DARIEN — Adam S. “Ad” Poppell III and his wife Lynn will be on the same plane Thursday, but they probably won’t see each other.
Poppell will fly into Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on a Jet Blue flight, the only one of the day, and Lynn Poppell will take the same plane back to the U.S. The Poppells are concerned for their missionary daughter Caroline after several people were killed and others wounded as looters burned and vandalized shops and other buildings. They were enraged when the government announced steep hikes in gas and kerosene prices and a cut in food subsidies.
On Sunday, Prime Minister Jack Guy Lafontant rolled back the price increases of up to 38 percent for gasoline and 51 percent for kerosene, but the violent demonstrations continued as many Haitians demanded that President Jovenel Moise leave office immediately.
“It’s going to be interesting down there,’’ Ad Poppell said Tuesday night. “The U.S. Embassy today asked for (more) Marines on the ground.’’
The embassy is sheltering in place and has warned people to not attempt to get to the airport unless the road is open.
It would seem easier for Caroline Poppell to have simply gotten a flight home until things calmed down, but her father said that was not an option.
She operates a mission, Milk Carton on a String, and has custody of two orphans, Leo, 6, and Sephora, 8, and is in the process of adopting them. It is a long process, however, because Haitian law requires a five-year wait before adoptions are final, Ad Poppell said.
Weeks ago before there was any unrest, Caroline tried to come home to Darien for a visit and to bring the children with her, but the U.S. embassy officials said she could not. Ad Poppell said embassy officials didn’t believe that she would take the children back to Haiti.
“They think she’s going to bring them up here and leave them,’’ he said. “They say she hasn’t established that she will take them back.”
Poppell asserted his daughter has no intention of leaving her mission or her children.
“My daughter is well established there. She’s been going there since 2010” first working with other missions and now has one of her own. She teaches dance and other fine art to children in a country that has no art curriculum.
“I can tell you the children are smiling in her classes,’’ and there is little else in Haiti to make anyone smile, he said.
Caroline Poppell has a long-term lease on a big house and a car and, in spite of all that’s happening around her, is preparing for an annual fundraiser to support her work.
Poppell said he contacted Georgia’s U.S. senators and House members, but they’ve been unable to help secure visas for Leo and Sephora.
U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter’s office said it is continually contacting the embassy to help the Poppells make their case but under the current climate “it’s the hardest ask” to get adopted children into the country.
Carter’s office said that Poppell is right to get as many people involved as possible. Meanwhile, Poppell isn’t content to remain in McIntosh County and see how things play out.
“If America is not going to let my kids in, I’m going there to see them,’’ he said.
Poppell said he doesn’t know what he’ll find, but that the three grocery stores where his daughter shopped have all been burned down. It’s also good that her mission is in a poor section of Port-au-Prince because all the damage has been done in rich neighborhoods.
“There is no middle class in Haiti. There’s the elite and the impoverished,’’ he said.
Poppell said he and his wife have decided to not leave Caroline alone, adding, “not that I’m security.”
He plans to fly home July 22.
That’s a day after Milk Carton on a String has its annual fundraiser in Brunswick with all proceeds going to Creative/Performing Arts Education in Haiti.
The fundraiser, described as a night of music, art, dance and film, is from 7-9 p.m., July 21, at the Ritz Theater, 1530 Newcastle St. in downtown Brunswick.