Published today in the Detroit Free Press!

In 2013, author and Free Press columnist Mitch Albom admitted a young girl named Chika Jeune into the orphanage he operates in Port Au Prince, Haiti.

Little Chika was born three days before the massive earthquake of 2010, and miraculously survived it, despite her cinder block house collapsing. Albom said she was “born tough.”

Then, when she was 5 years old, Chika was diagnosed with DIPG, an inoperable Stage IV brain tumor. Mitch and his wife, Janine, brought Chika to the U.S. in hopes of better medical care and an eventual return to Haiti. Instead, it became a two-year, around-the-world journey to find a cure.

Along the way the trio found something else: they had become a family.

“Finding Chika,” to be released this week with all proceeds going to the Have Faith Haiti Mission & Orphanage, is Albom’s account of the joy, laughter, heartbreak and insight that Chika brought to so many lives. Twenty-two years after publishing “Tuesdays with Morrie” and 10 years after “Have a Little Faith,” this book marks Albom’s return to memoir non-fiction. In this exclusive excerpt for the Free Press, which includes an edited selection of passages from the book, we see how Chika changed the world for so many people around her, and why it is never too late to love a child.

Us.

Why aren’t you writing, Mister Mitch?”

Chika is lying on the carpet in my office. She flips onto her back. She plays with her fingers. She comes here in the early morning, when the light is still thin at the window. Sometimes she has a doll or a set of Magic Markers. Other times, it’s just her. She wears her blue pajamas, with the My Little Pony cartoon on the top and pastel stars on the bottoms.

In the past, Chika loved to choose her clothes each morning after brushing her teeth, matching the colors of the socks and the shirts.

But she doesn’t do that anymore.

Chika died last spring, when the trees in our yard were beginning to bud, as they are budding now, as it is spring again. Her absence left us without breath, or sleep, or appetite, and my wife and I stared straight ahead for long stretches until someone spoke to snap us out of it.

Then one morning, Chika reappeared.

“Why aren’t you writing?” she says again.

I stare at the empty screen.

About what?

“About me.”

I will.

“When?”

Soon.

She makes a grrr sound, like a cartoon tiger.

Don’t be mad.

“Hmph.”

Don’t be mad, Chika.

“Hmph.”

Don’t go, OK?


Just aired: “When Mitch Albom Found Chika” on CBS Sunday Morning

Ten years ago, when a terrible earthquake devastated Haiti, killing hundreds of thousands and leaving millions more injured and homeless, author Mitch Albom (“Tuesdays With Morrie”) traveled to Port-au-Prince to try to help, and found children huddling in an orphanage. And while many people say they will come back to a disaster site and never do, Albom did, time and again, bringing volunteers from Detroit who rebuilt the orphanage and built a new school. But Albom also brought back home something precious: a little girl, Chika, who helped create a family with Albom and his wife, Janine Sabino. She would also inspire his latest book, “Finding Chika.” Nancy Giles reports.

Read more at https://www.cbsnews.com/news/mitch-albom-finding-chika

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