Archive for the 'News' Category



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:
https://www.generosity.com/fundraisers/santa-chiara-children-s-center/x/3502104

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.

October Haitian Journal

As most of you know, I was in Haiti from October 8th through October 18th working on establishing the Santa Chiara Children’s Center, which is the new outreach ministry of Pax et Bonum Communications. Each day during the trip I kept a detailed journal. Since my return home, I’ve been busy typing the journal I wrote by hand. I thought I would post one journal entry on my blog. If anyone wants to see the full journal please write to me at http://www.straubgt@aol and I will send you a pdf file.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015 at 7:05pm. Tonight we feed six kids and one adult a very hearty meal prepared by the loving hands of Ecarlatte who made a big pot of rice and beans and a big pot of chicken parts and potatoes strewed in tomato sauce. Cooked outdoors, it took nearly three hours to prepare. As she dished out the plates of food I thought the portions were too large and couldn’t imagine anyone finishing what she had served them, especially the little kids. But I was wrong. Very plate was returned to the kitchen without even a grain of rice on it. After the meal, everyone sat around the balcony laughing and joking…their bellies were full and they were happy. The homeless woman for whom we built the tent structure seemed especially happy to have a hot meal and eat it in a pleasant environment. Everyone was especially hungry tonight because we were busy this morning the Fr. Camy and checking on the alternative location for the center and so we never prepared a lunch for anyone.

Fr. Camy told us how hard it was to help the poor in Haiti. The people are conditioned to expect corruption, after all they have known nothing but corruption and abuse for centuries. People question his motives, thinking he is lining his own pockets more than he is educating poor kids. He said starting something new is always very hard and that we need to stay strong and trust in God. God, he said, knows our hearts even if everyone else doubts our motives. I mentioned that even in America when you attempt to bear witness to the Gospel you eventually will encounter resistance from the consumer-oriented, self-satisfied corners of our society.

I felt a bit down today…I suppose I was just overwhelmed by the scope of the problems the poor face in this poor place. Everywhere you turn you encounter another heart-breaking story. Tonight as I watched everyone consume their meal, I thought: “What will they eat next week when we are not here?” I also thought about the thousands upon thousands of people who are just as hungry as those we served tonight. The problem seems insurmountable. I said something to the priest along the lines of “God is bigger than our problems…no job is too big for God.” Yet, at times, I don’t believe that. I think about, for instance, the cost-effectiveness of this trip. What have we done so far? We built one tent structure for a homeless family, and we feed, on average, six kids three meals a day. I have no idea exactly what we have spent on food and building supplies these past four days, but it must be around $500. But when you add in the $2,000 in plane tickets for Ecarlatte and me, someone might question the cost effectiveness of our efforts. But, if you were here and saw the smiles, those cold questions would melt away.

This is a land of endless sad stories. The people are hurting. There is a tangible sense of anger and frustration in the air. Everything is truly hard. If I had only had ten bucks to my name and was alone in Port-au-Prince…I wouldn’t last a week. As I write this journal entry, there is so much laugher outside on the balcony I need to put down the sad pen and go film the fun.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015 at 8:40pm. The kids are still on the balcony playing. A few minutes ago, I went to the bathroom to take a quick shower. I was hot and sweaty from the long day. I turned on the shower…a few drops came out, then nothing. The tank on the roof was empty. I became very frustrated, very quickly. But in the middle of my silent rant as I got dressed I realized all the people we served tonight had no shower water either…ever. As a Franciscan, I’m supposed to praise God in everything, the good and the bad alike. That is often not easy. It wasn’t tonight.

It is now near nine o’clock…the kids are still here. We woke up with three of them already here, slipping on the floor in Baby’s room. By 7:00am, four or five more kids came for breakfast. To be honest, I’m not used to having so many people around all day long. I remember filming at the St. Francis Inn (the soup kitchen in Philadelphia) and hearing how the staff needed to protect a little quiet time every day for each of them. The needs are so overwhelming, then can cause you to work yourself to the point of exhaustion. We’ll have to establish reasonable limits or we will burn ourselves out rather quickly. Each day here is our small apartment, we have kids with us from 6:00am to 9:00pm. I don’t know how many will be sleeping here tonight.

