Diaspora

Orphaned by an earthquake, Haitian sisters graduate with top honors in Hartwell – Now Habersham

Half-sisters Redaphca and Belinda were orphaned in the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. They were pulled out of the rubble that killed their mother. But they survived. Their story, however, is not just about survival. It’s also about having the opportunity to thrive and to have full and purposeful lives.
When the girls arrived in the US, they spoke Creole and French. English became their third language and one they mastered.

Redaphca (fourth from right on the back row) and Belinda (fifth from left on the back row) were part of the Haitian Choir of 30 orphans that first toured the US.

The sisters were named the 2022 Valedictorian and Salutatorian at The Barnes Academy in Hartwell, Georgia. Apparently, the school had to go out fifteen decimal points to determine who took first place honors. Both graduated with 3.9 GPAs.
During their two years in the US, the sisters were dually enrolled at Toccoa Falls College and earned 27 college credits.
Both will go on to study at Emmanuel College in Franklin Springs, Georgia. Redaphca plans to become a judge so she can help others be able to come into the United States. Belinda, after seeing the lasting injuries from the 2010 earthquake, plans to become a Physical Therapist.
Redaphca and Belinda have been hosted by several families while in the US, but they are now too old to be legally adopted into a family. Linda Gunter says the girls are dependent upon outside gifts and donations to pay for education, housing, medical care, food, transportation, and other living expenses. Linda stresses that those costs get more expensive as the girls get older.

Linda and David Gunter in Haiti

Redaphca and Belinda’s story would have been much different if they had not had the opportunity to study in America. How they made it to the United States, according to Linda Gunter, is a God-story.
Once upon a time, Gunter was a real estate developer in Lavonia who didn’t want children and was satisfied with her life. That changed when she received a call from the father of one of her best friends. Her friend and her friend’s spouse had been killed suddenly in an automobile accident, leaving behind five Haitian children they had adopted. The father had tried to raise the children, but realized he couldn’t do it. Linda was his last hope for keeping the children together. Linda didn’t want to take on the responsibility of raising five children, but she did. She had no way of knowing that God was at work in her life.
Three years later, Linda and her husband David took the children to Haiti to experience their homeland. The year was 2011 and their trip was just one year after a 7.0 magnitude earthquake devastated the island. While there, they visited an orphanage that housed seventeen children. However, their driver had somewhere else they needed to go.
The family was taken to the home of an older gentleman who was attempting to care for 30 orphans on his own without power or running water. The home was filthy and they watched small children and goats dig through piles of garbage on the road outside looking for food. While there, the gentleman asked the children to sing for the Gunters. The orphans sang This Little Light of Mine and the Gunters were hooked.
Linda and David couldn’t walk away.

‘Whatever it takes’

Back in the United States, the Gunter family, all seven of them, met to decide what they could do for the orphans in Haiti. During the discussion, the family decided they would do “whatever it takes!”
For years, the family spent every Christmas in Haiti, taking presents to the orphans, and praying for guidance about what to do to make a difference. In  2016, they invited the children they had heard sing to come to the United States for a choir tour. The children flew over on Delta and the Gunters were at the airport to pick them up. The Gunters had $120 in their bank account at the time and no idea how it was going to all work out. Six buses broke down on the way to the airport.
But the tour took place anyway and the children sang in churches and anywhere else Linda could get them. They never asked for money, but donations came pouring in. People also reached out to adopt children or to serve as hosts while they studied in America. Of the original 30 children, 22 were placed in homes under US F1 Student Visas. Redaphca and Belinda and Eldo were three of those students.

Love Him Love Them

Mission work was not new to the Gunters when they went to Haiti. They had begun an organization in 1998 to work in the fifth-worst crime area in the US –– Vine City, in Atlanta.

Love Him Love Them is a missionary organization that ministers to the orphans and widows in Haiti and Northeast Georgia.

Years later, they relocated to Northeast Georgia and started the ministry Love Him Love Them. The ministry focuses on the needs of widows and orphans and has worked with local groups as well as Haitians.
As the ministry has continued, Linda has been named “Mommy Linda” by over 5,000 orphans in Haiti where Love Him Love Them started multiple orphanages and even built a hospital. Love Him Love Them collects adult shoes, regardless of condition, to help those still in Haiti to be able to find jobs. Love Him Love Them puts together mission trips for people who want to participate in ministry to Haiti, and they offer Vacation Bible School Curriculum that brings the Haiti mission work to American students.
For more information, go to Love Him Love Them for details on their shoe ministry, their work with the children of parents in prison, and their work in Haiti. You can also read their incredible story in Choir of Angels: How 30 Orphans Changed Their World, Linda’s best-selling book on Amazon.

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