Texas-based college student Jimmy Amisial was walking to a New Years Eve party in 2017 while visiting family in Haiti when he noticed a crowd of people gathered around a pile of trash. What he saw when he approached the onlookers crushed him: a crying 3-month-old boy, covered in ants and lying on top of the garbage.
“I was looking at the precious living soul, just crying, and my heart dropped to my throat,” said Amisial, who was 22 at the time.
Amisial picked up the baby and brought him home. He reported the incident to police, who made a report about the abandoned baby. Authorities said Amisial could become the child’s guardian. Amisial wasn’t sure — he tossed and turned at night, with doubts about how he could be a father — but eventually agreed and named the boy Emilio Angel Jeremiah.
“I took a leap of faith by doing that, even though I didn’t know what I was gonna do,” said Amisial.
Nearly five years later, Amisial is fighting to become Emilio’s adoptive father — and offer him a better life, potentially in the United States. Emilio currently lives with Amisial’s mother, Elicie Jean, in Haiti.
“I would like for me to be able to show him love and be financially stable, finish school and be able to take care of him and show him how to be great, show him love, how to be kind to people,” said Amisial.
In an online fundraiser, Amisial has raised nearly all of his $60,000 goal to pay the Haitian government for the costly adoption. The process began in 2019 and Amisial is hopeful that by next year, he’ll officially be Emilio’s father.
He said excess funds will be used for Emilio’s schooling in Haiti, to support the local orphanage in Emilio’s city and possibly to help pay for Amisial to finish his education.
Emilio will be turning 5 at the end of August. He and Amisial talk on WhatsApp calls a few times a week. Emilio is learning Spanish in addition to Haitian Creole and will be studying English this year. Amisial said the chatty kiddo loves playing basketball and soccer and has already learned the word “try.”
“He’s so fun to be around,” said Amisial, now 27. “I really miss him and I can’t wait to see him. Whenever I get the chance to go back, I will.”
Amisial’s been leaning on his mother to take care of Emilio while he’s been studying off and on in Texas, first at Texas Independent Baptist Seminary and Schools in Livingston and then at Texas State University in San Marcos, where he lives and hopes his family can join him soon.
Emery Sokoudjou, one of Amisial’s buddies from Texas State, said his friend has one of the biggest hearts of anybody he’s met.
He hopes Amisial and Emilio’s story can be an inspiration to others.
“I always told him, ‘Your story should be out there.’ It’s not even about the financial aspect of it (the donations), it’s about the social aspect of it. We live in a world that is so focused on social media, that we have actually forgotten the human part of it,” said Sokoudjou.
Amisial’s own journey to the U.S. has not been an easy one. He volunteered at an orphanage in his home city of Gonaïves, Haiti, and sold bracelets made out of plastic Doritos bags and other trash, which helped him pay for his studies in Texas, where he had a student visa. However, he’s had to stop his communications studies due to financial hardships. Emilio and Amisial’s mother rely on his contributions to make ends meet in Haiti, where violence and poverty has only worsened in recent years — so bad, in fact, that Amisial hasn’t been able to visit his mom or Emilio since 2019.
Besides the adoption process, the heightened violence in Haiti and immigration issues are also keeping Amisial from the boy. He has a pending application for Temporary Protected Status, which Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas announced for Haitians in May 2021, saying, “Haiti is currently experiencing serious security concerns, social unrest, an increase in human rights abuses, crippling poverty and lack of basic resources, which are exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. After careful consideration, we determined that we must do what we can to support Haitian nationals in the United States until conditions in Haiti improve so they may safely return home.”
The deteriorating situation in Haiti worries Amisial about his family’s safety and makes him wonder if his dream of opening up his own orphanage in Haiti will come true.
“I would love to be in Haiti right now,” he said, but believes the prudent decision is to stay in the U.S. for now where he’s safe and can send money to Emilio.
Though logistical challenges are ahead, Amisial said he’s been blown away by the outpouring of financial support on the GoFundMe page from donors around the world to support his family’s journey, like Jason Wians.
“I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Haiti in Les Cayes. I didn’t adopt a child but I was able to bring a real good friend out of Haiti who is living his best life now. Good luck with everything,” Wians said.
More than a thousand individuals have donated to Amisial.
“The world can connect through love or kindness,” Amisial said. “I’ve never thought I did something that could connect the world like that.”