That which binds us

That which binds us

At St. Joseph’s Home for Boys they have a tradition every year which involves choosing one of the beautiful pictures that hangs around the home and inviting guests at the anniversary celebration to comment on what the picture means to them and their connection to the family. This year the picture depicted multiple young Haitian men, of all shapes and sizes, playing and talking out on a street corner.

The most interesting feature of the painting to me was the fact that none of the boy’s faces had any distinct features. They were all painted more or less the same without eyes, noses, or mouths, just blurry outlines that made all the boys look more or less the same. As I reflected on why the painter may have made this choice, Gasty, one of St. Joe’s younger boys, kept poking me in the side, teasing me as we sat together. In that moment it hit me: the faces are blurry because the details aren’t what are important.

I have been coming to Haiti for nine years now, and everywhere I go, I am welcomed by people who look nothing like me, whose lives are nothing like mine, who’s experiences and backgrounds look nothing like my own, and yet we are able to put all of that aside because the specific details of our lives that separate us are not important. What’s important is that I have found a place where all you need to do is be able to smile and love in order to build trust. All you need to do is keep showing up year after year and offering your heart, your friendship, and your love.

My relationship with St. Joseph’s Family and all those who are a part of it is a beacon of hope in my life. It reminds me that people are strong, they can literally “rise from the rubble” as this family and all those in Haiti have done time and time again. They can continue to trust in something greater than themselves. They can continue to “turn the other cheek,” and teach love instead of hate no matter how many people have hurt them in the past. The details that separate us are not important. Instead, it’s the qualities of love, hope, and trust that are important – which is why I know I will be celebrating many more anniversaries with this family for years to come. Happy 31st Anniversary St. Joseph’s Family!

More photos from the 31st St. Joseph Family anniversary celebration

Bill Nathan drums at the SJF anniversary celebration

Bill Nathan drums at the anniversary celebration

Hearts with Haiti board member at the anniversary

Hearts with Haiti board members shared in the celebration

Wootrod plays guitar at the 31st SJF anniversary celebration

Wootrod shares his tremendous musical gifts with the celebrants

31st SJF anniversary painting

The theme of the 31st SJF anniversary was Trust

Lou Lou plays drums at the 31st SJF anniversary celebration

More sharing of musical gifts

Celebrating family!

What a blessing to have so many visitors from near and far present for the celebration!

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Reconnecting with friends

Reconnecting with friends

Last weekend the Hearts with Haiti Board of Trustees came together to meet face-to-face for two days in Raleigh, NC. Because board members are dispersed throughout the U.S. and Haiti (we are fortunate to have both Bill Nathan and Daniel Jean Mary on our board), most meetings are held via teleconference. However, once a quarter we celebrate the opportunity to come together in person to both conduct business and share in fellowship.

In addition to a productive set of meetings, we made time to rekindle friendships as we came together to celebrate the 30th anniversary of St. Joseph’s here in the U.S. We received warm wishes from old and new friends, visited communities of long-term support (where Bill and Daniel entertained elementary students with stories from Haiti), and even got to enjoy the Haitian version of “happy birthday”.

What a blessing it is to be a part of this community and this family!

brothers separated at birth

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30 Years with the St. Joseph Family

30 Years with the St. Joseph Family
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 Dietrich
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