DOUBLE your donation with Board Bucks!

DOUBLE your donation with Board Bucks!

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.

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Sadraque Smiles

Sadraque Smiles
Wings of Hope gained another angel on March 18, 2016. It was then that Sadraque went to his heavenly home. Our hearts break with his passing, but we know that Sadraque is now dancing with the angels and watching over all his brothers and sisters at Wings of Hope and the St. Joseph Family, and everyone whose lives he has touched.

Sadraque suffered with seizures the entire 14 years he was a part of the Wings of Hope family. Most of the time those were managed well with medication. He still had seizures from time-to-time, so he wore a helmet to protect his head if he had a seizure. For the past couple of weeks, Sadraque’s seizures were more and more frequent and nothing the doctors prescribed was working in controlling them. For several days prior to his death, his seizures were almost constant and in-between the seizures he was so tired and worn out that he spent most of his time in bed. He barely had time to recover from one seizure before another one started. Despite the best efforts of the Wings nurses, leadership and staff, and the doctors, Sadraque’s battered and weakened body had just had enough on the evening of March 18 and he slipped away, surrounded by the people who loved him.

Sadraque came to Wings of Hope in 2002. He was abandoned by his family, so we never knew his birthdate, but we think he was born in 1992. He was brought to Wings of Hope by a social worker. He was abandoned on the streets by his family because of his disability. He was first placed at another orphanage, but they could not deal with his special needs, so he was brought to Wings of Hope. Besides, or maybe because of, his seizure disorder, Sadraque had some intellectual challenges. He processed and learned new information slowly. He also had some attachment issues, probably due to his family history. He was great at knowing days, dates, and times, however. If he was looking forward to a certain event, he could tell you how many days it was until that happened, and often did a countdown to the day he was waiting for.

As Sadraque grew in the Wings of Hope family and started to receive medication to control his seizures his self-confidence and social skills increased. He loved Wings of Hope and all of his family there. He liked to help the other children and being a big brother to them. He also liked Zèl, the Wings of Hope dog, and liked to play with her and feed her. Sadraque loved field trips, especially ones to St. Joseph’s Home for parties and worship services.

Sadraque loved the visitors who came to Wings of Hope. He was often one of the first ones running to the gate to greet people with a high-five or warm hug. He loved to take people by the hand and walk around with them. He loved getting his picture taken and would often pose with various people until he had a picture with everyone. Sadraque loved to dance and would bring others, particularly visitors, into a dance party by taking them by the hand and dancing with them.

Sadraque was the most grateful person I ever met. He was happy and grateful for just about everything and made sure you knew it. After you answered a question for him, his response always was, “Okay, thank you.” When he went out to lunch with a visitor, he probably thanked them a dozen times during the outing. Sadraque was also one of the happiest people ever. He constantly had a huge smile on his face and that made everyone else smile. It was hard to have a bad day around Sadraque. His happiness was infectious. He would often come up behind me and tap me on the shoulder so I would turn around and give him a hug. Or he would just tap you on the shoulder and smile as he was walking by you, to acknowledge you and let you know he was there and that he cared about you. Sadraque was very kind and thoughtful and always thinking of ways to help others or make their days brighter. Several times when he went out to lunch he stuffed his pockets with french fries to take back to the kids who didn’t get to go to lunch. He would always share his treats and toys with others. He could be very quite and calm and just sit with you, not talking or doing any particular activity, but just enjoying the being in your presence and sharing time together.

In the days since his passing, in tributes to him on Facebook people have most often described Sadraque as gentle, loving, calm, happy, and caring. He definitely was all those things. And he touched the hearts of everyone he ever came in contact with.

Sadraque’s favorite time of the year was Christmas. He LOVED LOVED LOVED Santa Claus. He couldn’t wait for each of the Wings of Hope Christmas activities, from decorating the tree, to the Christmas boutique, to the party. Everything about Christmas was filled with joy for him. But, nothing beat the appearance of Santa Claus at the Wings of Hope Christmas party. Sadraque could never contain himself around Santa and embraced him with a look of absolute joy when Santa came to Wings.

The passing of Sadraque leaves a huge hole in our hearts and in the Wings of Hope community. But, we know he is healthy and seizure-free now and happily dancing in heaven and embracing all of his friends who have gone before him. We will miss him every day until we see him again, but we know he is with us always in our hearts and watching over us as our newest guardian angel.

— St. Joseph Family, Haiti
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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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Haiti (a poem)

Haiti (a poem)

It is a country, and for some it is a home

And for others, who visit, it is a journey in life.

You can come to

Find what you may be missing or what is giving you direction in life.

The people you live with that you really don’t know,

But, for one week, you exist with and get to understand why God put you together to come here.

Trash everywhere, smoke, and diesel fumes, young children waiting for school, and

The old man walking beside the road in the afternoon, on the way to out to Paradise Hotel.

People we meet from Canada to California and other places of the world.

Why does God send us here?

Painting and preparation for a new life for some that really only exist because He made them for

us to realize that life is very precious, and that we shall not take it as a grain of salt.

Every day I am here I want to be more God-like, I want to make someone feel a little better by

buying a gift, giving a hug, or telling a joke to make someone smile.

Because that’s what God would be proud of

The man that we see on the road could be Jesus, because we don’t know when he is coming back

to change this world.

That is what we believe in the faith of being Christians.

When we come on a mission trip, we as Americans do all the work we plan to do with the time

we have here, but it turns into a self-evaluation.

This is my first and not my last Haiti trip. I came on this trip to serve Him and to experience

another place in time on my journey through this life that I have been blessed with for sixty short

years, a blink of God’s eyes.

He watched over me in the good and bad, and I give Him all the praise.

