As spring is just around the corner and flowers are doing their best to bloom, we have some new growth to announce as well. Hearts with Haiti would like to introduce Renee Dietrich, who will be our Communications and Sponsorship Director, and Lydia Cauley, who will be our Administrative Director. We are excited about the new ideas and energy they are bringing to the Hearts with Haiti family. Jeanette Fuccella, the current Executive Director, will be moving on to new and exciting opportunities in her life. The Hearts with Haiti and St. Joseph Family Boards thank her for her exceptional service and wish her blessings and success on all future endeavors, and look forward to seeing how God moves in her life. Keep an eye out for information about other new growth and exciting ideas from Renee and Lydia.
Thanks and Peace,
President – HwH Board
I have been involved with the St. Joseph Family since the day it started. My Mom met Michael and went to the first home the day after the work started in 1985. In 1987, I met Michael and the boys for the first time when they were in the United States on their first theater tour. In 1988, I made my first trip to Haiti and instantly fell in love with the country, the people, and the SJF. Over the next 14 years I traveled to Haiti once or twice a year, deepening my relationship with the SJF. In 2002, I left my job as a photojournalist to move to Haiti and work with the SJF full-time. I have had many titles over the years, and I perform many duties for the SJF. I am currently the Director of Communications and Development for the SJF. Some of my duties include communicating with benefactors and mission partner organizations, managing the sponsorship program, coordinating guest visits, provide SJF administrative assistance and fiscal management assistance. I also serve on the SJF Board of Directors as the secretary.
I will now also be working part-time for Hearts with Haiti as the Communications and Sponsorship Director. I have a long-term relationship with HWH and have worked with the organization for many years to facilitate their support of the SJF. I am happy about filling this role at HWH to become more active in raising the profile of HWH and the SJF and to expand our network of friends and supporters in the US.
I have a degree in journalism and a minor in art from the University of Iowa. I worked for 11 years as a reporter and photographer at newspapers in Iowa and Minnesota before I moved to Haiti. I have won numerous state and national awards for my photography and writing. I have published two photography books on Haiti.
In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps. -Proverbs 16:9
In January of 2014, I drove to Charlotte to spend the night with an old friend. She had invited me on a mission trip with her church to Haiti to visit the St. Joseph Family. As we boarded the plane in Miami for Port-au-Prince, I was filled with excitement, nerves, and just a little bit of fear, but in my head, the words of a mentor resounded, “Being fearlessly faithful is not the absence of fear but the certainty that faithfulness will win.” The first stop on the trip was Wings of Hope, and with Steve’s jump for joy, Marhitza’s smile and squeals of joy as I pushed her on the swing (at the old home in Fermathe), and my experience helping feed Junior, I was in love. Since then I have been striving to be fearlessly faithful. Four years later God has brought me here, to be the Administrative Director of Hearts with Haiti.
I graduated from UNC-Asheville with a Bachelor’s in Drama in 2011. Following graduation I moved to Detroit, Michigan where I served as an AmeriCorps Volunteer for Boys Hope Girls Hope, an organization that provides stable homes, education, and financial and emotional support to at-risk children. After my life-changing experience in Detroit, I moved back home to North Carolina and began working in youth ministry within the local and conference levels of the United Methodist Church. In 2015 I graduated from Duke Divinity School with a Masters of Arts in Christian Practice. God continues to establish my steps, and I continue to strive to be fearlessly faithful.
For many years the Wings of Hope residents have held a Christmas give-away for children in the neighborhood, first in Fermathe and now in Jacmel. The event consisted of designated children (a day before the event the Wings kids and staff walked around the neighborhood giving out tickets) coming to Wings and receiving a couple of cookies that the Wings kids had made and a couple of small toys. It was an outreach to the neighborhood kids from the Wings kids and we hoped it would give the neighborhood kids a positive experience with people with disabilities. This year the Wings kids and staff did something different. And it was AMAZING!
On Dec. 16, 2016, the Wings kids opened their home to 150 kids, and their parents. Again, you needed a special ticket to enter. But this was no simple cookie give-away. Instead the Wings kids and staff planned a Christmas party to top all Christmas parties. The kids and their parents started to arrive before the 10 am start time. They knew they were in for something special, as they were wearing the best clothes they had. They were greeted at the front door by Josephine, and at the entrance to the building by Vilner.
At 10 am, the staff started giving their guests tours of Wings, showing them the classrooms, bedrooms, and the living room/dining room. In each place the tour included an explanation about what the room is used for and the importance of the place being beautiful and welcoming because the Wings kids deserve the best. After the tours, the celebration started with songs, led by Gary.
