Tracy Metzler and her daughter Fena set aside their anxiety about the Haiti earthquake with a hug on Fena’s 12th birthday Friday.

Photo by Tom Ross

Tracy Metzler and her daughter Fena set aside their anxiety about the Haiti earthquake with a hug on Fena’s 12th birthday Friday.

Tom Ross: Celebrating a birthday with aching hearts


Tom Ross

Tom Ross' column appears in Steamboat Today. Contact him at 970-871-4205 or

Find more columns by Tom here.

How to help

People who want to provide targeted earthquake relief can donate to Wish for Haiti. They can learn more by visiting — don’t overlook the news link with photos of the damaged orphanage.

Until Wish for Haiti achieves nonprofit status, checks should be made to Kata Loukan/Wish for Haiti and mailed c/o Nick and Tracy Metzler, 75 Copper Rose Court, Steamboat Springs, CO 80487. E-mail the Metzlers at

The Associated Press offers these avenues for donating to earthquake relief:

Aid organizations say cash donations are best. Here are some that are accepting donations:

■ InterAction has a list of agencies responding and how to donate at

■ To donate $10 to the American Red Cross, text Haiti to 90999. The amount will be added to your next phone bill. The organization also is accepting donations through its International Response Fund,

■ To find out how to help the International Rescue Committee, visit or call 877-733-8433.

■ To donate through Oxfam’s emergency appeal, visit

■ To donate to Partners in Health, which already was providing health care in Haiti and now is working on relief efforts, visit The group also is looking for surgeons, nurses and surgical teams who want to volunteer to help.

■ To donate to Doctors Without Borders, which also is treating earthquake victims, go to

For more

Other sources of information include:

— Fena Metzler celebrated her 12th birthday with a hearty breakfast of pancakes and bacon, surrounded by her new parents and siblings in Steamboat Springs. But it was apparent she was experiencing a confusing mix of emotions.

At the same time she celebrated her new life in Colorado, she had to work through the anxiety that came with knowing the orphanage in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, where she lived before last year, had been demolished by an earthquake. None of the 27 girls living at the Orphelinat Pour Files (called House of the Lack in English) or any of the adults were killed. But they have spent this week sleeping outdoors in the yard of a private home, desperate for food and water.

Fena’s birthday wish?

“When I grow up, I want to help the girls in Haiti,” she said softly.

Fena’s adoptive parents, Nick and Tracy Metzler, say they have been in touch with the priest running the orphanage, Father Jean Bien-aime, by e-mail and one brief cell phone conversation. They say it’s clear that he and the children are struggling.

“They are suffering, big time,” Nick Metzler said. “We heard directly from Father Bien-aime Wednesday night. He and the children survived the earthquake. How it’s possible is hard to imagine — they were so close to the epicenter, and the orphanage is in total ruins.”

By Friday, the priest had been able to buy bottled water for the girls. An aid organization formed by the extended Metzler family and friends had sent them enough cash for several weeks before the earthquake.

One worker at the orphanage and one of the girls suffered broken bones, but the entire group was able to move several miles away from the shattered orphanage to the yard surrounding the home of one of Bien-aime’s cousins.

The Metzlers, who already had three children, first became interested in adopting a Haitian orphan in about 2005. Tracy and her daughter Brooke (11 at the time) flew to Port-au-Prince spontaneously to support one of Tracy’s sisters while she waited to adopt an infant.

From there, they began working to help improve conditions at the orphanage. Two of Tracy’s sisters, Gina (and Doug) Woodson, and Leslie (and Jim) Christensen, have adopted Haitian girls who are younger than Fena. Together, the sisters and their families formed an organization, “Wish for Haiti” which is in the process of becoming a 501(c) (3) organization.

The Metzlers adopted Fena and brought her to their home up Fish Creek Falls Road on Easter 2009.

“She spoke not a word of English when she came here,” Tracy said. She recalled that everything about their home was alien to Fena, and she touched wooden floors, carpeting and glass windows with an expression of wonder.

Fena said the orphanage had three toilets for 27 girls. But that was in their new orphanage — the one that got knocked down by the earthquake. Before the Metzler family’s organization and a few good friends helped them move the girls into better housing, Tracy said, the girls rotated awakening at 3 a.m., 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. so they could take turns in the shower.

When they first became involved with the orphanage, Nick said, the girls were sleeping three to a single bunk stacked three bunks high against the walls of a 900-square-foot house. Their restroom was outdoors and consisted of a hole in the ground, food was scarce and the girls were malnourished.

The new orphanage, now destroyed, offered indoor plumbing, and mattresses and bedding were obtained for the girls.

Nick Metzler was last in Haiti with several friends and relatives just before Christmas. They were looking for land to buy to begin their plans to build the children an orphanage, school, chapel and visitors’ quarters and to establish agricultural production. Now, there are more pressing needs.

Northwest Colorado residents seeking a way to aid earthquake victims may consider donating to Wish for Haiti.

Fena Metzler was distracted from worries about the earthquake Friday when the time came to open birthday gifts.

But asked if she missed Father Bien-aime, she looked up with big brown eyes and said, “Yes.”


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Requires free registration

Posting comments requires a free account and verification.