Finding Chika | Mitch Albom

Summary of: Finding Chika: A Little Girl, an Earthquake, and the Making of a Family
By: Mitch Albom

Introduction

Welcome to the touching journey of ‘Finding Chika: A Little Girl, an Earthquake, and the Making of a Family’ by Mitch Albom. In this book summary, you’ll follow Chika, a brave Haitian girl born on the cusp of a devastating earthquake. After losing her mother and entering an orphanage, she enters the lives of Mitch Albom and his wife, Janice. The couple brings Chika to the United States to seek medical treatment for her brain cancer. As you read, you’ll uncover the profound impact Chika had on her adoptive family, the lessons they learned on love, family, and the beauty of life.

Chika’s Story of Resilience

Chika Jeune entered the world on January 9, 2010, in a humble Haitian home. Her mother, Reselia, a strong and stern street vendor, married Fedner Jeune, and they had three daughters, including Chika. Just three days after Chika’s birth, a devastating earthquake struck Haiti, leaving her and her mother exposed under the open sky. Sadness struck again when Chika’s mother passed away during childbirth. Eventually, Chika ended up in an orphanage in Port-au-Prince, where she crossed paths with Mitch Albom.

Chika Jeune was born in a simple two-room house in Haiti, welcomed by a midwife named Albert. Her mother, Reselia, was a powerful figure who sold trinkets in the streets to provide for her family. Reselia and her husband Fedner Jeune were loving parents to their three daughters, the youngest of whom, Medjerda, earned the affectionate nickname “Chika.”

Tragedy struck just days after Chika’s birth when a massive earthquake hit Haiti, destroying homes and claiming countless lives. Amidst the chaos and rubble, Chika and her mother lay under the open sky, having narrowly escaped the crumbling of their own home. In the wake of the disaster, Reselia gave birth to a baby boy but unfortunately, did not survive childbirth. Young Chika found a temporary home with her mother’s friend Herzulia, before eventually being taken to an orphanage.

Fate brought Chika to an orphanage in Port-au-Prince that was under the care of Mitch Albom. This encounter marked a turning point in both their lives, leading them on a journey of love, hope, and resilience. Chika’s story is a testament to the power of the human spirit and the unbreakable bond between parent and child, as she faced unimaginable hardships and adversity with courage and grace. Time and again, Chika and those around her demonstrated that amidst tragedy, there is always the opportunity for growth, healing, and transformation.

Determination Amid Haitian Devastation

Mitch Albom, a bestselling writer, was deeply affected by the tales of suffering from a Haitian orphanage during an interview with Pastor John Hearn Jr. Compelled to help, he traveled to Haiti and discovered the heartbreaking situation firsthand. Though the orphanage miraculously survived the earthquake, it was overrun with survivors and insufficient resources. Mitch became deeply involved in improving conditions and eventually took over running the orphanage.

In the aftermath of Haiti’s devastating earthquake on January 12, 2010, Mitch Albom heard the plight of a local pastor, John Hearn Jr., over a radio show in Detroit. The pastor’s concern for a Haitian orphanage which he was involved with moved Mitch to take action. Deciding to help in any way possible, he set off on a journey from snowy Michigan to the sun-kissed devastation in Haiti.

Landing in Port-au-Prince, Mitch was taken aback by the overwhelming destruction. With streets reduced to rubble, crushed cars, and the struggle for basic needs, he observed people living in fear of collapsing buildings, solely residing outdoors. Venturing deeper into the disaster-stricken nation, he found the orphanage intact, a beacon of hope amidst the chaos.

Despite surviving the carnage, the orphanage teemed with more survivors than it could cope with, turning its grounds into a makeshift campsite. As Mitch distributed bottled water and other supplies, desperate hands surged around him. The reality of the situation threatened to overwhelm him, but amid the chaos, two small children slipped their hands into his, showing him the resilient spirit of the place.

With a renewed commitment, Mitch began to improve the lives of the people in the orphanage. He helped install showers, toilets, and other essential facilities, revitalizing the space with bright colors and a fresh start. Eventually, he approached the pastor, offering to oversee the running of the orphanage—a testament to his unyielding determination to ease the suffering of those affected by the Haitian earthquake.

Chika’s Brave Journey

Chika, a determined little girl at an orphanage in Haiti, captures Mitch’s heart. When Chika faces an unseen medical challenge, Mitch steps in to help her fight against staggering odds. Their journey deepens their bond and adds new meaning to their lives.

From the moment Mitch met “Chika” Jeune, a fierce and spirited girl at the Haitian orphanage, he was captivated. As a natural-born leader, Chika commanded the attention and respect of the other children, organizing activities and ensuring everyone followed her rules. Despite her assertiveness, Chika’s caring nature shone through, making her both an endearing and unforgettable presence in their lives.

