christella at least once a week. They were especially concerned for her safety during the recent hurricane, which luckily didn’t cause damage. Camatin is located about three and a half hours southwest of Port-au-Prince.
Kyla and Jeff have also met Christella’s parents. They brought Christella to the orphanage to live after a man in their village attempted to rape her two years ago. The man is now in prison, but his family made attempts to kill Christella, Ledford said.
Of course there are those who question why this family would choose to adopt a child from a foreign country when there are children right here in need of the same thing. Ledford said that is true, but he is following the lead of a higher power.
“God has been in this from the start,” he said. “He is the one who has led the way.”
The weeks of waiting will be tough on this family, but hope and faith keep them ever optimistic. Ledford said while on the surface it looks like Christella is the big winner in this story of love and second chances, he sees it quite differently.
“My family is the one that’s been truly blessed,” he said. “To be able to give a child a chance at a better life — that’s a blessing.”