A Haitian Advent

A few days ago I had to go into a local hardware store. I was really surprised to see that the large store had been completely rearranged. Near the entrance, about 15% of the floor space had been cleared in order to set up a Christmas display area. All the tools and things that once occupied that space had been moved elsewhere. I could not believe that two weeks before Thanksgiving the Christmas sales push had begun. On November 28th, just two days after Thanksgiving, I will be returning to Haiti to take possession of the renovated property that will be the home of the Santa Chiara Children’s Center. I land in Haiti on the First Sunday of Advent. I can think of now better place to prepare for the coming of the birth of Christ, who, like the kids we will serve, was born in poverty.

Over the next year we must raise a considerable amount of money to operate center. The Santa Chiara Children’s Center (SCCC) will provide the following services free of charge to the children of Haiti.

1) A Safe Environment
Many children in the neighborhood do not go to school, since their parents cannot afford the fees. Typically, a woman would leave the home before sunrise to try to sell a few meager items at a large, crowded public street market. Children either accompany their mother or are left alone at home…home probably being little more than a shack without electricity or running water. Kids have no safe place to hang out during the day. There are no daycare centers for children in Haiti. The uniqueness of the SCCC is that it will provide a safe, creative, and fun place for a kid to just be a kid.

2) Three Meals a Day
The children who will enter the Santa Chiara Children’s Center will be hungry. For most of their families, survival is a daily struggle. Many kids will go to bed hungry. Parents are often forced to choose between medicine and food or school fees and food. A child cannot learn or grow on an empty stomach. Food is the most basic and most essential service we offer; everything grows out of that. Unlike in childcare facilities in the United States, when a child leaves our center at the end of the day, they will not be going home to a nice, hot dinner.

3) Clothing
Most children will enter the center wearing tattered, old clothing. Some kids wear the same pants or dress day after day. We will have a large supply of good used clothing from thrift stores in the United States. When a young girl is handed a pretty dress, her face instantly radiates joy.

4) Basic Educational Instruction
While SCCC is not a school, we will, provide some basic educational instruction. Many of the children do not know how to read or write. Two staff members have college educations and are fully capable of offering basic language and math tutoring. We also hope to attract volunteer teachers from the United States. We already have one Haitian schoolteacher who has offered to spend a few hours a week with our children. We are also in the process of forming a partnership with a Haitian priest who has computers that will be housed in our center. College students designated by the priests will have access to the computers and in return we will tutor some younger kids in the use of computers.

5) Arts & Crafts Activities
Arts & crafts activities will be a hallmark of the SCCC thanks to the great artistic talent of Ecarlatte Straub. A number of noted Haitian artists will also be available to nurture the innate talent within the children.

6) Payment of School Fees
Without real education, no child will be able to break the chain of poverty. It is our sincere hope to be able to pay the school fees for some children. We currently are already paying school fees for three young people. Depending on the availability of funding, we hope to pay for the education of at least a dozen children a year.

7) Medical Treatment
We are already associated with two doctors who are willing to treat our children. Pending the availability of funds, we will provide transportation to the doctor’s office and cover any associated fees for their treatment.

8) Emergency Overnight Housing
Earlier this year, while Pax et Bonum (PetB) was operating a miniature version of the center out of an apartment in Peguyville, on many occasions there was the need for a child to spend the night due to some emergency. Emergencies are a part of life in Peguyville. For instance, one night a fierce thunderstorm trapped a mother downtown. Her shack was flooded and her five kids had no place to go. They spent the night in the apartment and the next day the mother was overflowing with gratitude. On another occasion, a woman with three young girls was evicted from her home due to her inability to pay the rent. They spent the night in the apartment and the next day (PetB) purchased the material to build them a tent. When an emergency arises, the SCCC will provide overnight housing to children in need.

In all these services, it is clear that the SCCC will be an island of hope in a sea of suffering and overwhelming need. The SCCC may just be a simple candle in the darkness, but that candle will brighten many.

In order to make it easier for people to donate we set up a crowd funding platform operated by Indiegogo design for nonprofit organizations. Here is the link:

We are hope to raise $24,000 by Christmas…and that is the amount we estimate we will need to feed the kids for the coming year. Please be as generous as possible. No donation is too small. $25 goes a long way in feeding kids in Haiti.


2 Responses to “A Haitian Advent”

  1. 1 Ester Perez November 16, 2015 at 4:33 pm

    My kids and I just saw your film on youtube and we were touched by your project. My daughter said that we needed to donate and she even put money that she has earned toward the donation. Keep making these films. We made our donation at this link : http://www.paxetbonumcomm.org I hope it also goes toward the children in Haiti. Blessings to you. Ester

  2. 2 Lewis Williams November 24, 2015 at 9:02 pm

    Hey Gerry, Couldn’t pull your e-mail out from anywhere so tried this as I think you’ll be heading to Haiti soon. Loved the “Loneliness and Longing”, and this will be a good Advent meditation.. Tying back nicely to my love of “Sun and Moon”. Will order this (Sun and Moon revised booked) as a Christmas present for wife and then steal (borrow) it. Wanted you to know that we were appreciative to read the daily blog from last visit to Haiti getting things set up for Santa Chiara. You have much practice carrying your crosses!!. Also wanted you to know we got “Silenzio” to my mom before she passed away and she loved reliving her time in Assisi. We will take some of her ashes there 2017. Also, a long story, but a man contacted me as he liked my icon of Sor Juana de la Cruz, and was taking a copy of it with him to the Poor Clares at her Monastery in Mexico (I think he said only 10 sisters are left!). He asked me to send along a greeting he could deliver. As they are friends of St Francis I sent along a copy of your Silenzio with my greeting. They were SO thankful and really enjoyed it on his feast day.
    Wanted to know if you’d like a very different icon I made as a gift for Santa Chiara. It is a Haitian ‘Madonna and Child’ I made after we visited Fr. Tom a couple years ago. Love you and hope you and Ecarlatte have a good Thanksgiving. Lewis

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