Concern arose when Chika began exhibiting unusual symptoms. Her facial features changed, and her walk became uneven. Mitch knew that something more than a routine ailment was at work, and he insisted on finding a neurologist. After an arduous search and an expensive MRI, doctors discovered a mass in Chika’s brain. Their realization that they were unequipped to treat her in Haiti led Mitch to bring her to the United States for specialized care.

Chika’s introduction to life in America was a mix of wonder and confusion. Simple conveniences, such as hot water flowing from a tap or the glow of a television screen, amazed her. Mitch and his wife, Janice, made every effort to provide a comfortable and loving home while Chika underwent medical treatment. The couple, childless and in their fifties, initially anticipated a temporary stay but gradually embraced Chika as a crucial part of their lives.

As Chika prepared for brain surgery at Mott Children’s Hospital, Mitch and Janice held onto hope that she would overcome her illness. The surgery only had partial success, and Chika’s battle continued against the remaining tumor. Despite the looming threat, Mitch and Janice remained committed to caring for Chika as long as necessary, growing ever more fond of the courageous youngster.

Fighting against the harshest of odds, this heart-wrenching journey takes an unfortunate turn as Chika’s tumor is diagnosed as a Grade 4 cancer with no chance of long-term survival. In the face of devastating news, the love and bond between Mitch, Janice, and Chika reveal the resilience of the human spirit and the power of unwavering determination. Little Chika’s brave journey becomes a testament to the immeasurable strength found in the face of adversity.

Lessons from Chika

Mitch Albom, the renowned author of Tuesdays with Morrie, found himself learning valuable lessons once again when Chika, a young girl, entered his life. As Chika’s presence disrupted Mitch’s ingrained routines, he began to understand the beauty of adopting a slower pace and truly relishing the world around him, just as Morrie had taught him. Through Chika’s actions, he eventually realized how precious and genuinely loving it is to give one’s time freely.

Before Chika arrived, Mitch Albom had made a name for himself with his bestselling book, Tuesdays with Morrie – a heartfelt tale of wisdom exchanged between Morrie, his terminally ill professor, and himself. Little did he know that Chika would teach him lessons that would rival the insights gained during his Tuesdays with Morrie.

Chika’s first day with Mitch and Janice started with her asking for breakfast. Through her calm and unhurried manner of eating, Mitch soon discovered Chika’s preference for a slower pace in all aspects of life. As Mitch adapted to Chika’s rhythm, he and Janice began seeing the world around them with fresh eyes, much like what Morrie had instilled in Mitch years ago.

A particular moment that evoked memories of Morrie occurred when Chika devotedly observed the world through the back window of their house. Mitch recalled how Morrie, too, had cherished the view from his room’s window as it was his only connection to the world beyond. While the windows were simply panes of glass to Mitch, they represented wonder and fascination to Morrie and Chika.

As Chika’s influence pervaded Mitch’s day-to-day routine and life slowed down, he came to comprehend the immense value of giving one’s time freely. By dedicating his time to Chika without reservations, Mitch was offering her the most heartfelt manifestation of love.

Rediscovering Life’s Marvels

Chika’s arrival in Mitch and Janice’s lives was a breath of fresh air, reviving their world-weary perspectives and rekindling their appreciation for life’s simple wonders. From Disney castles to magical ducks, Chika’s presence awakened them to the beauty and miracles present in the world at every moment. It was through her young eyes and uncorrupted curiosity that Mitch learned to embrace the small yet profound wonders that often go unnoticed in adulthood.

In the twilight of their middle years, Mitch and Janice had grown accustomed to the drudgery of everyday life. It was the arrival of Chika—their spirited, Disney-loving child—that spurred them back into seeing the beauty that surrounded them. When the effects of Chika’s chemotherapy began to manifest, the family wasted no time in visiting Disneyland, ready to make beautiful memories together.

However, the excitement of the iconic theme park paled in comparison to Chika’s effortless ability to find wonder in the most ordinary things. Amidst the vibrant parade of spinning rides and whimsical castles, she chose to marvel at a humble duck waddling out of a pond. This unassuming act opened Mitch’s eyes to the true magic of life—an enchantment that he had long ceased to perceive.

Now, with Chika’s eager guidance, Mitch became attuned to the miracles hidden in plain sight. In reconnecting with the world’s splendor, he felt a newfound appreciation for life’s simple pleasures, whether it was baby ducks scurrying about, concealed frogs among the weeds, or gracefully lifted leaves dancing in the wind. This wondrous, child-like perspective allowed him to see the world with an artist’s awe and appreciation.

Chika’s unbridled enthusiasm for life breathed new life into Mitch and Janice’s perspectives. Together, they explored the beauty of the world on Chika’s terms, seeking joy in the seemingly ordinary by examining ants, playing in leaves, and frolicking in the snow. With Chika by their side, Mitch and Janice rediscovered the extraordinary miracles of life that had long been forgotten.

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