On My Way to Haiti

This evening Ecarlatte and I will be returning to Haiti to continue our work of establishing the Santa Chiara Children’s Center. We will return on October 18th.

While the Santa Chiara Children’s Center is many months away from becoming fully operational, it is already informally functioning out of our modest apartment. We are feeding and clothing kids in the slum where we live. Ecarlatte has also rescued a three-year-old homeless girl named Christella who is living in the apartment. When Hurricane Erika pounded Port-au-Prince with heavy rain and 50mph winds on August 29th Ecarlatte invited five homeless kids to spend the night in the apartment. She fed them a spread out a blanket on the floor for them to sleep. One little boy said, “I want to stay here forever.” The dream is already, by God’s boundless grace, coming to life…and it is very exciting. When we are not in Haiti, Ecarlatte’s 15-year-old niece, Orlane “Baby” Alexandre, and a young woman housekeeper named Elita (who is a former domestic slave), live in the apartment and continue to feed neighborhood kids on a daily breakfast. Your support is greatly appreciated. Ecarlatte and I will be spend one to two weeks a month in to Haiti until we obtain the building in April that will house the center.

I envision the Santa Chiara Children’s Center as a beehive of creativity, where kids can come to play, to learn crafts, to feel safe, and be able to laugh, sing, and paint…and perhaps even learn to read and write English. I envision volunteers from America coming to help, especially people with medical and teaching skills. I’m thrilled that a number of professional people have already indicated they are itching to join us in Haiti…including a doctor, a teacher, a musician, an icon painter, and a nurse.

If you wish to know more about Pax et Bonum Communication’s outreach to Haiti, please let me know and I will send you the full story of my dream and plans for the center.

New Film from Pax et Bonum Communications

I’m VERY excited. This is an announcement I’ve been waiting to send for at least seven years.

Back in 2008 I made three trips to Italy to make a film on the life and spirituality of Saint Francis of Assisi. For me personally, the film was an antidote to all the suffering I had witnessed in the previous eight years while making films on intense poverty in Uganda, Kenya, India, Brazil, Peru, El Salvador, Mexico, and the Philippines. Much of the film was shot during a month-long pilgrimage to Assisi and all the beautiful places in Umbria and Tuscany that played a vital role in the life of St. Francis. I spent most of 2009 writing and editing the film. Before it was finished, my life was interrupted by the disastrous earthquake in Haiti that leveled the capital in January 2010. I was in Port-au-Prince just before the earthquake and immediately afterward. The suffering and carnage I witnessed during the first three months following the earthquake left me crippled by PTSD. Between that and a perfect storm of other events pushed me into a nine-month-long sabbatical, where for the most part I simply sat in stillness and silence. Buried in the aftermath of the events following the earthquake was the Francis film. In January of 2011, with my physical, emotional, and spiritual life renewed, I formed a new ministry dedicated to putting the power of film at the service of the poor. The first film Pax et Bonum Communications produced was Mud Pies & Kites, which fully documented the suffering in Haiti. That was quickly followed by a film in a refugee camp in Kenya, a film featuring a doctor caring for very sick and very poor kids in Peru, a film on the work of Catholic Charities on behalf of the poor here in Los Angeles, and a film featuring the Medical Missionaries of Mary in Honduras.

In the summer of 2014, exhausted from making that string of films, while also giving at least a half dozen presentations a year in schools and churches across the United States, as well as in Europe, I turned my attention to the one project that meant more to me than anything else I’ve ever done before: the Francis film. However, we faced a herculean obstacle which was nearly impossible to overcome. Due to an unfortunate circumstances, the old computer on which we stored the film was accidently erased by my former ministry. All we had as a guide to all the work we had done was two low-resolution DVDs containing part one and part two of the film. In order to make the film, we had to virtually reconstruct it from scratch. That meant we had to sort through over 100 hours of video footage, 20 hours of 8mm film, and over 2,000 still photographs…and match them to the corresponding images on the DVDs. It was like tackling a gigantic film jig-saw puzzle. The only other thing we had from all the work we did in 2009 was the final audio mix containing the music and my narration. But because the music and narration were tied together, we could not alter either.

