As many of you know, since May of 2015, Pax et Bonum Communications has dramatically expanded our ministry to the poor by opening a free day care center for impoverished children in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The Santa Chiara Children’s Center serves between 50 and 70 kids a day. Moreover, 20 of the children actually live at the Center. The children are given three meals a day.
The children entering our gate come bearing all kinds of physical, emotional, and psychological wounds that need to be lovingly embraced and healed. Many have been physically, verbally, and sexually abused. Some have been abandoned or sold into domestic servitude, working long hours for meager scraps of food. Besides feeding and educating our kids, Santa Chiara strives to transform their lives by giving them a sense of hope and purpose, by treating them with dignity and respect. In just over a year, we are seeing the early fruit of our work, as a number of children living at Santa Chiara are being transformed before our very eyes. They are feeling a sense of family and are lovingly caring for each other.
During our first year of operation, I have been filming all the activities at Santa Chiara. I am very happy to announce that we have just released a new film about our work in Haiti.
A Place for Kids to Be Kids tells the improbable story of how a filmmaker (me) and an artist (my wife, Ecarlatte) left our comfortable lives in California to open a free day care center for children in the poorest nation in the western hemisphere. The film traces the evolution of the Santa Chiara Children’s Center from operating out of a small apartment in a slum caring and for ten kids a day to our move to a larger, safer walled compound serving up to 70 children a day.
Pope Francis said: “I see the church as a field hospital after battle.” In its humble, very limited way, the Santa Chiara Children’s Center is a kind of field hospital for kids. They knock on our gate weary from their battle with extreme poverty, constant hunger, emotional neglect, and often physical abuse. They come wounded in many ways. We begin by welcoming them, then feeding them, then embracing and encouraging them, then playing with them, then teaching them…and sometimes even healing them. When needed we offer them temporary shelter and even access to medical care. We pay school fees for some kids. But mostly, we offer them love.
Because most of our kids are unschooled, an important part of the mission of Santa Chiara is to offer the children classes in reading, writing, and math. Many of the children cannot read. Each child is given one-on-one personal attention depending upon their needs. Without educational opportunities the children will not have any chance to escape the prison of poverty that ensnares so many Haitian. We also provide art and craft classes which is the only time the kids get to explore their own creativity. Outside the walls of Santa Chiara there is no time for anything but the struggle for survival.
The film is divided into two parts, each presented on a separate DVD. Part One, “Sowing the Seed,” documents the early days of living in the slum. Part Two, “The Harvest,” features life in our new, larger home. Part One runs 49 minutes. Part Two runs 93 minutes.
You can help support our outreach in Haiti by purchasing the film today, for a donation of $30. We will soon be revising the PetB website so you can order and pay for the film on-line. However, if you simply send me an e-mail, I will put a DVD in the mail before I return to Haiti on July 19th. You can then send a check at your convenience. Because of the rapid and dramatic growth we are in urgent need of funding to keep Santa Chiara afloat…so please, order a film today if possible. I am sure the film will touch your heart and inspire you to be more fully united with the poor.
Peace and blessings,
PS: Just over 100 of Santa Chiara’s supporters receive near daily updates from Haiti in which I share compelling stories about our kids. If you wish to be added to the list of recipients of these journals just let me know.