KATONAH, N.Y. (WCBS 880) – Some people adopt children from overseas.
Roger and Michele Garrison, from Katonah, assumed responsibility for an entire orphanage in Haiti.
“God – and, again, I’m a very spiritual person – he gives us opportunities to serve. They can be in places – anywhere,” Roger tells Sean Adams. “They just don’t have to be in your own hometown.”
The unexpected undertaking started when the couple’s son took a high school mission trip to Haiti and witnessed appalling poverty.
“A lot of people were living in tents outside of the orphanage,” Roger says.
Children alone, fending for themselves on a barren hilltop in a place called Source Matelas.
“Maybe they would earn five cents a day,” says Roger.
For these children, the modern world simply didn’t exist.
“No movies, no iPhones, no videos,” he says.
They desperately sought a roof, fresh water, and a morsel to eat.
“So you’re really on your own in Haiti,” says Roger.
Roger and Michelle started a nonprofit, called The Tree of Life Orphanage.
“I’m not a business man, I’m not a fundraiser. I’m a teacher,” he says. “So it’s just an urging you’ve got to do this.”
After the 2010 earthquake, generous friends opened their hearts. They built dorms, sanitary facilities, a well, and a school.
“Six or seven different classrooms. We have a small infirmary, we have a library, which is unheard of in at least our area of Haiti,” says Roger.
Fifteen children call the orphanage home. The school educates more than 200. They are all fed.
“If you haven’t eaten in a day or two and you go to school, you’re not going to remember much,” he says.
He says now the children have hope.
“They’re a rugged people with a lot of dignity. And they can make it through just about anything,” says Roger.
That inspires him to keep The Tree of Life in bloom.
“I just hope each one of you can stop and say, you know what is my gift, ad how can I use it?” he says.