Who knew that attending a New Year’s party would be life changing? On a break from school in Texas, Jimmy Amisial was walking through his hometown of Gonaives, Haiti to celebrate 2018 with friends.
On the way to the event, he curiously approached a small crowd and made a discovery that would transform his life forever. Instead of going to a party like he had initially planned, Amisial took custody of a child he found in the trash.
Amisial, who was 22 at the time, recalls: “When I got to the place where people were making noise, I saw a baby. He was in a garbage heap crying, and there wasn’t a single soul who wanted to do anything about it.”
The locals were too scared, thinking that the baby might be cursed or evil. Amisial, however, carefully and nervously lifted the boy.
He said: “He had no clothes on. He had fire ants crawling all over him because he has been there for a couple of hours. When I picked him up, he immediately stopped crying.”
Amisial took the 3-month-old baby to the home of his shocked mother, Elicie Jean. Amisial shared, “While cleaning him up, we noticed he had some fire ant bites and an allergic reaction, so we used some lotion to help stop the pain.”
He stayed with the baby overnight and called the police to investigate the case.
With no one coming forward to claim the baby, a judge arrived at his mother’s home and asked if Amisial wanted to take temporary custody of the child.
With such an important decision in hand, Amisial said, “After you asked me that question, I had many sleepless nights. I went round and round, but my mother reminded me that things happen for a reason. She always wanted to be a part of something great and for me, that was the moment.”
Having already formed a bond with the baby, Amisial agreed to take custody of the abandoned child. Now, Amisial is working to formally adopt the baby he has clung to since that fateful night.
At the end of his vacation, Amisial had to return to Texas as required by his student visa program. He decided to leave the baby with his mother while they worked through the child custody process.
Amisial started the adoption process in 2019 and immediately ran into obstacles. “It wasn’t that easy,” Amisial said. “In Haiti it is difficult to do government things. When I started the process, it seemed fine to me, but then they asked me for a lot of money, but I did not have the funds.”
Esther Chery, the Haitian lawyer who assists Amisial, emphasized: “What I know for sure is that adoption is very expensive.” Adoption agency All God’s Children International estimates that the cost of adopting a child from Haiti can be as high as $40,000, not counting airfare, lodging and other travel expenses and fees.
With all of these costs to consider, Amisial decided to take a break from school in 2020 to focus on the child custody process that he named Emilio Angel Jeremih. He works as a part-time landscaper and delivery attendant to support himself and his family.
On July 27, Amisial created an online fundraiser to finance Emilio’s adoption. With the goal of raising $60,000, donations eventually totaled more than $79,000. Amisial plans to use the extra money to help orphanages in Haiti, as well as to support Emilio’s education.
Four years after that eventful night, Emilio has a big personality and now goes to school. Amisial said, “He loves watching ‘Tom and Jerry’ and he loves playing guitar and singing. He is a very cheerful boy and loves sports. He plays soccer and basketball. My mom and I had an automatic connection with him. He calls me dad. Even though I am his temporary guardian, I still consider myself his father.”
Amisial communicates via Facetime and tries to visit him when he can, though recent events in Haiti have made travel difficult.
While taking custody of an abandoned child may seem like a daunting challenge, Amisial has a history of helping orphans in his home country. In his youth, he volunteered at local orphanages, where he also learned English.
As a teenager, he made bracelets out of recycled Doritos bags, which he sold to fund his education and help celebrate children’s birthdays at orphanages. He eventually leveraged the connections made through his volunteer work to gain acceptance to Texas State University.
Now 27 years old, Amisial is determined to conclude the custody process for Emilio and then finish his studies. “I want him to be happy. I want to teach him to love and I want him to know that even though he was left alone, he is not alone,” he said.
Amisial hopes to establish her own non-profit organization to fulfill her dream of helping orphans and families in need in Haiti.