REGINA — Ken Paul is a typical Canadian boy who likes hockey, chicken dinners and hanging out with friends.
It was not always so.
He was living in a Haitian orphanage when he became one of 203 children linked with a new Canadian family in Operation Stork following the 2010 earthquake that devastated Port-au-Prince.
His new parents, Jeff and Debbie Paul of Oakridge Farms near Vancouver, had spent two weeks in Haiti hoping to adopt a child. Ken’s mother was dead and his father agreed to an adoption. He left behind two sisters.
For the Paul family, six-year-old Ken was a gift. Their son, Billy, wanted a little brother and Ken needed a big brother, said Debbie.
He knew nothing about Canada, but his life was about to change forever.
When he arrived in Ottawa Jan. 30, 2010, the temperature was -40 C. He was wearing a raincoat and new sneakers and carried a backpack with a spare T-shirt and five face clothes to wipe the sweat away in the hot Haitian days. He spoke only Haitian Creole.
He moved to the family farm in British Columbia, where he was welcomed with open arms and plenty of love.
He was in reasonable health but was only three feet tall and weighed 47 pounds. His little body was full of worms, and he had to be treated twice to get rid of the parasites.
At the orphanage he received two meals a day with some meat on Sundays. He was filled with wonder when his new Canadian mother gave him an entire drumstick after preparing a chicken dinner. At the orphanage the large pieces were reserved for “the big boys.”
The Pauls enrolled him in kindergarten and English classes and Ken was transformed. He learned to skate, and now plays defence for his local peewee hockey team.
“They put me on skates as soon as I got here and I thought it was really cool. It took me a long time to learn how to skate, but now it is my favourite sport,” he said.
His other favourite pastime is working with cattle, and he can be seen at livestock shows across the West, including Canadian Western Agribition.
“I saw my first cow when I came here because my brother had a steer in 4-H,” he said at this year’s show, held Nov 23-28 in Regina.
“I thought it was really cool because most of the animals in Haiti were really small, and in Canada they are like, humungous,” he said after a team showmanship class where he and his partners placed third.
He joined 4-H when he was nine and has become an avid member with a steer and cow-calf project. He also excelled at public speaking, which included a speech about his early life in Haiti.
He also met Hereford and Angus breeder Grant Hirsche of High River, Alta., who taught him how to show cattle and care for animals.
Hirsche said it was a pleasure to mentor an enthusiastic child who has faced considerable adversity and keeps smiling.
“When you see the environment he was in, he appreciates it more,” Hirsche said.
“He learned and listened. He is quite competitive and he wants to do well.”
When the Hirsche crew met to discuss Agribition plans, Ken was the one willing to get up extra early to prepare the cattle.
“There are not many 12 year olds who tell you they want to be here at four in the morning,” Hirsche said.
Debbie said Ken has been a welcome addition to her family since the moment they met the skinny little orphan in Haiti.
“He is an absolute miracle and I love him dearly. We are blessed.”