Chicago mothers worry about loved ones in Haiti

January 16, 2010 8:24:51 PM PST
Two Chicago mothers have very personal reasons to be watching what's going on after the earthquake in Haiti.One is waiting for word on her 11-year-old daughter in Haiti, and the other is working to get supplies to the Haitian orphanage where her son spent the early months of his life.

Approximately 1,844 miles separate Chicago from Port-au-Prince, Haiti. But if you think that distance diminishes the despair or your ability to help, you'd be mistaken.

"Max is part of our family. So, Haiti is part of our family," mother Marsha McVicker said.

Two months ago Saturday, McVicker was leaving Haiti with her newly adopted son. As she watched the images of death, destruction and despair, her thoughts immediately turned to the place Max spent his first year and a half of life.

"Both of the orphanages he was associated with, all the babies are ok. But still, some staff are missing, and that we're concerned about. They are our friends," said McVicker.

While the orphanages escaped serious damage, locals say the quake left the mountainside-area almost unreachable.

So, McVicker and others affiliated with Oak Park-based Adoption Link found a plane and helicopter owner willing to drop supplies.

"They thought the only solution would be to have food delivered by air because the roads are so impassable," said McVicker.

She said that supplies drop would happen Sunday.

Meanwhile, the mother of another Haitian adoptee continued to wait for word Saturday. Like many Haitian-Americans in the Chicago area, Yanick Valentin was desperate for news about her 11-year-old daughter, who is in Haiti.

For now, she can only wait and hope that the girl survived. As difficult as it is to see images of the earthquake's damage, imagine what it would be like if -- amid the chaos and devastation-- your child were missing and feared dead.

That's the reality the disaster created for Valentin, who left her daughter with relatives when she came to America to make a better life for her family.

"Please help me. I know you do a lot for us, and I'm praying she's alive," Valentin said.

Valentin has been a mother in distress ever since her daughter became one of the many faces of the missing in Haiti.

"Help me please find her. Her name is Crismene. Crismene, this is Yanick. This is your mother," said Valentin.

With no where else to go, Yanick made her plea of desperation at an all-day Haitian-American voters forum Saturday, in hopes someone could and would help her locate the little girl she adopted as her daughter at the age of 3.

Yanick, a Stroger hospital patient care assistant, says she spoke with her daughter last week about her upcoming first communion in Port-au-Prince in May. The two were supposed to speak on the phone again just when the earthquake hit the Caribbean island.

"And Tuesday, that happened. Since then, I tried to call. No answer. I put her picture on Facebook. No answer. I've been sitting in front of CNN to see if I see somebody. Nothing. This is a nightmare," the mother said.

While Yanick immigrated to America in 1980, many of her relatives stayed in Haiti. Some of her cousins and her brother are now missing, too.

So, like many Chicago area Haitians with loved ones in the devastated country, Yanick's life is in limbo, and so are her plans to finally bring her adopted daughter to the United States to live with her.

"I know God is good. He is taking care of you and all the family back there," Valentin said.

The mother said she hoped the Red Cross could help her locate her daughter.

She says she still prays that she will hear from a relative soon or be able to travel to Haiti herself to look for her daughter.

Other Chicago area residents are also concerned and are helping with relief efforts.

On the South Side Saturday, ministers gathered with members of the Haitian-American community to raise money for the relief efforts.

"We know we had a lot of friends, but we didn't know we had so many that care about us and Haiti," one speaker said.

On the North Side, the Red Cross received funds raised at a special "Tweet-n-Meet."

"Everyone wants to help. It's the most wonderful thing about this experience," McVicker said.

McVicker also says she now worries the chaos and virtual collapse of government in Haiti may delay adoptions scheduled to take place in the next few months. She's hopeful the U.S. government may be willing to loosen some rules to fast-track adoptions already in the pipeline.

For more information on Adoption Link, visit