Then Gephte spoke to the crowd about the Wings residents, and what it means to have a disability. He talked about people with disabilities being the same as everyone else, and that they need to be treated with dignity. At one point he hugged Teddy and told them, you can touch them, you can hug them, you can play with them, they are just like you. Then Teddy made the sign for “love” and told the crowd that the Wings kids love them. The neighborhood kids and their parents were all very accepting of these messages. It was wonderful.
Then the Wings staff and kids presented the Christmas pageant. It was INCREDIBLE! They always add something new each year. This year it was Reginald acting out the part of the star that the kings follow to Bethlehem. Of course, it also included the slaughter of the innocents and the death of Herod. The crowd loved it. There were lots of cheers. After that there were a few games while the Wings staff set up the gift table.
There was a huge selection of gifts – most of which came from the kids and staff. The Wings kids gave up some of their own toys and the staff pooled their money to buy toys for the neighborhood kids. It was so incredible to see. The Wings kids happily helped hand out presents and never asked for anything for themselves.
After they got their toys, the neighborhood kids then went to the dining room where they each got at bag of popcorn, a bag of Cheecos, a sandwich, crackers and candy. There were also coolers of Kool-Aid for people to drink with their lunch. The Wings kids were great hosts; they even picked up all the trash after the event was over – without being asked!
It was an incredibly amazing CELEBRATION A profound experience of community, acceptance, generosity, and love. The Wings kids and the Wings staff made so many people happy and I’m sure changed the way that people with handicaps are perceived. It was a perfect way to celebrate the season of love and light.
More photos available on the St. Joseph Family facebook page!Share this:
In November we posted about a new member of the Wings of Hope family, Jonas. Shortly after we introduced Jonas it because clear that there was more to his story then we knew. His mother and father had two boys, Jonas and his brother. The mother apparently didn’t want to care for a child with special needs and abandoned him at the Missionaries of Charity home in Jacmel, then left town with her other son. Jonas’ father, however, very much wanted his son. He searched for days at all the orphanages looking for him. Finally he went to the authorities to file a missing child report. They knew about the little boy who had been abandoned and came to Wings to pick Jonas up and return him to his father. All of this happened on Thanksgiving Day in the US, which became a Homecoming Day for little Jonas. We are sure his father is glad to have him home, given all he did to find him. We are thankful for the short time that Jonas was in our lives and we wish him and his father well on their journey together.Share this:
Just over a month ago Hurricane Matthew smashed into Haiti, devastating the homes, lives, and families of many. The St. Joseph Family was fortunate to be able to weather the storm with relative ease, thanks to their many committed and generous extended family members in the United States and elsewhere. Not only have you – our donors – helped to ensure that the SJF buildings can withstand a hurricane, but you immediately rushed to support the SJF – and all of Haiti – in the aftermath of the storm.
Though the SJF experienced no loss of life or catastrophic damage due to the storm, there were repairs that needed to be done. One of the repairs was to the roof of St. Joseph’s Home for Boys in Petionville. We are so grateful to have been able to make these repairs so quickly… all because of your immediate response.
Thank you!Share this:
Our Hearts with Haiti board members know first-hand how critical your donations are toward sustaining the transformative ministries of the St. Joseph Family. They believe so strongly in the mission of the SJF that they – board members past and present – pooled their funds to form a $60,000 matching grant.
Thanks to your generous that goal was not only met, it was exceeded! We thank you so much, mèsi anpil!
But wait…that’s not all. Later the board members presented a challenge. They would match up to $10,000 for all NEW donors or donors who haven’t given since November 2015. That goal was not only met but exceeded! We thank you so much, mèsi anpil!
It is because of your constant support that we are able to help sustain the transformative ministries of the St. Joseph Family. Jesus calls us in John to go and bear fruit, with your donations we are able to continue to pour into the lives of vulnerable children in Haiti and bear fruit within the St. Joseph Family communities.
The school bell is ringing again at Lekòl Sen Trinite. The 2016-2017 school year started off with the opening of classes on September 5. As is typical, it took a couple of weeks for all the students to return to school, as many of them spend their break from school in the countryside. The class lists were finalized by mid-October.
Again this year, LST is educating 150 students from the Jacmel community. These are children who would not be able to attend school if it were not for LST, as they come from some of the poorest families in the community. LST is a tuition-free school, and all educational materials, uniforms, and other programming are made possible by our generous donors.
LST has both morning and afternoon sessions. The morning session has seven grades, from the Montessori preschool/kindergarten to sixth grade. The morning session is for both boys and girls. The afternoon session is girls only and has four grades, Montessori preschool/kindergarten through third grade.
We are proud that last year all of the sixth graders at LST passed their class successfully!
The Montessori preschool/kindergarten program, the only Montessori program in Jacmel, is a three year program before they can move on to first grade. Students as young as three years-old are accepted into the Montessori program at LST.
