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 ring in 2018 with friends.
On his way to the event, he curiously approached a small crowd, and made a discovery that would transform his life forever. Rather than go to a party as initially planned, Amisial took custody of a child he found in trash.
Amisial, who was 22 at the time, recalled, “When I got to the place where the people were making noise, I saw a baby. It was in a pile of trash crying, and there wasn’t a single soul who wanted to do anything about it.”
The locals were too afraid, thinking that the infant might be cursed or evil. Amisial, however, carefully and nervously picked up the child.
He said, “He had no clothes on. He had fire ants crawling all over him because he’s been there for a couple of hours. When I picked him up, he immediately stopped crying.”
Amisial brought the 3-month-old infant to the home of his shocked mother Elicie Jean. Amisial shared, “While cleaning him we noticed he had some fire ant bites and an allergic reaction, so we used some lotion to help stop the pain.”
He kept the baby overnight and called the police so that they could investigate the case.
With no one coming forward to claim the baby, a judge came to his mother’s home and asked if Amisial would like to take temporary custody of the child.
With such an important decision on hand, Amisial said, “After he asked me that question, I had a lot of sleepless nights. I tossed and turned but my mother reminded me things happen for a reason. I’ve always wanted to be a part of something great and to 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 on formally adopting the infant he has held on to since that fateful night.
At the end of his holiday break, 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 on the process of taking the child into custody.
Amisial started the adoption process in 2019, and immediately ran into obstacles. “It wasn’t that easy,” Amisial stated. “In Haiti it’s hard to do government stuff. When I started the process, it seemed fine but then they asked me for a lot of money, but I didn’t have the funds.”
Esther Chery, the Haitian lawyer assisting Amisial, stressed, “What I know for sure is adoption is very expensive.” The adoption agency All God’s Children International estimates that the cost of adopting a child from Haiti may go up to $40,000, without counting airfare, lodging, and other travel expenses and fees.
With all these costs to consider, Amisial decided to take a break from school in 2020 to concentrate on the custody process of the child he named Emilio Angel Jeremih. He works as a part-time landscaper and delivery assistant to support himself and his family.
On July 27, Amisial set up an online fundraiser to finance Emilio’s adoption. Aiming to raise $60,000, donations eventually amounted to over $79,000. Amisial plans to use the extra money to help orphanages in Haiti, as well as support Emilio’s education.
Four years after that eventful evening, Emilio has a great personality and now goes to school. Amisial said, “He loves watching ‘Tom and Jerry’ and he loves playing the guitar and singing. He’s such a joyful kid and he loves sports. He plays soccer and basketball. My mom and I had an automatic connection with him. He calls me Dad. Even though I’m his temporary guardian, I still consider myself his dad.”
Amisial communicates through Facetime and tries to visit when he can, although recent developments in Haiti have made travel difficult.
While taking custody of an abandoned child may seem to be 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 crafted bracelets from recycled Doritos bags, which he sold to fund his education as well as help celebrate birthdays of children in the orphanages. He eventually leveraged connections made through his volunteer work to gain acceptance to Texas State University.
Now 27, Amisial is determined to conclude Emilio’s custody process, and then finish his studies. “I want him to be happy. I want to teach him how to love and I want him to know that even though he was left alone, he’s not alone,” he said.
Amisial hopes to establish his own non-profit organization to fulfil his dream of helping orphans and needy families in Haiti.