Sunday, August 24 2014 12:56 AM EDT2014-08-24 04:56:42 GMT
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KNOXVILLE (WATE) - It has been three years since a devastating 7.0 earthquake hit Haiti, killing more than 300,000 people.
The quake was a life-changing moment for an East Tennessee woman. She lost her daughter and since then has been trying to help others living in Haiti.
For several years before the earthquake, Lorie Johnson had visited Haiti annually on mission trips. In 2008, she met Atanie at the orphanage where she was volunteering.
"(Atanie) was very sick from malnutrition so she and I had an immediate bond," said Johnson.
Johnson returned to Knoxville after a week in Haiti, but could not stop thinking about the two-year-old little girl.
"I couldn't really get her out of my head, so I traveled back numerous times after the initial visit and became very attached with her," said Johnson.
Johnson made the decision to adopt Atanie. The two spent the week before the earthquake together.
Johnson left Haiti the day before the earthquake hit. It was the last time she would see her newly adopted daughter. The quake destroyed the orphanage where Johnson lived, killing the now-four-year-old girl.
"I felt like how could this happen? I was there only 24 hours before the quake and was in total shock and grief and disbelief," said Johnson.
Johnson turned her grief into energy, and returned to Haiti to bury her daughter and help rebuild the orphanage. She's been back 15 times since the quake and now volunteers for a non-government organization in Haiti called Poor Children's Assistance Project. It's an organization that helps organize long term help to 11 Haitian communities. Johnson is the American facilitator.
"Helping to facilitate organizations in America that would like to help a location or help rebuild a location or empower a community in a self-sustaining way," said Johnson.
Not only does Johnson help organize and bring long term assistance to Haiti, she tries to find the orphaned children a forever family.
"I'm in the process of facilitating 16 adoptions and bringing 16 kids home hopefully within the next year they will all arrive in the states," said Johnson.
Her goal is to help the children have a family and for the Haitian communities to eventually be self-sustaining.