When Texas State University student Jimmy Amisial took a trip back to his native Haiti in 2017, little did he know how much his life would change thereafter.
The then 22-year-old was on his way to a New Year’s celebration when he stumbled upon a crowd gathered around a pile of trash.
“When I got to the place where the people were making noise I saw a baby,” Amisial told CNN.
“It was in a pile of trash crying, and there wasn’t a single soul who wanted to do anything about it,” he said, adding this was likely because of local superstition that the child could be evil or cursed. But Amisial did not hesitate.
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“He had no clothes on. He had fire ants crawling all over him because he’s been there for a couple of hours. When I picked him up he immediately stopped crying,” he told the outlet.
He then brought the 3-month-old infant home to his mother, and they both tried to comfort the child as well as tend to the insect bites he had suffered. When the authorities showed up the next day, he was asked if he wanted to become the child’s legal guardian as no one had come forward to claim the boy.
“Even though I didn’t know how I was going to be able to take care of him, I took a leap of faith by saying yes to that,” he said.
Although Amisial was forced to return to the U.S. due to the student visa he was on, the child, whom he named Emilio Angel Jeremiah, stayed in the care of his mother. Since then, Amisial had to take a break from school to take on jobs as a part-time landscaper and delivery assistant to fund the boy’s upbringing.
In 2019, Amisial began the process to formally adopt Emilio, but this has been long and costly. Estimates put the cost upwards of $31,000 and a time frame of up to five years before an adoption is complete. But this has not discouraged Amisial, who keeps in touch with Emilio through frequent video calls, describing him as a “joyful” child.
“He loves watching ‘Tom and Jerry’ and he loves playing the guitar and singing. He’s such a joyful kid and he loves sports. He plays soccer and basketball,” he said.
“My mom and I had an automatic connection with him. He calls me Dad. Even though I’m his temporary guardian, I still consider myself his dad.”
Their connection led Amisial to set up a GoFundMe page for funds needed to complete the adoption process, and it has raised more than $150,000. Amisial has also planned what to do with any excess funds.
“Your donations will be used to hopefully get Emilio fully adopted. Pay for Emilio’s schooling, to support the local orphanages; needy families, kids in the community and possibly pay for my education and school debts. With you all that can be possible,” Amisial wrote in a Facebook update.
While Amisial does not know what the future holds, he remains optimistic.
“One thing I know is that, you can never go wrong when you choose love. It was those divine moments and interventions to show love, clarity and show the world that we can do better,” he wrote on the GoFundMe page.
He told CNN that his only hope for Emilio is a better life for him:
“I want him to be happy. I want to teach him how to love and I want him to know that even though he was left alone, he’s not alone.”