Iowa Alumni Magazine | April 2014 | Features

Hands Up for Haiti

Jean Gabin lives in a 12-by-12-foot house with his wife, Minoushe, two sons, Jeansley and Eve, and three adopted daughters, Bellie, Vidlyne, and Djyeline. He was still a child himself—only 15 years old—when he adopted Vidlyne. Djyeline came into his life during the Community Health Initiative's January 2013 medical clinic. When Djyeline's biological parents brought her to the clinic, she was severely malnourished. They didn't have the means to care for the 4-year-old, and doctors predicted she would die. Gabin wanted so badly to help her that he raced home to ask Minoushe if the little girl could join their family. The very next day, he signed the adoption papers. He brought her home and kept vigil all night, watching her tiny chest move up and down. Today, Djyeline is happy and healthy, with sparkling eyes and a bright smile. Haiti has more starving children than any other country in the Western hemisphere. Here, the infant mortality rate is 51 out of 1,000 births (compared to the U.S. rate of 5.9). Fifteen percent of all Haitian children are either orphaned or abandoned, and, since the devastating earthquake of January 2010, it's estimated that Haiti is home to some 750,000 orphans. Gabin (pictured here with his daughter Djyeline) dreams of building an orphanage for the children of Haiti, a wish he tries to make a reality by interpreting for CHI volunteers during their medical missions and carving pens out of bamboo to sell to visiting Americans. Each pen bears the phrase: "Hands up for the children of Haiti!" It's a slogan he created for his future orphanage—words that speak to the heart of a man who, despite his own hardships, saved the lives of three children. And someday, he hopes, many more.