No Word Yet from Haitian Child Sponsored by WTMJ Anchor

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  • Neyssa, a child in Haiti sponsored by Newsradio 620 WTMJ's own Jodi Becker.

MILWAUKEE - While Newsradio 620 WTMJ's own Jodi Becker reports on the situation in Haiti, and the untold deaths and damage from the earthquake that struck there, she has her own personal connection to the situation.

She sponsors a child named Neyssa Smith, who is 7-years-old and lives in Port-au-Prince, and she is still waiting for word on whether Neyssa made it through the disaster alive.

"It's through a group called Three Angels Children's Relief," she explained. "They run an orphanage and a Christian academy. I've been sponsoring a little girl there for the last several years. I started when she was just three, with the plans that you can take them all the way through high school."

Two people from Southeastern Wisconsin are reported missing in Haiti:
Melissa Elliott, a college student from Hartland
Peter Van Horn, a Town of Delafield Supervisor

More: 
Report: Milwaukee-Area Student Found in Haiti 
No Word Yet on Child Sponsored by WTMJ Anchor
Racine Couple Loses Family in Earthquake
Church Groups Workers OK
UW Group in Haiti Unhurt
Local Groups Reeling
Milwaukee's Eyes on Haiti
MSNBC Coverage

Audio: 
Mike Elliott, whose daughter is missing in Haiti, on 620WTMJ's Wisconsin's Morning News
Dr. Ron and Ronnie Pruhs, who have done service work in Haiti for years, on 620WTMJ's Wisconsin's Morning News

Blog: 
The Cold-Filtered Ramblings of Gene Mueller: How To Help

TODAY'S TMJ4 HD's "How You Can Help Phone Bank"
Call in with your pledge from 3:00 p.m.-7:00 p.m. on Thursday, January 14th to donate money to the Red Cross

Sampling of Haiti-Serving Charities with Milwaukee Connections:
Catholic Archdiocese of Milwaukee World Mission Ministries
Episcopal Diocese of Milwaukee Haiti Project
Friends for Health in Haiti 
Gesu Parish in Milwaukee, twinning with St. Jude's Church in Haiti
Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Milwaukee, twinning with Norwich Mission House in Haiti
Our Little Brothers and Sisters
Salvation Army of Southeastern Wisconsin
St. Francis Cabrini Parish in West Bend's Haiti Outreach
St. Mary's of Hales Corners
Three Angels Children's Relief

Other Efforts: 
Text HAITI to 90999 and $10 will be donated automatically to the Red Cross, charged to your cell phone bill
MSNBC's List of Charitable Organizations

"I thought it would be fun to grow with her, because I know the woman who is the U.S. woman in charge of this Christian academy. When she goes down, I send little gifts and see my friend handing the gifts to Neyssa, the girl that I sponsor, and see her opening them, see the looks on her face, and then to see her from her baby fat cheeks grow into this little young woman who is now in elementary school. It's an amazing experience and a rewarding experience."

But once this earthquake hit, it emotionally hit Jodi hard, knowing what may have happened to Neyssa.

"Now you have the flip side of that."

She says she still has no word on Neyssa's situation.

"We just don't know," explained Jodi. "As of about 9 p.m. last night, we hadn't heard from the staff there at all. Then, overnight, we did find out that all the babies at the orphanage are OK. They were evacuated by one volunteer staffer to basically what amounts to an open lot outside a different staffer's home, basically across the street. The building is cracked, the orphanage, and their fear is of aftershocks, and the building literally collapsing on top of them."

But Neyssa lives at home with her family, which means she is so far unaccounted for.

"We're waiting to hear, and thank God for things like Facebook, because the word at least travels fast once there is word, but right now, there is no word to be had. I did talk with a news anchor friend of mine who is married to this woman who is running the thing down there, and he said it is worse than anything they are able to describe. That's what they're hearing from staffers."

Jodi further explained the horrifying conditions people live through in Haiti, with the struggle to simply meet the most basic of needs.

"It's interesting, because typically when you talk about Haiti, we've talked about helping the kids down there recover from hurricanes, tropical storms, government unrest, and to have to bring in private security to watch the kids and make sure that everything is safe, and the staffers are safe, as they're helping these children," said Jodi. "But to have something like this happen, it is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, so literally they live in rubble to begin with, and to have rubble collapse on rubble on top of you is obviously not a safe situation."

"Clean drinking water is already an issue, and then food and malnourishment is a major issue. You hear about many of these relief organizations providing food itself, then providing medical care. A lot of the medical care that's needed, whether it's physical ailments, dental ailments, that all comes from malnourishment issues, because they can't get simple things like rice to have a meal."

Jodi said Neyssa is served food at school, then she brings home a backpack of food for her family every weekend.

"She is one of three children, so if I wouldn't be sponsoring them, people there are so poor that there's no way she would be getting an education," said Jodi. "This organization tries to do as much as they can to support the families as well, but again, that's limited because the need is so great."

"If you're a person of faith, prayers all around."