By Howard Koplowitz
Stephanie Agustin spent eight painful months fearing the worst: that her half-brother died in the 7.3-magnitude earthquake that ravaged Haiti.
“I couldn’t sleep,” the 28-year-old Hollis resident and Haiti native said. “Every time I went to bed I thought about it.”
Agustin, who emigrated from Haiti in 1996, works as the Medicaid services coordinator for Haitian Americans United for Progress, a Cambria Heights-based organization that has helped locate family members like Agustin’s since the earthquake.
Agustin said her husband, father and her husband’s family gave her the strength to work while her brother’s status was in limbo.
“Because of their support, I was able to go to work and do my job,” she said. “It was sad, but I got to do what I have to do every day.”
Agustin did everything she could to locate her brother by sending money to an address where she thought he might be, but he never turned up there.
In September, Agustin got a call from a cousin that her brother survived after eight months of uncertainty.
“I was happy,” she said, tears streaming down her face. “I couldn’t even talk that day. I was so happy that he was OK.”
Her half-brother, Jean-Michel Lamothe,was living on the streets.
“That same day I shared the news on Facebook to everyone.” his sister said.
Agustin said there were times she felt like crying while assisting other Haitian immigrants in their search for missing family members, “but you don’t want to cry because you have to help.”
Her half-brother was found after HAUP”s executive director sent a staff member to go find him. Within a day, he was located.
“I never gave up,” Agustin said.
Lamothe now lives with family members in Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital.
“I thought that I lost him,” Agustin said. “But I never gave up. There’s hope. I was happy that day [he was found] and when I spoke to him I was like, ‘Wow. There is hope.’”
Agustin said she would love for Jean-Michel to move to Queens and that her father is working to make that happen, but for now he is in college in Haiti.
Agustin said she has sent Jean-Michel Facebook messages, but he cannot receive them. He is working on getting his account approved.
Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4573.