It has taken a full year to complete the tedious task of reassembling the film. However, there was a hidden blessing in the dark cloud that hovered over us as we began to work on the film. Because we were putting fresh eyes on all the original footage, we discovered many hidden gems. The new film was looking much better than the old version. Moreover, we were able to have the 8mm film retransferred in hi-definition, making it look much better than it originally did. I was also able to integrate hi-definition material from our new poverty films to replace standard definition footage from much older films. The end result is that this is a much, much better film than the one we would have released back in 2010 had circumstances not derailed the project.

Moreover, now in the age of Pope Francis, the story of Saint Francis is more timely than ever before.

Confession: while the five poverty films PetB has produced have been very helpful to the ministries featured in them, they do not sell very well. Each of those films cost us at least $30,000 to make, and they generated very little income to help us continue our work of being a prophetic voice speaking out on behalf of the poor. It is my sincere hope that the Francis film, which is titled The Loneliness and Longing of St. Francis of Assisi, will help generate the income we need to stay afloat. But more than financial resources for the ministry, it is my prayer that the film touches the hearts of viewers and prompts them to emulate the life of Francis in their own way and also prompts them to follow Pope Francis’ wish that we reach out to those living on the “existential peripheries” of our time.

I humbly urge you to visit our web site http://www.paxetbonumcomm.org click on the icon of the cover of the film on the home page which will take you to a clip featuring the first ten minutes of part two of the film and the story of St. Francis’ encounter with the leader of the Muslims. And then visit the page featuring all 22 of our films from my former and present ministry and order The Loneliness and Longing of St. Francis of Assisi. This link will take you directly to the Francis film page on our website:

http://www.oraclebonespress.com/?page_id=1219

Please order the film now to help us cover the cost of manufacturing the film. The film will be ready to distribute in just a few days.

Peace and blessings,

Gerry

From Dream to Reality

For the past few months something has been going on inside of me (spiritually, not physically). I’ve been struggling to discern if God is calling me to a new form of ministry in Haiti…or if I am just growing weary of the tedious administrative and technical work associated with the filmmaking part of Pax et Bonum Communications. This year as we worked on the completion of the epic film on the life and spirituality of Saint Francis of Assisi we have been besieged by an endless stream of technical problems which, besides costing a month’s worth of unproductive days, forced me to dip deeply into our operating budget to correct the problems, to the point where we do not have the funds in the bank to make it to the end of the year. Computers and software needed for editing become obsolete so quickly a humble, underfunded operation like mine can’t keep up with it. Thankfully, a large unexpected gift from someone I did not even know covered the cost of completing the film, which will be released in mid-September. The film is titled The Loneliness and Longing of St. Francis of Assisi.

Starting an outreach to the poor in Haiti was, in hindsight, a pretty bold, daring idea. Back in January when I had the inspiration to do more than merely put the power of film at service of the poor but to actually begin to serve the poor in the poorest nation in the western hemisphere, I really had no inkling of the complexity of launching a project aimed at simply providing poor kids in Haiti a safe and creative place to spend the day. It was nonetheless easy to talk about it in the abstract. It sounded like a good idea, and I received lots of positive feedback about it when I began to tentatively voice the concept to friends and supporters. I was really surprised by the instant and enthusiastic support for the creation of the Santa Chiara Children’s Center. Suddenly I was confronted with the job of converting the dream into reality. I really wasn’t sure if I could actually give up the comfort of my modest rented home in Burbank and live in Haiti amongst all its chronic poverty and widespread violence. Could actually do it…that is, could I essentially turn my back on my nice, settled life in Burbank, California and eventually move to the unsettled chaos of Haiti? I wasn’t sure. In order to be sure, I knew I needed to go spend a little time in Haiti…and see how I felt about it.

