Bellingham, Wash. – It is a family brunch four years in the making. Two dozen family members descended upon Gail Hanna's Bellingham home to celebrate the end to an odyssey.
"I laid eyes on my grandkids in Haiti in 2008 and they've been mine ever since. Today it's official. They're ours," she said, choking back tears.
Djennika and her brother Djouvensky (who now goes by Benjamin) were already in the process of being adopted by Kendra and Brett Schlenbaker when the Haiti earthquake hit 10 months ago. The shake forced Brett to fly to Haiti with little more than a cell phone and a map to bring the kids home to Bellingham. It was an odyssey Kendra said she always knew would end this way.
"It's like they've always been here," she said.
Today, while Kendra tucked away silly bands under the sleeve of her son's sweater, and family filled the courtroom seats, Whatcom County judge Charles Snyder officially made the Schlenbakers a "family."
"You will become their parents for all purposes, for better or for worse. This isn't something you can un-do," he joked as the couple erupted in laughter.
But there are still many children awaiting adoption in Haiti, and some of them are in the close memories of Benjamin and Djennika.
Djennika still doesn't like to talk much about the earthquake. Instead, she lets her actions speak. She is helping lead a holiday drive at her school to bring desperately needed supplies to those left behind.
"They don't have enough of food and clothes," she said.
Benjamin's heart still aches for his best friend Wenzie - a big brother-type who stuck up for him when the older kids would bully him. Wenzie was also the one who got Benjamin out of the orphanage as it collapsed around them during the quake.
"When the walls were coming down Wenzie say to come outside so they don't fall down on me."
Benjamin’s greatest wish is for Wenzie to come live with him in Bellingham.
The wait for Wenzie and at least 500,000 more Haitian orphans drags on. Children are being adopted out of Haiti but there are long delays because of infrastructural and legal issues. For more information on adopting a child from Haiti click here .