January 12, 2017 marked the seventh anniversary of the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that hit Haiti, killing over 200,000 people and leaving 1.5 million homeless. In the aftermath of the devastating quake, a ten-year-old girl named Leel was found in the rubble, barely alive with one leg crushed by fallen debris.
“I remember, I was inside the house when I felt the quake under my feet. I ran outside and the wall around our house fell on top of me. I was completely covered by the wall. My mom ran out after me and just escaped the collapsing wall. She pulled the bricks off of me and saw that my leg was completely broken. She thought I was dead. It was six hours later before I started to become responsive and all I remember was how the pain was unbearable. But I survived, and I thank God every day.” – Leel
Bob and Nicola, a couple from France, heard of Leel’s accident through Bob’s work at an American NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) that builds schools in Haiti for children. They knew instantly that they needed to help Leel’s family in any way they could. Bob reached out to Erik Schaffer, head prosthetist and owner at A Step Ahead Prosthetics about Leel’s story. Erik and the team at A Step Ahead were overwhelmed by the tragic news. Erik, a father of four young girls himself, knew he needed to help Leel by giving her the best prosthetic care possible.
“I wanted to help this young girl out, as I would for my own daughters” said Erik.
Through many donations and fundraisers between A Step Ahead and Bob and Nicola, Leel was able to travel to A Step Ahead’s facility in New York to receive the care she desperately needed. Through the years, she has been named captain of her soccer team while earning excellent grades in school and singing in her church’s choir.
Now seventeen, Leel’s sweet personality continues to grow and mature in spite of her traumatic experience. Leel wants to someday open up her own restaurant or cooking school. She’s thankful to individuals like Bob, Nicola and Erik who didn’t ignore a person’s cry for help.
After the earthquake, Bob and Nicola also set up an orphanage in Haiti called Mango Tree Home for children whose families were victims of the earthquake. They have vowed to take care of these children until they reach adulthood. Nicola hopes to see the future of Haiti prosper with education for its young children. “Education is the key to life, we hope Haiti continues to invest in its youth by offering them a good education.” A giant sea may divide Bob and Nicola from Haiti, but their hearts are always there.
About Mango Tree Home:
Mango Tree Home in Haiti is a safe and secure family environment for children orphaned by the 2010 earthquake. Set up in the immediate aftermath of the disaster, it has provided solace and support to nearly a hundred children over the years and is now a permanent family home for thirty-seven children.
About the 2010 Earthquake in Haiti:
On January 12th, a 7.0 earthquake hit Haiti’s capital, Port-Au-Prince, and caused massive devastation to the city. It is estimated that the quake destroyed more than 4,000 buildings in the capital and caused 250,000 fatalities. Lack of food, clean water, medical care and the spread of disease pushed the death toll even higher.