So our first trip in May was simply to put our toes in the water and see if we could really make such a drastic change in our lives. I needed to know if I could, emotionally, physically, and spiritually, actually end my days on earth in this most inhospitable of places amidst the widespread suffering and destitution. I admit I was a bit overwhelmed at being back in Haiti and seeing close up the heartbreaking levels of poverty endured by so many people…especially the children. Nothing is easy in Haiti. For the poor, every day is a struggle for survival. I saw how starting a day care center from scratch would be a herculean task that would require a lot of money, a lot of patience, and a lot of hard work. While the dream of establishing the Santa Chiara Children’s Center seemed a bit daunting, we nonetheless felt we should keep moving forward, a step at a time, and see where it led, to see if the inevitable obstacles could be overcome. To be honest, as the trip drew to a close, I really wasn’t sure. But one thing was clear: we would need to make many trips to Haiti, which in turn meant we could not afford to stay in a hotel during all the subsequent trips that would be required to do the research and find a building.

So, during our June trip, we set out to find a cheap place to live. And we did. Actually Ecarlatte found a modest place in a very poor neighborhood. When I saw it, I initially had a great resistance to it. It was literally in a slum. St. Francis would have been right at home there, but I was very nervous just walking down the long, twisting, narrow alley to the building. It seemed like a dangerous place, especially for a white guy, the only white guy living there. I felt very vulnerable. I didn’t think I could live there. But Ecarlatte was so certain about the apartment, we went ahead and signed a one-year lease, even though I had some reservations about it. The rent came to $233 a month…and a dozen friends each covered one-month’s rent, which we had to pay in advance, a total of $2,800 for the entire year. We suddenly had a home in Haiti. The building itself was a step above all the other dwellings in the slum, and the owner actually lived in the building on the first floor, which made it feel a bit safer.

Day by day during the July trip, my anxiety and fears began to subside and I was beginning to feel as if I might be able to someday live fulltime in Haiti. People living near us where actually nice to me…and more than a bit curious why I would elect to live in such a poor place. I adjusted rather quickly to living in the slum. I confess it was harder to get used to the noise, the smell of the garbage and open sewers, the daily invasion of flies, ants, and other creepy insects, not having hot water, and the fact that the electricity went out at least once a day for about an hour or so. But even those petty annoyances were greatly overshadowed by the sheer joy of living a really simple, basic life, as we began to care for Baby. This little girl made me really smile for the first time in a long time.

Still the challenges we faced in opening the children’s center seemed rather daunting, and there was no clear way forward. We just had to keep taking baby steps forward in the direction that seemed most plausible. After my third trip to Haiti (May, June, & July), something was beginning to happen to me. Suddenly, I was losing interest in making films, and even writing books…all I could think about was the children of Haiti. The question evolved from “could I live in Haiti” to “how soon could I live in Haiti.” Still, there were lots of practical things to take into account. It seemed prudent to spend more time in Haiti, but still keep our presence in California, where I have all the infra-structure we still needed. We found a building that would make the perfect permanent home for the center, and it would be available in next Spring. I felt I had until then to not only raise the $10,000 rent for the year (which had to be paid in full before we could occupy the building), but we also had to continue to make trips to Haiti to mingle with the people we hoped to serve, and to explore all the options and possibilities for the kinds of services we would offer. While I was concerned about all the money we would need to raise (the 10K just got us the building, but equipment, supplies, and Haitian staff would also require funding), I was more concerned about truly discerning if this was God’s will for me. This was a huge step into the unknown. A few days ago I received an unexpected large donation for a Franciscan sister who heard me speak at an event last year. Before this generous donation arrived, seemingly from out of the blue, our Santa Chiara account had less than $1,000 in it, barely enough to cover the cost of one flight from Los Angeles to Port-au-Prince. Suddenly, I had the funding to keep going. I really felt it was a sign from God that this was the right thing for me to be doing and that I needed to keeping moving forward and trusting fully that God’s grace would take care of everything.

During our first three trips, I clearly saw Ecarlatte’s true concern for the children and her passion to help them find a pathway to a better life. Ecarlatte has escaped the misery that blankets Haiti. She has made it to the Promised Land. Life in Burbank has everything. She is going to school to learn English, selling her art, making new friends, singing in the church choir, and can actually drive to a supermarket. Yet she is willing to walk away from it and return to the troubled island of agony. These past two weeks while she has been in Haiti caring for Baby during and after the surgery, I was stuck here in Burbank because I had to work on the Francis film, prepare for an upcoming speaking engagement in Delaware before 500 Catholic school teachers and administrators, and complete the revised manuscript for the new, updated edition of The Sun & Moon Over Assisi which will be published in September…and I did not want to do any of it. All I wanted was to be in Haiti with Ecarlatte and Baby. Suddenly the Francis film and the Francis book really were not that important to me…or at least not nearly as important as Ecarlatte and Baby and our mission in Haiti. Last week a publisher wrote to me and invited me to submit a manuscript for their consideration. Normally this would have been a very exciting message to receive. But I instantly knew that my focus was now on Haiti and I really didn’t have the time to submit something to them. I knew in that moment, that something real was happening inside me…that I was about to make a radical break from the past.

