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updated: 3/21/2011 10:17 AM

Four "parents" care for Haiti survivor

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  • Trudy Vogel plants a big kiss on Godson. The Wheeling High School graduate and her husband, Paul, back, sponsor Godson, who was pulled from the earthquake at his home in Jacmel, Haiti.

       Trudy Vogel plants a big kiss on Godson. The Wheeling High School graduate and her husband, Paul, back, sponsor Godson, who was pulled from the earthquake at his home in Jacmel, Haiti.
    photos by Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Godson, his given name Richardson Georges, 3, was pulled from the earthquake rubble after three days by Gesnel Augustine, 26, in Jacmel, Haiti. Augustine is now his father.

       Godson, his given name Richardson Georges, 3, was pulled from the earthquake rubble after three days by Gesnel Augustine, 26, in Jacmel, Haiti. Augustine is now his father.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Gesnel Augustine pulled Godson, 3, from the ruins of his home. The child now lives with Augustine and his wife, Loucite Charles.

       Gesnel Augustine pulled Godson, 3, from the ruins of his home. The child now lives with Augustine and his wife, Loucite Charles.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • One big happy family in Jacmel, Haiti, with Loucite Charles, Trudy Vogel, Godson, Paul Vogel and Gesnel Augustine saying goodbye for another year, until the Vogel comes back next year.

       One big happy family in Jacmel, Haiti, with Loucite Charles, Trudy Vogel, Godson, Paul Vogel and Gesnel Augustine saying goodbye for another year, until the Vogel comes back next year.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • One big happy family, with sponsored family, Paul and Trudy Vogel of Bloomington, meeting Godson's surrogate father, Gesnel Augustine, 26, in Jacmel, Haiti.

       One big happy family, with sponsored family, Paul and Trudy Vogel of Bloomington, meeting Godson's surrogate father, Gesnel Augustine, 26, in Jacmel, Haiti.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Trudy Vogel, 52, who once lived in Prospect Heights now living in Bloomington, shares a moment with Godson, 3.

       Trudy Vogel, 52, who once lived in Prospect Heights now living in Bloomington, shares a moment with Godson, 3.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Trudy Vogel plays with Godson, 3, at their home in Jacmel, Haiti.

       Trudy Vogel plays with Godson, 3, at their home in Jacmel, Haiti.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Video: Haiti road trip

  • Video: Haiti one year later

  • Video: Water Purification

 
 

Second of two parts.

CYVADIER, Haiti -- The round-faced toddler plays and smiles as four adults shower him with attention and kisses.

It's as if the 3-year-old has two sets of parents -- the Haitian foster parents who rescued the little boy from the rubble of his destroyed house and the uncertainty of life as an orphan, and the sponsor parents from Illinois who contribute funds for his education and medical care.

He is doing so well "for a kid that was buried under the earthquake rubble," Trudi Vogel, a Prospect Heights native, exults after getting reacquainted with the child during her visit in January, a year after the Jan. 12, 2010, earthquake that leveled Port-au-Prince and the surrounding area.

If not for the fact that his wails pierced the skeletal remains of his cracked and broken house and caught a stranger's ear, the youngster never would have survived.

For days after the magnitude 7.0 quake, young Richardson Georges lay buried in the ruins of his house, sheltered by the body of a woman thought to be his mother.

Aftershocks still sent terror into the very souls of the Haitian people. Many were homeless. Many were suddenly widowed, or childless, or orphaned, stumbling about in an unrecognizable, dust-covered landscape barely navigable even on foot.

As Haitians lay dying in the ruins, the plain truth is that help came to some. Others were not so lucky.

But amid all the broken houses and shattered lives, a wonderful thing happened. Gesnel Augustine, 26, a high school teacher studying to become a lawyer in the town of Cyvadier, was digging in the debris, using his bare hands, he says through an interpreter. He heard Richardson's cries, then spent four more hours of intense digging to free the child.

With Richardson safely in his arms, Augustine felt an overpowering emotional force that bonded him to the child, opening the door to a new future for a boy who was the only survivor of his family of eight.

Richardson emerged with only an abrasion on his right foot. In the arms of Augustine, he was taken to the nearby Friends of the Children of Haiti clinic, started two decades ago by Richard and Barb Hammond of Peoria.

That is where fate smiled upon the boy again.

Vogel, 52, a Wheeling High School graduate, is an advanced practice nurse now living in Bloomington. Along with her husband, Paul, 55, she spends 10 days a year at the clinic treating all kinds of maladies from diabetes to malnutrition to parasites to burns, suffered when children get too close to cooking fires.

The Vogels and a medical team arrived two weeks after the earthquake, after watching the disaster unfold on their television at home.

Out of 2,500 people treated in that 10-day mission, one was the miracle boy, now living with Augustine and his wife, Loucite Charles, and nicknamed Godson by them.

Trudy dressed the wounds on the child's foot, a painful procedure. "He didn't like me after that," she says.

But after that first meeting, they did not lose touch.

The Vogels became the child's sponsors, contributing $300 a year for his care while Godson continues to live with Augustine and his wife. It's the Vogels' fourth sponsorship in five years.

Augustine says he tried desperately to find Godson's family, advertising on the radio for the boy's relatives for two months after the earthquake. He tried going through the police and the courts, but his efforts were futile, he said.

As Godson's de facto guardian, he brings the boy to see the clinic staff about once a month as part of the sponsorship.

The clinic handles sponsorships for about 300 children, with details at www.fotcoh.org/sponsorship.html.

The Vogels also supply Godson with things Americans take for granted: shoes, toys and books written in French, for the region's French-Creole language.

At their January reunion, the Vogels smother Godson with hugs as his new Haitian family looks on, then they all gather for a group photo of foster parents and sponsor parents coming together in love for a little boy who, if not for his cries from the ruins, would have surely been another sad statistic in Haiti.

Now, Godson is part of a soon-to-be-larger family as Augustine and his wife, a nurse, are expecting a child -- their first, though they treat Godson like their own.

"When I heard the cries in the rubble," Augustine says, "it was my mission to save his life."

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