Haitian children who were orphaned after a devastating earthquake destroyed the impoverished country nearly a year ago, have been adopted by French families.
"What a relief. These families have waited for a year after the earthquake and some no longer believed it would happen," French Ambassador Didier Le Bret said as he welcomed the adoptive parents arriving aboard a government-chartered plane in Port-au-Prince.
"They have shown patience and respect for the Haitian government."
The group of 105 parents is due to return to Paris later Tuesday with a first group of 113 children, in time for Christmas. A second flight was due to make the same trip on Thursday.
A total of 318 adopted Haitian children are included in a special program to bring them to France after disruptions caused by the earthquake.
The children were all in the process of being adopted when a massive quake struck on January 12, killing over 250,000 people and causing adoptions to be delayed with some records lost in the rubble.
They were given special consular documents allowing them to go to France, despite not yet having French passports. About 700 other children whose files were found to be in order have already been brought to France.
Rui Pereira, who came to fetch his six-year-old son Woodson, said the many months of waiting were rough.
"The wait was difficult, but we are proud to be able to bring them back home with us and hope they will lead accomplished lives. We will give them lots of love," he told AFP.
Doctors and a crisis management team also traveled to Port-au-Prince to accompany the adopted children.
The children and their parents were led to the French ambassador's residence in the capital, where tents were set up. Doctors will them examine the children, especially in light of the deadly cholera outbreak that has swept through Haiti in recent months, killing 2,500 people.
France took a leading role in the international aid effort after the earthquake, but associations representing adoptive families accused the government of being slow to act for the adopted children.
Parents said the process moved forward after the French foreign minister at the time of the earthquake, Bernard Kouchner, was replaced last month by Michele Alliot-Marie in a government reshuffle.
"Adoptions can only take place with guarantees for the children, the families, legal guarantees; and in a country as disorganized as Haiti after the quake, it was not easy," Alliot-Marie said.
One of the parents, Valerie Damilleville, said she was caught by surprise when the government suddenly told her she would be flying out to pick up her 19-month-old adoptive son, Jean, after months of delay.
"I have prepared warm clothes, a cozy jacket, woolly socks, little shoes, dungarees, toys, biscuits and a baby bottle," she said. "I've put it all in a little rucksack" for the trip.
Nadia Boulkessof, who plans to take home two-year-old Rose-Dania, also was overwhelmed by the precipitous turn of events.
"I'm a little disoriented because this is happening so suddenly. I didn't have time to prepare," she said just hours before taking off from Paris.
"The last time I bought a toy, it was in December 2009 and with the quake that ravaged all our hopes, and those of the Haitian people, I no longer bought anything just out of superstition."