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Somber Anniversary Coming For Haiti Orphans

Kim Lewan, Sandina and Bencina

Kim Lewan (center) adopted sisters Sandina (left) and Bencina (right) from Haiti after the earthquake that devastated the island nation last year. (Credit: CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) — It was one year ago Wednesday that an earthquake ravaged the island nation of Haiti, leaving thousands of children orphaned.

The futures of hundreds already in the process of being adopted were uncertain, but CBS 2’s Dana Kozlov reports on two sisters who arrived in the United States right after the quake and are now settled in to their new life.

Don’t try to stop 2-year-old Sandina or her 4-year-old sister Benciana.

Ever since they arrived here nine days after the earthquake that devastated their homeland, the girls’ adoptive mother, Kim Lewan, says they’ve done nothing but thrive.

“They eat more than an adult,” Lewan said. “Benciana used to be afraid. Now, she’s not afraid.”

The sisters were part of a group of 16 kids airlifted out of Haiti on humanitarian visas after the quake to parents already in the process of adopting them.

Oak Park’s Adoption-Link agency was, and still is, the conduit for many Haitian children still left in orphanages but available for permanent homes. Executive Director Margaret Fleming says adoption interest is down since last January but the number of children is not. But her agency is in the process of finalizing twelve adoptions from that country now.

Another issue is that, according to Fleming, the process of trying to determine if children currently in orphanages still have living relatives is a long one.

Kim Lewan, a single mom, had just been to her daughter’s orphanage the October before the quake. She believes fate brought them, and kept them, together.

“I always say I didn’t choose who my children would be,” says Lewan, “God did. And he did a good job.”