Following the Jan. 12 earthquake, Haiti is being flooded with help from other countries, but some of the assistance may not be so helpful after all.
One publicized example of assistance gone awry is Laura Silsby, an Idaho resident charged with child kidnapping and criminal association. Silsby and associate Charisa Coulter remain in a Haitian jail, while eight other Americans were released Feb. 17.
After the earthquake, Silsby sped up her plans to establish an orphanage in the Dominican Republic. She solicited volunteers from throughout the United States to help open her orphanage immediately.
Corban junior Bianca Davis discovered that her friends Matt and Lora Crider had gone with the team to the Dominican Republic.
“You never really understand the seriousness of a situation until someone you know is involved,” she said. “I feared and worried for them every day they were over there.”
The Criders, along with others, responded to the call for volunteers, but Silsby did not inform them about paperwork or plans, Crider said, and she and her husband stayed in the Dominican Republic, renovating the hotel that was going to be the orphanage.
“It didn’t turn out the way we thought it would,” Crider said.
While the Criders worked on the orphanage, Silsby, Coulter and eight other Americans were arrested by Haitian officials as they attempted to leave for their makeshift orphanage with 33 children without proper documentation. A Dominican diplomat told the Associated Press that he warned Silsby that she could be arrested.
Silsby told the AP that the children were taken from orphanages and distant relatives; however at least 20 were taken from one village and have living parents. Parents testified that they willingly gave their children to the Americans, believing they would educate and care for them.
While volunteers such as the Criders were told the paperwork was taken care of, it wasn’t. And according to the AP, court records show Silsby has a pattern of dishonesty. A former employee in a company she founded successfully sued her for failing to pay tens of thousands of dollars in wages. The employee, Mark Salow, said, “She was always telling us, ‘We had this great meeting, and you’ll be paid soon.’”
While that court case is on the record, rumors about the Americans’ actions in Haiti range from the possible to the improbable.
“While we were in the Dominican Republic the people there were saying that we were going to harvest organs [from the children]” Crider said. “But I can speak to the fact that there was a need and these people went to help.”
Silsby and Coulter are scheduled to appear in court today. The judge told the AP on Friday that he is investigating the pair’s December visit to Haiti.
If you’re interested in helping hands-on, Corban will be sending a team to Haiti May 5-18. The team’s primary ministry will be to work with children and youth refugees form Port au Prince at a camp located about two hours north of the capital.
“Activities will include using sports, English, crafts, and possibly music to minister to these earthquake refugees. There may also be some construction related activities for one or two days in Port au Prince to assist a local church damaged in the earthquake,” advisor Paul Johnson said in an email.
The school is coordinating the trip through CrossWorld, and the estimated cost will be $1600 per student.
Maximum number of students has yet to be determined, and because of the rigorous nature of this trip, advisors will be developing a criteria to determine qualifications for participation. Contact Paul Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.