While the Santa Chiara Children’s Center is a long way from becoming operational, it is already informally functioning out of our apartment. While Ecarlatte is in Haiti caring for Baby after her kidney surgery, she is feeding and clothing kids in the slum where we live. Ecarlatte has also rescued a three-year-old homeless girl named Christella who is living in the apartment. The dream is already, by God’s boundless grace, coming to life…and it is very exciting. Your support is greatly appreciated.

One final thought about the filmmaking dimension of Pax et Bonum Communications. It seems clear that in the not too distant future, I’m going to suspend the filmmaking portion of the ministry. It is not clear when this will happen. Meanwhile, once the new documentary on the life and spiritually of the saint who inspires and guides my life and ministry is completed, we will begin work on a new film that will utilize footage and photographs from my 22 films, including lots of material that has never been seen before. The film will require no new production work. It will be titled One Family. The film will be a visual meditation on global poverty. It will be an invitation to put aside the normal things of your life and spend some quiet time observing the life of some of the poorest members of your family…and contemplate how you personally might respond to their dreadful plight. It is an invitation to be still…and allow God to touch your heart so you can hold the hands of the chronically poor you will encounter if you look. After this film has been manufactured, I will more than likely cease all filming, except for short, promotional videos featuring the mission of the Santa Chiara Children’s Center and perhaps for other ministries working in Haiti. The other essential component of Pax et Bonum Communications, namely my giving free “poverty and prayer” presentations at high schools, colleges, and churches will go on unabated and even with renewed energy for being a prophetic voice speaking out on behalf of the chronically poor and marginalized, shining the light of the gospel into what Pope Francis has called “the existential peripheries” of our time.

I urge you to order the revised, updated edition of The Sun & Moon Over Assisi from Tau Publishing (www.TauPublishing.com), and to also order from us the new film on St. Francis, The Loneliness and Longing of St. Francis of Assisi, which I think is the crown jewel of my working life (www.PaxEtBonumComm.org).

The Santa Chiara Children’s Center

Later today, I will be traveling to Port-au-Prince, Haiti. During my ten day stay in Haiti I will be taking the first tentative steps at opening a day care center for children which my wife and I will operate. Pax et Bonum Communications hopes to soon be doing more than putting the power of film at the service of the poor…we will actually be serving poor children in Haiti.

Allow me to paint a picture of “child care” in Haiti. Basically, there is none. A poor woman with children who earns her living selling things at a public market or on the street has no viable option other than to take the kids with her. Women set up their tables in the larger markets at 4:00am, dragging their sleepy children with them. The women who spend their days seated along the side of the road selling some meager amount of produce or cheap merchandise must also take their kids with them. Besides breathing in the obnoxious fumes spewed from old vehicles, it’s not uncommon for children to be hurt by passing traffic. Another option is for women is to “rent” the kids out to families for the day; the child will spend the day inside someone’s home doing all sorts of menial tasks, such as cleaning and hauling water. The family “renting” the kid for the day will feed the child in exchange for the work they do. The food the child gets will simply be a bowl of plain rice. Even worse, some women loan their kids to a person who spends their day begging on the street. This is hard for us to imagine: using young kids as a tool to elicit sympathy. The professional beggar will share some small percentage of what they “earn” during the day with the child’s mother. If they don’t make any money, the mother gets no money. To add to the complexity of the situation many poor women can’t afford to send their children to school, as they don’t have the money for tuition, books, and uniforms.

