Thirty years ago I took a leap of faith and got into a cab to go across Port-au-Prince to visit Michael Geilenfeld and the five boys he had come to know during his time with the Brothers of Charity. His mom, Mabel, asked us to visit him at the start of his new adventure.
There were four of us; none of us spoke Creole and the cab driver didn’t speak English. All we had is the address Michael’s mom gave us.
When we arrived at the small house behind the cardboard factory Michael and the boys had just finished their morning meal. They had no furniture, only mats on the floor on which to sleep. They were hoping to get enough money to purchase a guitar and some furniture. What a humbling experience!!
Previous to our visit, some journalists from the Gazette, our hometown paper, had also been there. When we returned to Cedar Rapids there was a separate section in the Sunday Gazette about our trip to Haiti and their visit to Michael’s. They were so impressed with the work he had started.
In the past thirty years I have traveled to Haiti at least once a year. Most years I have celebrated their anniversaries with them in person, missing very few — which tells you how much they are in my heart.
The St. Joseph Family is my family.
We have watched many of these boys grow up and take on leadership roles. Gary and I have hosted the Resurrection Dance Theater at least three times. Each time they became more professional. I am so proud of them.
In 1994 we visited just after they took over Wings of Hope and they were still in the rented house. We visited the house in Fermathe that was to be remodeled and become their home. What a big leap of faith for the family.
I have witnessed through the years the growth of the family to include Trinity House in Jacmel and eventually Lekol Sen Trinite and now the new bakery.
A little more than 12 years ago my daughter, Renee, decided to join the family. We were so pleased with her decision and also a little frightened for her. I remember vividly leaving her in the square in Petionville to catch the bus to Wings of Hope. She has grown and prospered in the family, and I am very proud of her.
Since the earthquake five years ago many things have changed. The loss of two of the homes meant a long rebuilding process. The original house on Delmas 91 was purchased and used as a temporary home until the new St. Joseph’s home was build. What a joyful anniversary that was when the new building was dedicated!
Wings of Hope was very lucky to find two adjacent homes to rent so that they could keep the members of Wings of Hope safe. Although they have been made to be handicap-accessible, it is only nominally so. Hopefully this year they will be able to move into the new home being built in Jacmel. It is built on a flat piece of ground and will meet the needs of the Wings family very well. It is adjacent to Trinity House and the Nuovo Vi Bakery. It should open many new opportunities for the Wings family.
It is with great regret that I am not there in person for the celebration 30th Anniversary of the St. Joseph Family, but I will be with you in my thoughts and prayers.
These thirty years have not been without challenges, but “with God all things are possible” — as has been proven many times over the years. I wish all the best for all the family.
Michael is a very special person who wanted to help the children of Haiti. May God Bless him and the St. Joseph’s Family.
— Lucy DietrichShare this: