Seven years ago, Blaine Benson traveled to an orphanage in Haiti to
lend a helping hand.He got two armfuls in return.
“During that week I did electrical work, helped with their
water storage and designed a new wireless computer network,”
says the general manager of B&L Pools in Phoenix.
The 2003 mission was only supposed to address capital improvements
and maintenance of the facility and property.
That is until Benson met 6-year-old Ronise and her brother
“They were the cutest little things in the world,” he
recalls of the pair at the time. “So we’re walking
along and I’m thinking of things to talk about that Ronise
can relate to. At one point I asked her what she liked to eat. So
she’s thinking of what they have there, and she says she
likes rice, and she likes chicken.
“Then, really, really quietly, she says, ‘and I like
ice cream.’” Benson continues. “The whole way she
said it, everything about her demeanor and shyness — I just
thought, ‘OK, I’m done.’”
What followed that short visit was a protracted, patience-draining
international adoption effort that would drag on for nearly two
years. But Benson’s faith and extraordinary perseverance
ultimately won out, culminating in the arrival on U.S. soil of his
two newest family members.
Benson initiated the process almost immediately upon his return to
the states. First, he had to ensure his house was deemed suitable
for young children — fencing around the pool, any potentially
dangerous items secured, etc. He also had to be prepared for
surprise at-home visits from the health department; and all three
family members (Benson, his wife and their teenage daughter) were
subject to individual interviews by psychologists.
Then, toward what looked like the end of the ordeal, political
power in Haiti changed hands. When that happens, Benson explains,
oftentimes government services and policies are altered.
“So in terms of documentation, they said, ‘OK, now
it’s no longer two copies signed by this person —
it’s six copies signed by these two people,” he
explains. “So we’d set up all this paperwork and have
it all ready, and they’d come back to us with something
totally different. So we’d start all over again.”
That added about 6 more months to the routine.
When all was said and done, Benson and his wife had met with
representatives from both Arizona senators’ offices, made
three separate trips to the State Department, worked to modify
legislation, and launched countless e-mail and letter-writing
For the most part, Benson’s patience remained intact. He knew
at the outset it could take a year or longer to clear the necessary
hurdles. But after about 18 months, let’s say he grew
extremely, well, focused.
“For a while there I was not fun to live with,” he
recalls with a laugh. “I had to take a few days off of work.
There were a couple of points where I was ready to
But while a lesser human may have lost his resolve, the prolonged
process had the opposite effect on Benson.
“It only made me more determined,” he says.
“There was absolutely no way they were going to stop us from
doing this. I remember thinking, ‘I don’t care if it
takes the rest of my life, this is going to
Finally, 22 months after the decision was made, it did happen.
Benson and his wife got the OK from Haitian officials, and a week
later they brought the children home.
But his work is far from over.
In the coming years, Benson hopes to continue his charitable
efforts both domestically and abroad. He and his wife could spend
half their year establishing aid programs from home, and the next
six months on the road administering these programs from the field
— whether in Third World countries, or even in different
parts of the U.S. that may need a hand.“My ultimate
goal,” he says simply, “is to help other people.”