- (Photo: AP Images / LM Otero)
Jim Allen, one of the eight American volunteers freed from jail in Haiti, said he believed the team had all the paperwork necessary to take Haitian children to an orphanage in the Dominican Republic.
“We were told that all the documents required to get kids into the Dominican Republic she (team leader Laura Silsby) had,” said Allen to Anderson Cooper on CNN’s “AC360” Friday evening. “And on the Haitian side there were some documents that we needed to acquire and that was part of our goal also.”
When asked if he had seen the documents, Allen said he did see them when the children were being loaded onto the bus. The documents, said the American volunteer, were filled out as each child boarded the vehicle.
“I didn’t look at the documents and read the documents, but I watched them write down their names and write down their birthdates and I watched the pastor sign it,” he said.
Jim Allen is one of the ten American Christian volunteers who was arrested Jan. 29 by Haitian authorities as they were trying to transport 33 Haitian children to an orphanage in the Dominican Republic. Haitian officials say the group did not have permission to take the children out of the country. The American team was subsequently charged with child kidnapping and criminal association.
The Haitian judge overseeing the case released eight of the ten volunteers on condition that they promise to return if needed as investigators continue to examine the case. The eight Christian volunteers returned to the United States early Thursday morning. Two volunteers, including Silsby, were held in Haiti for further questioning.
Among the volunteers, Allen had gained special attention because it was made known that he joined the group only 48 hours before the trip.
Allen affirmed during the interview that he did not know team leader Laura Silsby before the trip. He said he only knew two people in the group before the trip: his cousin – who invited him – and his nephew. The Texas welder also stated that he only had a day or two notice before flying to Miami and then Haiti.
His understanding of the trip was that he would help prepare an orphanage in the Dominican Republic.
Allen, in an earlier live interview on “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” said he and other members have no “ill feelings” towards Silsby or anyone else regarding what happened in Haiti. He said everyone had a genuine concern for the Haitian children who were suffering after the massive earthquake devastated Port-au-Prince last month.
During the “AC360” interview, Allen addressed the controversy surrounding the fact that up to two-thirds of the children the group was transporting had at least one living parent. The group had said the children were orphans.
Allen said he was “not at all” aware that many of the children had a living parent. There were adults who came with the children to the bus, but Allen said the volunteers thought they were aunts, uncles or grandparents.
“They specifically told us this child has no one to take care of them,” Allen said, "that both their father and mother are no longer living.”
Despite the confusion and nearly three weeks in prison, Allen said what he regretted the most about the ordeal in Haiti was that he was not able to help anyone.
“I felt like God actually called me to go help these people,” Allen said. “What I regret the most is that I wasn’t able to do anything.”
Most of the ten volunteers are from two Idaho Baptist churches affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention. Allen hailed from Texas and another member came from Kansas.