Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : November 30th 2015 Contents Every year, hundreds of Haitian children
are adopted by Americans.
When many of these children grow up, they
embark on a search for their real parents. But
as Associated Press writer Ben Fox reports in
the first part of this story about Mariette
Williams search for her mother, the adoption
process might not be as transparent as it could
be.As Mariette Williams waited for her
flight from South Florida to Haiti, she
paced the departure lounge, folding
and re-folding her ticket and clutching the
handle of a bag sagging with gifts. She was
excited but terrified: For the first time in nearly
30 years, she was about to see her mother.
Colas Bazile Etienne was a shadow at the
very edge of her daughter s memories, staying
out of focus no matter how hard Mariette tried.
She knew her mother was a desperately poor
Haitian woman who had given her up for adop-
tion, but why? Because she had too many chil-
dren? Because she wanted to give Mariette a
better life? Because she had hoped for exactly
this, that her daughter would one day come
back to help the family?
All Mariette remembered of her childhood
was leaving it, the flight she was about to do
now but in reverse. She had looked at the clouds
out of the plane window and thrown up on
her dress. She knew she shouldn t expect too
much from this reunion, but she couldn t help
"Outside of my wedding and the birth of
my children," she said over the noise of the
airport, "this is probably one of the biggest
days of my life."
Mariette is an English teacher at a private
school who exudes the quiet authority of some-
one used to keeping a classroom of kids in line.
She lives a middle-class American life in a
condo in Boca Raton, a South Florida suburb
of broad streets and manicured grass that could-
n t be more different from Haiti. At 32, she has
a husband, Terrence Williams, and two young
children, Melia and Jaden.
Yet the itch to find her birth family has
always gnawed at her, especially leading
up to Mother s Day every year.
"I was celebrating the mother I
had, but I was push-
ing away feelings of hurt and anger for the
mother I lost," she wrote on a blog for fellow
adoptees. "And so Mother s Day would come,
and I would grin and bear it. A week would
pass, then a month, and the sharp pain became
a dull ache for the rest of the year."
Like Mariette, thousands of Haitian children
in recent decades have gone to live with families
in Europe, Canada and the United States. She
tried years earlier to find her birth parents, but
the orphanage listed in her adoption papers no
longer existed. Her family name, "Etienne," is
common in Haiti. And she knew of a town,
Pestel, but had no online records to search.
For Mariette, as for many other
adoptees, it was social media that
opened up new possibili-
ties. One day, she
the help of a
posted a mes-
sage online in
"My name is
Mariette," she wrote.
"I m looking for my
Two weeks later, she
got the contact number of someone who knew
her parents. Her heart raced. At long last, this
could be what she was waiting for.
Through a friend who spoke Haitian Creole,
she found out that she had four sisters and two
brothers in Haiti. Her mother was alive, but
her father, Berlisse, had passed away about a
She cried for the father she had never met.
She also realised she was running out of time:
Colas would soon be turning 70, old in a country
where women have a life expectancy of 65.
Soon she was talking to Junette, a 45-year-
old sister who was overjoyed to hear from her.
In the back-and-forth, Mariette heard a name:
Rose-Marie Platel, the orphanage owner listed
in the adoption papers. At the mention of the
name, she got goosebumps.
What Junette said next shook up everything
Mariette believed about who she was and where
she came from. Rose-Marie had been her god-
mother, her sister said, and had taken her to
the capital, Port-au-Prince, for treatment when
she got sick. But one day, when the family went
to visit, both Rose-Marie and Mariette were
Mariette s mother had never given her up
for adoption after all. Junette asked: "Do you
know your family has been looking for you for
It took two weeks to arrange a call with her
mother, who did not have a phone and lived
far from the capital.
Mariette s heart was pounding. The conver-
sation through a translator was slow and at
times awkward. But the voice was familiar ---
like Junette s, only higher and softer.
Colas repeated the same story and said she
had prayed, every day, to see her daughter again.
Junette promised to email Mariette a photo
of her mother right after the call. Mariette
stared at her screen saver, waiting.
Then it came.
"I had no words," Mariette later wrote. "I
was by myself in front of the computer, and
I just stared at the picture. I must have stared
at it for a full five minutes before moving. And
then I grabbed every single picture I had of
myself on my computer and started comparing
She finally called her husband in and asked
him, do we look alike?
He confirmed it with one look.
Now Mariette was unsettled. What had hap-
pened with her family? How could she not
And what did her adoptive parents know?
Mariette was adopted in October 1986, at a
time when adoption in Haiti was barely reg-
ulated. Most of the children in Haitian orphan-
ages had at least one living parent, and the
concept of signing away rights to see children
was foreign, and still is.
"Even if mothers agreed to an adoption, they
did not agree to a full adoption," said Mia
Dambach, a children s rights specialist at the
International Social Service in Geneva. "They
often thought these children would go to Amer-
ica but that they would come back, that the
child would always be part of their family."
Mariette s adoptive parents were Sandra and
Albert Knopf, at the time empty-nesters in
their 40s with three grown sons. Sandra said
she felt God s call to adopt.
"I believed that I was doing it for the Lord,"
she said. "I was not doing it for the children
and I was not doing it for me."
The couple lived in Langley, outside Van-
couver, where Albert managed a plant that
made polystyrene plates and Sandra stayed
home. They were considered too old to adopt
from Korea. So they found a man named Henry
Wiebe who could arrange an adoption from
Haiti for US$3,500 per child, or US$6,000 for
He came by with photos of older children,
but Sandra only wanted girls under two.
He called the next day. He had found them.
She was going to call them Christa Gail and
Jennifer Lynne, but they already had names:
Mariette and Patricia.
Sandra arrived in Haiti with Wiebe at a tense
time when the country had recently shaken
off the rule of the infamous Jean-Claude "Baby
Doc" Duvalier. She spoke neither Haitian Creole
nor French, the two languages of Haiti. She
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Lakes that have been forming near
Mount Everest could threaten
settlements downstream if they
Ponds on the surface of the Khumbu
glacier in the Himalayas have expanded
and joined together to form larger
bodies of water.
Climbers need to cross the glacier,
including the treacherous Khumbu
Icefall, to climb the mighty peak.
The accelerated meltdown of glaciers
in the region is causing concern against
a backdrop of rising global temperatures.
Scientists say the warning is the first
of its kind for Khumbu, although other
glaciers in the Himalayas have seen an
increase in the number of lakes formed.
Such newly formed glacial lakes can
overflow causing flooding, and with it
loss of life and damage downstream.
This is the first scientific team to visit
the region after the devastating
earthquake last April.
Scientists say since the upper parts of
many Himalayan glaciers are losing ice
mass due to rising temperatures.
The supply of ice to the lower part of
the glacier is therefore decreasing,
causing the shrinkage.
Other experts on debris-covered
glaciers in the region say they too have
also noticed similar developments
The search for Mom
Mariette Williams arrives in her birth country, at the Toussaint Louverture International
Airport in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Taken from Haiti by her adoptive parents in 1986, the trip to
Haiti was about seeing her biological mother for the first time in nearly 30 years. AP PHOTOS
Adoptive mother Sandra
Knopf holds a picture of
herself and the two Haitian
children, Patricia, left, and
Mariette, right, she adopted
from a Port-au-Prince
Dangerous lakes in Everest glacier
Continues on Page A30
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