Brothers and filmmakers Bobby and Kevin Downes certainly know what it’s like to experience the love a parent has for a child. A love that’s so strong that it would survive physical separation or even natural disasters like the earthquake in Haiti.
Kevin Downes was already planning to adopt a child from Haiti when the earthquake hit in 2010. While he worked to get his child out of Haiti quickly after the tragic earthquake, he assisted over 75 other adopting families bring back their children from Haiti. The entire effort came to be known as the “Haiti 80”.
Bobby and Kevin Downes took that inspiration and created a new film called “Like Dandelion Dust”. This movie shows that sometimes parents show the love they have for a child by giving the child a better life – one that they could not give themselves. Beliefnet recently had a chance to talk to the filmmakers about the movie, their faith in God, and the incredible story of the “Haiti 80”.
Jana Melpolder: I'd like to start with the film so we can get a grip on “Like Dandelion Dust.” I thought it was very interesting and a great reflection on the love between a parent and a child. I was wondering why did you both choose this particular story to make a movie?
Bobby Downes: In 2001, our wives met the author of the book that this movie was adapted from. From that point, we pursued Karen Kingsbury. It took us about six years to finally get the rights to “Like Dandelion Dust.” We all felt a connection with the story of “Like Dandelion Dust” because Karen Kingsbury had written it. [She] adopted three boys from Haiti herself. My wife and I were considering adoption for a few years. It really did something for Kevin when we were developing the story at Karen Kingsbury’s home in Vancouver, Washington, and [we] got to spend some time with her and her family and her three boys. Something special happened in Kevin's heart.
Kevin Downes: When you make a movie, it’s such a long process [and] we wanted do a story that we truly were passionate about. Adoption was something we were both passionate about. My wife and I have struggled with infertility for nine years. When we met Kingsbury's boys we were in the process of exploring adoption but didn't know a lot about it. We came home from that trip and started exploring adopting from Haiti. “Like Dandelion Dust” kind of correlates with the process of Bob and I going through this phase of bringing our children home.
JM: I understand Bobby that you adopted a child from China.
Bobby: It was like a three week process going through all of the paperwork and in the middle of it we got introduced to her and got to take her back to our hotel room. From that point on, she was in our custody. We still had more paperwork before she received her US citizenship, but we did get to take a journey back to her orphanage to say goodbye. We learned that her parents had dropped her off into a park when she was seven months old. Police officers at the park had held onto her for a few days before they released her to the orphanage. What's interesting about her process was that she was a girl, and obviously in China having one child is still the law and they prefer boys. I think they knew that she had a hole in her heart (she had a physical condition called ADS). The problem is that she had two strikes against her. She's female and she is not perfect. Perfection is everything in China because of Buddhism.
JM: Is it seen as punishment to be born with a disability?
Bobby: That's a really great question. I don't think I have enough knowledge to answer that question. It sounds right, but one of the interesting things is that children in Buddhist cultures feel like they owe their parents a debt of some sort so you see a lot of child prostitution in order to make money for the family to buy a car or motorcycle. With our situation, our little girl was so young and she was immediately put into such great care. Her orphanage only had about 30 to 60 kids at anytime. We were there with other families who were coming over in the same schedule that we were. They were going to an orphanage that had 600 to 1,000 kids in them. We learned that 25 percent of all U.S. adoptions are from China. So we are adopting a tremendous amount of children from China. The process was very smooth. You could tell that our side of the system had done it many times, and you could tell that the Chinese side of the system had done it many times. It was very smooth.
JM: Kevin, could explain your process of adopting your son from Haiti. How was it different?
Kevin: Haiti was incredibly disorganized even before the earthquake. They have a multi-step process that is often quite dysfunctional and out of order. They will tell you one thing, meaning the Haitian government, and sometimes it’s not all factual. I don't think it’s done on purpose, but they are so unorganized. It was often, even before the earthquake, a two or three year process. Often times we were wondering, “Is this even going to happen?” We were about six to eight months away from getting him when the earthquake hit. Obviously we got him ten days after that happened. That was because their whole infrastructure was demolished.
We know the mom and three of [his] siblings are alive. We don't know if the dad and the oldest sibling are alive yet. The orphanage isn't really sure. They just believed that they needed to give their child up to give him a chance for life. They showed up at the orphanage and they dropped him off there. That was when he was three months old. Five months old is when we got a referral to him. The next day we found out that my wife was pregnant. It was quite an interesting experience, but we knew in our hearts that God had prepared us for this child, Benicio, and he was to be our son and there was just no question that was going to happen. We had no idea the journey we would be on to be able to bring him home. There were struggles and pains, especially right after the earthquake and the unknowing whether or not he was alive (because we had visited Haiti two months before the earthquake). We got to meet him for the first time in person, and got to hold him and spend time with him and really love him. Of course, saying goodbye was really hard. Then two months later the earthquake [hit and my] mind kind of [went] through a lot of things. Then 10 days later he was home. Adopting is something that we are both passionate about. It is a wonderful opportunity that God put in front of us and we are thankful and blessed that we were able to do it.