PSR alum helps evacuate Haitian orphans

January 29, 2010

The devastation caused by the recent earthquakes in Haiti has left many in the United States wishing they could help. Annyse Gross, who graduated from PSR in 1980 with a certificate of theological studies, found herself in a unique position of helping Haitian survivors. As the director of outreach and marketing at Adoption STAR (Support, Training, Advocacy, and Resources), an adoption agency in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, she helped coordinate the evacuation of four Haitian children.

“Things are changing by the minute in Haiti, and we were trying to get orphans to the U.S.,” Gross explains. “We were in contact with the orphanage in Haiti every day. Now our kids are safely at home with their families.”

Adoptions in Haiti typically take between one and two years, Gross explains, so the process to move the children to their adoptive families’ homes in Florida started months ago. When the earthquake struck, the orphanage in which the kids were living collapsed, burying paperwork and supplies under piles of debris. The children, like so many other survivors, slept outside. The leader of the orphanage there—“a saint,” as Gross calls her—spent entire days standing in line to ensure the safe passage of the four children, whose adoptions were only waiting on visas.

Through hard work, persistence, and countless international phone calls, the three boys and a girl arrived in Miami this week to join their American adoptive families.

“I know a little what that feeling is like, because I had to wait three months in Brazil to adopt my son,” says Gross, whose son is now 20 years old. “I can imagine what it’s like to have a toddler in such devastation, knowing they’re afraid and scared, that they’re hearing horrible things on the news. They’re now having private time as a family.”

Adoptions from Haiti will likely be on hold for the next several years, as the government there tries to reunite children with relatives. Gross and Adoption STAR, however, won’t rest now that the adoptees they have worked with have made it out of Haiti safely. “We’re switching our focus to helping orphanages in Haiti,” Gross explains.

The non-profit agency is hosting a fundraiser and accepting donations to buy construction materials for orphanages that were leveled by the magnitude 7.0 quake on January 12 and its aftershocks. The orphanage where the adoptees lived, for example, has switched locations to a more rural spot, but the retaining wall around the compound is in shambles. Adoption STAR is supplying cement and other materials to rebuild it and provide security for the remaining children. “We want to help as many orphanages as possible,” Gross says. For updates on the Haitian orphanages and to find out how you can assist their efforts, visit