Education and family are two important components to the SJF philosophy of raising responsible and caring children. The five young men supported by St. Joseph’s Home are learning those lessons in very real ways. All the boys live either with their families or in a foster care situation. This allows them to experience family life and be a part of the larger community. Four of the boys are continuing their academic education, which is provided for by St. Joseph’s. The fifth young man is getting ready to embark on a vocational education, which will give him the foundation to support himself.
Steevens, whose mother and father are both deceased, lives with his uncle and attends a school in the neighbor where he lives in the Bon Repos section of Port-au-Prince. He is in ninth grade and his favorite subjects are math and politics. Steevens has big plans for his future with his dream being to someday become a lawyer. For now though, his favorite pastime is playing soccer. He plays on his school’s soccer team.
Gasthy and Ti Ralph are brothers. They share the same mother, but have different fathers. Ti Ralph’s father died when he was young. Both boys live with their mother. Gasthy is in seventh grade. He took the government exams last year and did very well. His mother sells things in the market area and he always helps her transport her wares to and from the market. Gusty dreams of being a professional soccer player, but if that doesn’t work out, he thinks a good plan would be to learn how to install windows and work on a construction crew. Ti Ralph lives with Gasthy and their mother. He has struggled academically and did not pass his academic classes last year. Because he is getting older, the path for Ti Ralph is now to pursue a vocational education so that he can learn a trade to be able to support himself. He is thinking about learning how to install tile. In his free time he likes to sing and play soccer. He also helps his mother in the market.
Wisleme lives with his mother. His father died when he was very young. He is in eighth grade and dreams of going to medical school. He likes to read and play soccer.
Lulu is from a very poor and remote mountain village. He is living in a foster care situation so that he can continue school and be supported by the SJF. He is in sixth grade and does very well in school. He loves to write and dreams of becoming a journalist. He also loves to play the drums and to play basketball.
Lulu, Wisleme, Gasthy and Ti Ralph all live in the same area in the mountains just outside of Port-au-Prince. Because they live close to each other, the SJF is able to provide a tutor for them. They meet with the tutor five nights a week to help them with their academic studies. Even though Ti Ralph is no longer attending an academic program, he also attends these sessions to continue his education informally. Because Steevens lives far away from the other boys, he studies on his own and with his classmates.
Besides paying for the tuition for the schools and vocational education for the boys, the SJF, through donations received for the Tree of Life program, is able to help with basic needs for the boys. SJF leadership members are present in their lives and meet with them on a regular basis.Share this:
Friends, Your outpouring of love and support have been overwhelming. We can not thank you enough for your love, prayers, and financial support. While the St. Joseph Family was fortunate enough not to experience significant damage to their buildings, the damage they did suffer has a significant price tag to it. Evaluations are still being performed and estimates gathered, but as of right now, repair and replacement costs look like they will be upwards of $20,000. In addition, assessments are still being performed on the homes of employees and LST families, and we will share those reports with you when we receive them. But, thanks to the generosity of donors like you, repairs have already begun, and we are well on our way to meeting those expenses. Thank you!
Because you responded so quickly, the children and staff of the St. Joseph Family have been able to return to the comfort of their daily routines. Days are filled with school, physical and occupational therapy, friends, music, sports, tutoring, and lots of love. Every day the 32 kids at Wings, 5 boys under the care of St. Joseph’s, and 150 students at LST receive the best possible care – all because of the generosity and compassion of donors like you. But being able to continue to provide top quality care requires a simultaneous focus on ensuring there is proper funding to support the day-to-day operations of the SJF. Below, we’ve highlighted a couple of fun and easy ways for you to support the ongoing needs of the SJF, and we’ll soon be announcing a very exciting matching grant opportunity. We need your help to spread the word about the transformative ministry of the St. Joseph Family and ensuring that there are sufficient funds to maintain this critical ministry well into the future.
Mèsi anpil, not only for responding so quickly in a time of great urgency and need, but also for being there – day after day, month after month, year after year – for Haiti’s most vulnerable children.Share this:
With 125 mph winds, Hurricane Matthew ravaged the country of Haiti, leaving death and destruction in its wake. The extent of the destruction is catastrophic – with some areas experiencing 90% loss, The actual number of deaths (currently nearly 900) will probably never be known.
Thanks to the generosity of our donors, we have been able to fund the construction of buildings that can withstand hurricane force winds. Unfortunately, most Haitians do not have those luxuries. The families of the children who attend Lekòl Sen Trinite live in extremely simple homes – many with dirt floors and tarp walls. They are exceptionally vulnerable. They will need help. The SJF leaders and staff are actively following up with the families to identify needs, and – with your support – these families will receive the help they desperately need.
Because of our partnership with the St. Joseph Family in Haiti, you can feel confident that your donations are going directly to Haitians who are in need of your support. Please, help us help Haitians in need, today.