It’s been estimated that half the women in Haiti are illiterate…they have never been to school. They can’t even sign their own name. Many of these uneducated women don’t understand how people get AIDS or other serious diseases. This absence of rudimentary education makes them extremely vulnerable; they lack awareness of fundamental human rights and are easily manipulated into “selling” their children into various forms of servitude to pay off a debt to a money lender. A child who has been sold into servitude is called a “restavec,” a word which comes from the French reste avec meaning “one who stays with.” A restavec is a child who is sent by his or her parents to work for a host household as a domestic servant because the parents can’t afford to care for the child. Restavec may refer to any child staying with a host family, but usually refers specifically to those who are indentured. Restavecs are typically young girls who have been born into severe poverty. These children receive food and shelter in exchange for doing housework. Restavecs are usually treated badly; they will not receive any education and are often physically abused and sexually molested.

Restavecs have no social or political voice, nor can they determine their own futures. Tragically, the life of a restavec is often considered better than the alternative life of chronic, hopeless poverty, which is why some parents allow their children to become restavecs; of course, the child will never have a better life. No Haitian parent wants to see their child become a restavec; poverty forces them to resort to this painful alternative. In many cases, the economic means parents used to have no longer exist. The rising influx of foreign rice, eggs, and other things on the market by big business has destroyed the peasant economy, and created a whole chain of events that leaves some people with no other option than to send their child away so the child has a chance to survive. Haiti is a nation of ten million people, and thousands of children are restavecs. Theirs is a hidden, harsh life. As poverty and political turmoil increases, so do the numbers of restavecs. Most people will get rid of their restavecs by the time they turn fifteen, because a law was passed stating that at age fifteen all people must be paid.

The truly impoverished Haitians have barely a glimmer of hope of how to change their sorrowful plight. Someone once told me they went to church “to pray for hope.” Life in Haiti for the children of the chronically poor who have not become restavecs is nonetheless still very, very hard. I believe God has put it in my heart to do what I can to make things a little better for at least a few kids…and maybe even save some from the fate of becoming restavecs. My experience of filming poverty all over the world for the past fifteen years has been preparing me for this new mission. I’ve witnessed many small ministries begun by one very motivated individual who has made a great difference in the lives of those they served. I’m ready to do likewise.

Over the years, I’ve often wished I could be offering more hands-on help to the poor. Lately, I feel this real pull toward Haiti. In late January of this year, I floated the idea of children’s center in Haiti to the PetB board of directors. Much to my delight, the idea was met with instant enthusiasm and support. Since then, the dream of The Santa Chiara Children’s Center has become more and more real as I shared the idea with friends and family members.

If you want to know more about our plans for the children’s or want to help in anyway, please send me an e-mail and when I return home on May 17th I will send you my full report.

While I’m in Haiti I will not be posting updates on the trip, as I will have limited access to the internet. However, I have preset blogs to be posted while I’m away. Please keep me in your prayers.

SILENZIO: a new film from Gerry Straub

SilenzioPoster1

Silenzio is a film without words. Except for the brief prologue and epilogue, there isn’t even a hint of narration; all you will hear is beautiful, soothing, inspirational music. Moreover, about half the film consists of still photographs. Silenzio is about beauty, stillness, and silence. The sole purpose of the film is to reveal and celebrate the resplendent countryside and medieval towns that Saint Francis of Assisi loved very much. Along the way the film visits many exquisitely beautiful churches whose walls are covered with magnificent, centuries-old art. While the film takes you to the far-flung corners of Franciscan Italy, it is our sincere hope the film brings you to a deeper place of peace and tranquility within yourself. Don’t just watch the film…inhale it.

 

Silenzio is a cinematic tool to help you enter into the stillness and silence that is necessary for a time of meditation. Divided into ten short chapters, the film is not intended to be viewed in its entirety all at once. We hope the viewer only watches a chapter at a time on a daily or weekly basis…to help them quiet the frenetic pace of modern life and to open their eyes to the beauty and sacredness of life. The film is also a cinematic photo-album for anyone who has visited Assisi and wants to recapture the allure and spiritual enchantment of the holy little city that sits on a hill gently inviting visitors to embrace a spirit of contemplation and service.

The film can be ordered directly from the Pax et Bonum Communications website.


Enter your email address to subscribe to Gerry's blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Archived Postings