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Some Amarillo residents embrace, support orphanage in Haiti

By Jon Mark Beilue, Amarillo Globe-News
Dec. 2, 2017 at 8 p.m.

In this Nov. 10, 2017, photo, Karen Huxter and her adopted son Ti-Luc pose for a photo while visiting in Amarillo, Texas. Huxter had a school and children's home, more accurately, an orphanage. (Michael Schumacher/The Amarillo Globe News via AP)

AMARILLO (AP) — David Nance and a group from Amarillo were in Haiti in 2008. They were on a mission to help in the impoverished country in the week they were there, to help a woman they really didn't know and had never seen.

The Amarillo Globe-News reports an acquaintance of Nance's suggested he one day go to Haiti and see her friend, Karen Huxter, a determined and spiritual redhead from Canada.

Huxter had a school and children's home — more accurately, an orphanage. It didn't take long for the Amarilloans to know they had come to the right place.

"They came down to see what we do and meet us," Huxter said, "and we just clicked. They knew they were very welcome to come back and help us. And they came back and came back and came back and came back."

As many as 60 have gone to the village of Deschapelles in Haiti over the years, principally to help Huxter and the daunting and often dangerous work she has with the school and children's home.

That includes men like Tommy Spencer, Milford Burrell, Brooks Boyett, Julie Ratliff and Brian and Mollie Ritchie who have felt the need to make it not just a one-time trip, but to return year after year.

"It's really hard to describe what the impact is like unless you're there," Nance said, "We live in a comfortable Christian world. Our faith and prayer life are seldom stretched. Often, we just coast.

"With Karen, every day is a moment of faith and prayer — prayer for safety and protection, prayer for food and provisions. In 2 Thessalonians, it says the Lord is faithful and He will sustain you. She lives that. She walks that. She breathes that. For us, we see that and are encouraged by her."

In a bit of a twist, Huxter and her adopted son, Ti-Luc, 12, whom she rescued from certain death, were in Amarillo for six days this month to stay with Nance. Ti-Luc had his first doughnut from Donut Stop and a burrito from Sharky's. It is a far cry from the abject poverty of Haiti, in ways still reeling from the earthquake from 2010.

"I'm pretty impressed and so is Luc," Huxter said. "Luc thinks this is a pretty neat town. A place is only as good as its people. If you've got friendly people, that makes the place to me."

The distance from Haiti to Amarillo is a lot longer than the 3,300 miles. Government upheaval and poverty have made for a violent risky society. Huxter has had her truck shot at. She's been threatened by kidnappers.

"She is fearless," said Nance, who works for Denman Building Products. "She won't tell you this, but there are 10-foot high sandy walls with barbed wire around her compound. There are armed guards every day 24/7.

"One day, a man came to the compound with the intention of killing her. She's fearless. And we go around going, 'I don't know if we can get up for early service this week.'"

"Some people," Huxter said, "get the idea that behind our walls is money because I'm white."

In May 1995, Huxter visited her daughter and her grandchild in Haiti, thinking she would be there six weeks. She was so impacted that she went back to Canada to sell her house and move to Haiti. Even then, she thought at most she would be there a year.

"A year in Haiti is a very long time," she said. "After a year, as I was about to leave, I had no peace. I'd see some land and think that would be ideal for a children's home. There are children with no families, no one to take them in, and here's another place that would be good for a school.

"Where are these thoughts coming from? I'm going back to Canada. At one point, I was on a concrete floor praying to God to send people with money or a church to work down here and I'll stay another year. Take this away from me. What I heard was, 'I'm not sending a church or people with money. I've already sent you.'

"That jarred me to the tips of my toes. I said, 'God, I can't.' He said, 'No, Karen, you can't. But I can, and we will.'"

That was more than 20 years ago. Today, there are 17 orphans at the children's home where she is looked upon as their mother. At the school, which has three years of preschool and 13 grades, there are 530 with 30 teachers. Huxter is looked upon by all as "DG," sort of an inside joke for Director General.

One child, though, really holds a special place. In 2005, Ti-Luc's mother was carrying him in her sixth month of pregnancy. His parents and three brothers and sisters were on a roof in a town in a valley to escape a flood.

Later that night, the flood took away all but the mother. She was rescued and later gave birth to the premature child. Four days after the birth, she ran away and was never found.

Seven weeks after that, the local hospital called Huxter about the baby. He weighed just more than 3 pounds. He might not live much longer. Huxter could give the baby better care than the hospital, so she took him, and fed the child by syringe.

But in a few weeks, Huxter knew something was wrong with the boy who would be called Ti-Luc. Among other things, he couldn't see or hear and he might have cerebral palsy. A Port-au-Prince pediatrician examined him and told Huxter to "throw him away."

After the initial shock, she said, "You listen to me. This baby will see. He will hear. He will walk. He will talk. He will go to school and he will learn well."

Huxter, 72, officially adopted Ti-Luc in 2015. He has done all of those things and handles his cerebral palsy with an innocent courage.

It's for this, and many other reasons, that Nance and friends return each year, like they will in February. Huxter, whose story and school/children's home is detailed at hatshaiti.org, will have her usual lists of painting, cabinetmaking, repairing and other chores — all the things for which she has not the manpower or funds. Oh, and one other very important thing — they pray for her children.

"Every new person that goes, I tell them it's a 'money-back guarantee,'" Nance said. "If you do not enjoy your time, I will reimburse you. I've never had to do that — not even close."

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