Making A Family: South Windsor Teacher Adopts Haitian Siblings Including … – Hartford Courant
SOUTH WINDSOR — At the orphanage in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, where South Windsor junior Daniel Eddy and his sisters Edeline and Shelove lived, the electricity came and went.
On Barbara Eddy’s final night at the orphanage during a mission trip in 2010, the lights stayed on.
“You could never count on there being electricity, but there was electricity that night,” Eddy, a high school English teacher, said Saturday, remembering the night her life and the lives of the three siblings would change forever.
“Edeline came out and she threw her arm around me, and I started to cry, because there was electricity, and I could see her. In the dark, I was just looking at this girl, thinking, ‘Who would ever adopt teenage girls?’ In the light, she came out, threw her arms around me and I started to cry because I knew I was supposed to adopt [Daniel and his sisters].”
Eddy, who had visited the orphanage with her church, spent the next three years trying to adopt Daniel, Shelove and Edeline — three teenagers who had spent the previous decade in two orphanages in Haiti.
It was an exhaustive process that included three lawyers, countless hours and money, and the ultimate decision to add more three more children at the age of 51. But on Aug. 26, 2013, the four arrived in America together.
On Tuesday Daniel, a junior forward for the South Windsor boys soccer team, will play in a high school tournament game vs. No. 29 Norwalk.
“My life is so much richer now,” Eddy said. “Single woman, high school teacher pay, I can’t provide them a lot. My goal was to give them opportunities that they would never have if they stayed in Haiti. I knew if they got here they could get an education and have a much better chance in life.”
Eddy, who also has two biological children, ages 31 and 30, had lived in New Britain but bought a house and moved to South Windsor, where she teaches English at the high school. Edeline, 17, attends the Gengras Center School. Shelove, 14, is a freshman at South Windsor High.
Getting the children here was not without its hurdles. Among other things, she had to prove that their parents had sent them to the first orphanage and that meant tracking down the orphanage director. She finally did.
“I just wanted them to have a better life, and they got it,” Eddy said.”It was a long, hard fight.”
In just one season of varsity soccer, which also is his last because of CIAC rules (although he’s a junior, Daniel is 19 and can’t play past that age), he has emerged as a crucial figure in the Bobcats’ bid to win their first state title since 1979. He has three goals; the team is 14-3-1.
“He just wants to be successful,” South Windsor coach Pete Lepak said. “Daniel is a resilient person, you can see it on the soccer field, you can see it with his studies, you can see it with how much he cares about everything he does.”
He is typically one of the first players to come into the game off the bench and gives star forwards Dexter Tenn and Nick Heckt crucial rests. Last season he played junior varsity.
The organized soccer fields of Connecticut are far from the stone-ridden fields of Daniel’s youth. As a young boy, he made soccer balls any way he could, taping together whatever he could find to form what loosely could be called a ball.
“It is a great game, it is part of the culture,” he said. “We’d pretty much organize our own games and play for fun.”
His passion for the game shows on the high school fields. He often is one of the fastest and he plays with flair and creativity.
A Tough Road
When he was 7, Daniel was moved with his sisters from his home in rural Haiti, where his mother and father are farmers, to a nearby orphanage. An older brother had already been sent to the orphanage, he said. There were eight children in the family and an orphanage gave Daniel and his siblings a chance at a better life.
“When I was with my family, I didn’t go to school,” said Daniel. “I wanted an education. … My parents didn’t know how to read and write.”
One of the poorest countries in the world, Haiti’s long-standing issues are poverty, hunger and lack of education.
At the orphanage, the children were able to get food and study. If they had stayed at home, they likely never would have learned to read or write.
At the orphanage, Daniel became one of the first in his family to learn both. He also learned how to play drums.
“It was tough, but I’d see my parents every Friday,” he said. “It would take three or four hours to walk to [my home].”
The orphanage had its challenges, too.
“Sometime I got whipped, but I said I wanted to leave that orphanage only when God gave me what I needed,” Daniel said. “I thought education was great. Without education, you are nothing. I had faith in God and I was praying. And that’s how I got through it.”
About a month after an earthquake struck on Jan. 12, 2010, killing more than 160,000 and displacing close to 1.5 million people, Daniel and his sisters were moved from the first orphanage to the second in Port-au-Prince. Daniel said he had been cooking food in the first orphanage when the earthquake occurred. He felt nothing where he was, but saw people running and talking in the village, and word had spread quickly about what happened.
Six months later, Eddy arrived in Haiti for the first time. She said she had no plans of adopting. But that quickly changed.
“I was definitely called to adopt,” she said. “Most people might not understand that, but I truly feel like I was.”
In the beginning, Daniel never smiled at Barbara because his teeth were in such rough shape. She said he smiled with his eyes, but since he’s been to the dentist and now wears braces, she said, he smiles often.
“She gave me my smile,” he said.