A daughter's first Father's Day

June 15, 2001 12:00 am
Damien Yervasi will celebrate his first Fathers Day with new daughter, Sophia, this weekend. Yervasi and his wife, Lise, have adopted two children from Haiti. (Baker City Herald photograph by Kathy Orr).
Damien Yervasi will celebrate his first Fathers Day with new daughter, Sophia, this weekend. Yervasi and his wife, Lise, have adopted two children from Haiti. (Baker City Herald photograph by Kathy Orr).


Of the Baker City Herald

Fathers Day will be special to Damien Yervasi this year. He plans to spend part of the day fishing with his 3-year-old son, Dominic. Later perhaps some barbecue and lots of play time with his new daughter, Sophia.

Damien and his wife, Lise, welcomed in New Years Day in 1999 by adopting Dominic from Haiti. They repeated the process again this year with the addition of 21-month-old Sophia Marie in April. Sophia is also from Haiti.

Both children were adopted with the assistance of Dr. Jacob Bernard, a Baptist minister who heads Hope For the Children of Haiti Orphanage in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

The couple chose to adopt from Haiti because of the need for families for children there. Lise estimated there are nearly 200,000 children there under age 16 needing families.

For the Yervasis, adoption seemed like the logical conclusion when they learned they were unable to have children biologically without a great deal of medical assistance.

Our country is so rich that almost anyone can have a child biologically, said Lise, but this was not the alternative the Yervasis chose. There are plenty of reasons to adopt, she said.

Damien agreed. Its awesome. Theres nothing like coming home to your kids. Its great.

Its a wonderful experience to be a parent for a child who needs parents, he said.

Lise, who accompanied Dr. Bernard back to Haiti to take custody of Sophia, was intellectually prepared for the poverty of Haiti, but she wasnt emotionally prepared.

Ive traveled in many other countries, other places. Ive heard a great deal about the situation in Haiti, Ive read about it. But I was shocked beyond words by the reality of it, she said.

Typically, families are able to get lots of fruit and vegetables to eat, but there are no milk products or other proteins in their diets. This leads to malnutrition. The people are very thin and have little energy.

Diseases that would keep us out of work for two days, they die of, said Damien. These diseases would be public health concerns here, correctable with safe drinking water, good sanitation and proper diet. There are no antibiotics and few medicines available to the average Haitian.

Most of the protein consumed in Haiti is imported from the United States, Lise said. The average family cannot afford to buy it with an average per capita income of less than $900 a year.

And this is in a country that is less than 90 minutes by air from the U.S.

Lise said little Sophia is very methodical about her eating habits; she eats slowly and doesnt stop until every bite is consumed.

She would eat three bowls of oatmeal for breakfast when she first got here, Lise said. And if Lise threw food away, Sophia would stare at her in amazement and shock that anyone would waste food.

Taking help to Haiti

Lise has special praise for the Baker City Rotary Club and especially Forest Coltman. Lise had only a few days notice of her trip to Haiti. Coltman was able to rally the Rotary to raise nearly $1,000 in cash donations and vitally needed vitamins and medicines for the children of the orphanage.

Dr. Lloyd Nelson of the Family Chiropractic Health Center donated a generous amount of vitamins to the cause.

Lise said the 60 or so children at Hope for the Children have almost no toys or things to play with and few school supplies.

Its an issue if they are going to be fed, she said.

Damien added that what the people of Haiti have is a lot of faith.

He said little Sophia is starting to speak English with a Haitian/Creole accent. She says oui instead of yes, for example.

The French lessons I tortured myself with in high school are finally paying off, he said.

Shes obviously the child of two lawyers, he said with a chuckle. Shes very convincing in her arguments already.

Having a daughter is different from having a son. Shes already learned how to manipulate her daddy.

Damien said the two children, so alike in appearance because of their mixed-race heritage, have developed their own sibling relationship in just a few short months. They are kind and sharing one minute, and deadly enemies the next.

Its a wonderful feeling to parent these two kids, he added. Its fun, grooming your future fishing partner.

Dominic is already his dads favorite fishing companion. Last year Damien hooked a fish and allowed Dominic to reel it in.

When the fish broke the water, Dominic was so surprised that he threw the pole into the water, Damien said. Daddy had to retrieve the equipment while laughing.

The next time they went fishing together, Dominic was concerned about being bitten by a fish. Damien said the little boy has overcome this concern.

Lise said if anyone was interested in helping the children of Haiti or in intercountry adoption, they can contact her via email at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

The Yervasis agree that conditions for intercountry adoptions have recently improved. While the paperwork is still a concern, service from the U.S. Department of Immigration and Naturalization has greatly improved.

Recent changes in law now allow children to gain American citizenship when the family has completed the adoption process rather than have a separate naturalization procedure after the childs adoption.

Costs for adoption of children from Haiti is reasonable. As with any intercountry adoptions, families should seek the assistance of a reputable agency.

One such agency in Oregon is Holt International Childrens Services of Eugene. Lise said she believed Holt was one of the best and she had spoken to them about possible work in Haiti.

Holts address is P.O. Box 2880, (1195 City View St.) Eugene, Ore., 97402. Phone 541/687-2202 Fax: 683-6175. Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it Their website: www.holtintl.org.