By Marjorie Woodfin
Pilot staff writer
Why would a Brookings couple with four young children of their own, living in modest financial circumstances, travel to Haiti to adopt of two Haitian children?
"It's about Haiti. They need help, the children need help, and there is no hope. The only hope for the children comes from adoption," said Clinton McMillan.
"We have a heart to be a voice for children," added Clinton's wife, Emma.
There are millions of children around the world who are victims of child trafficking and worse, but Emma said she and her husband chose to adopt Haitian children because there are approximately one million orphans in Haiti, which is the poorest country in the Western world and it is only a 90-minute flight from Miami.
The McMillans moved to Brookings from Crete when Clinton was separated from the military in November 2000. He currently works at Pelican Bay Prison. Emma is the director of the Haven of Hope women's shelter on Chetco Avenue.
"Children in Haiti are treated worse than animals," Emma said. She said Haiti doesn't have a nurturing society and children are considered an undervalued commodity, to buy and to sell. She said, "African babies are swaddled by mothers, but you don't see mothers carrying infants in Haiti."
The adoption process has been frustrating and sometimes frightening, but also rewarding. Emma said the unstable administrative process in Haiti means it will take 12 months or more before they can adopt two children and bring them to America.
The couple have seen evidence of children procured illegally for $300 within 10 hours, but she said it will cost them at least $25,000 to legally adopt the two children they now consider part of their family and call their own: 5-year-old daughter Lovley Destiny McMillan, and 3-year-old son Maicourely Justice McMillan. The middle and last names will be added at the time of the adoption.
This spring the McMillans traveled to Haiti to meet their new children. E
Emma said, "On May 14 we drove away from home down our country road. I remember telling Clinton, The next time we drive down this road we will be changed people.' He nodded in agreement, with a contemplative look on his face."
Their first impression of Haiti? Incredible poverty.
"When we got off the plane we saw poverty," Emma said. "I have seen a lot of poverty, but it was a horrific drive for hours; miles and miles without a break in the poverty. We had to have a driver it's not a safe environment for a tourist."
Prior to their trip to Haiti, the McMillans found Lovley and Maicourely in an orphan village run by a woman from the U.S. Emma said that in the village 30 to 40 children are cared for in 10 small adjoining houses with a nanny in each house.
Clinton and Emma were able to take the two children for several days. She said that the children were fascinated when they saw the bathroom in the motel with running water and a flushing toilet.
They also had an opportunity to spend one day in a part of Haiti that is the complete opposite of the extreme poverty seen on most of the island, Wahoo Beach. Emma said it is a paradise, and one of the most expensive vacation spots she has seen.
The 10-hour drive on roads filled with potholes and frightening traffic, with windows down in the 95-degree heat, left them so soot-covered and dirty-faced that they had to take two showers.
Other impressions of Haiti beside the desolation, poverty and hopelessness, were $8 per gallon gasoline and a day's pay between $1 and $2. Add to that mosquitoes, heat, and a country of dumps filled with goats running loose. Emma said the goats are not discouraged from eating garbage even when the trash is being burned, and watching the fire-eating goats is a Haitian spectator sport.
She said that so far God has provided the required $12,000 to proceed with the adoption, however they now need to raise another $8,000 within four months.
"I know God's going to provide it," Emma said. "My prayer is our kids will come here and we will love them and deposit enough love in them so that they can go back to their country one day to help their people. We will educate them about their country and their culture."
Clinton and Emma were right about their trip to Haiti: It was lifechanging.
Emma said, "Once back in Oregon, on the way back home we were driving down our country road in the middle of the night completely exhausted from our adventure, I looked over at Clinton and said, I knew we'd be changed, I just didn't know it would be so much.'"
She said that they fell instantly in love with their Haitian children.
"My Haitian kids are no different in my eyes than my biological children. My love is just as intense and just as real. I love my kids and I want them home. I pray God supplies the finances to bring them home."
The McMillan's biological children, ages 2 through 8, are all looking forward to meeting their new brother and sister, Emma said.
The McMillans plan to return for their Haitian children in November.
On the trip to Haiti in May they took approximately 150 pounds of donated items to the village, including children's toothbrushes, medical supplies, clothing, and other supplies donated by Dr. Richard Edmiston, Oak Street Health Care Center, and the Brookings Seventh Day Adventist Church.
Emma's photography, "Haiti, Her Beauty and Her Sorrows," will be displayed at the Seventh Day Adventist Church, 102 Park Ave., in August. Emma will be at the church from 4 to 7 p.m. Aug. 9 and is hoping Second Saturday Art walkers will find their way to the church to meet her, view her photographic art, and talk about Haiti.