Every day I get up around six to seek God’s creation; sun, clouds, blue sky, waves crashing on

the little beach. I say my prayers to thank Him for watching over our team from day to day and

our people back home.

— Barry L. Allen

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What is done in love is well done

What is done in love is well done
The reflection below is written by Sara, a long-term volunteer at Wings of Hope. Jonas, who passed away recently, was an SJF employee working at Wings of Hope. He loved and was loved by many. 

Jonas grew up at St. Joseph’s Home for Boys and was one of the original street boys who started what is now the ever-growing St. Joseph’s family. The values of respect, hard work, and faith that he learned there as well as the love and acceptance he received growing up in the St. Joe’s family, are part of the reason why Jonas became who he was: someone who could help even the most broken heal and find hope.

When I came to Wings of Hope for the first time in 2011, Peterson was one of the most quiet and withdrawn people there. He mostly kept to himself except when he was working with Jonas to wash the residents’ laundry. Jonas understood Peterson, and they had a connection that is hard to put into words. Peterson came from a background that afforded him little trust, especially for adults, and Jonas knew just how to make Peterson feel at ease. They were “best buddies,” to say the least. The consistent mentorship, compassion, and attention that Jonas gave to Peterson is one of the largest reasons why I believe Peterson began to slowly open up to visitors and why he has become one of the more engaging residents currently living at Wings of Hope today. Jonas helped to nurture Peterson’s ability to be vulnerable with those around him.

Van Gogh once said, “It is good to love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much, performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is well done.” Jonas lived his life full of love and commitment to others, and it was such a beautiful life.

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Haiti….. Heart…and Home

Haiti….. Heart…and Home

My heart was heavy, my spirits were down and tears that could flood a football field covered my face and soul as I watched with disbelief the result of the earthquake. My mind traveled back 24 years to a hot day in August in a crowded, no air conditioned room at the airport in Port Au Prince, Haiti. I was surrounded by 13, brown faced, bright eyes little boys, with my photo saying, “Villie, Villie?” Although, I didn’t understand them I recognized my face and said yes, I am Villie. With luggage, we exited the building and there beside a red truck stood a tall bearded face, with a wide smile was Michael, the founder of St. Joseph’s Home for Boys. Michael Geilenfeld at the age of 33, from Algona, Iowa came to Haiti 25 years ago as a Brother with the Catholic Church and from that work founded the home for street children.

When we arrived at the house, I was seated in a kitchen chair. Suddenly at the top of the stairs appeared the boys with flowers descending, singing, “Come into this house, praise the Lord.” Each gave me a flower and a hug, and by the time they finished I was an ugly crying mess of humanity.

In that moment, I knew that as long as I lived, I would be connected to this family, this home and these boys who which had claimed my heart, my spirit and my soul. Knowing the history of Haiti, I named my self, “Auntie Willie”, for as an African America mother these were my sister’s children.

This house at the end of the road was filled with purpose, energy, fellows travelers with different missions, and a sense of we—ness. The children and the paying house guests ate beans and rice as family. I looked forward to folks sharing their day and bonding with kids whose language I could not speak. Hospitality is when the host welcomes you, but there is also the atmosphere that is created by the host where all gather as members of the community and become family. In those early days, for $10.00 a day each guest was provided with 2 meals, safe drinking water, laundry and 24 hour security. These funds paid the rent and supported the needs of the boys, including education and empowering activities, art classes, music, dance, and or karate lessons and tutors.

Over the years I have traveled home to my “other” family, where I have seen the boys grow, finish school, learn trades, become self supporting, get married and begin their own families. I have cried at weddings, funerals, and blessings of new homes. I have cried with joy as we expanded our family by establishing a home for the physical and mentally challenged children. Feeling at home and unafraid each morning I have walked Demas, the main street, to volunteer at Mother Teresa’s Baby Hospital and in the evening rode the tap- tap, truck, or any thing that was moving to get up the mountain and home.

Now I cry as St. Joseph’s Home for Boys is no more, the building collapsed, but the good news is all of the family survived. My annual trip was scheduled for next Thursday, January 21st, the ticket is on the table, two packed duffle bags sit in the living room and I remain in prayer wondering what has happened to the babies, to the other folks I have met over the years.

The second house named Wings of Hope, next to the Baptist Mission, is now where Michael and the boys are living since their own home is uninhabitable.

I cry because a place that was safe & secure, clean & comfortable, a place where you lived in community with Haitians, that you heard roosters in trees crowing day and night, and dogs that become the hallelujah choir as they answered each other. You heard neighbors who might be having a not so friendly discussion work it out. St. Joseph’s rooftop was my Reality TV or HBO, for from there you observed laundry being hand washed, children being bathed or punished, witnessed young people play, study, fly kites and court on adjoining roofs, and the local barber or the beautician performed magic on their clients.

My memory will always yearn for nights on the patio as they were special for me, especially when the neighborhoods roof churches begin their worship. Where else can you see and hear the Lord’s name being lifted up the last thing at night, and before the break of dawn as Michael and the boys would gather in the chapel, meeting to give thanks.

In this house, because the other concrete houses are so close, the neighbor’s music became what I wanted to hear, the laughter of children is what I needed to remind me of what the silence meant when they were not allowed out after dark during the embargo. Seeing little children carrying water taught and constantly reminds me to be more grateful and less wasteful.

If you are not prepared to be influenced, to change, don’t read the history of Haiti and don’t accept the hospitality of this home.. For in the house, tell us what you need and we can show you how to live in abundance without it; learn to live without electricity 24/7, without A/C. microwave, the evening news, total privacy, hot showers, flushing toilets, or getting your socks back from laundry. But think of the joy of living with singing mosquitoes, daily hugs from boys who call you “ Auntie”, the recognizable laughter of the founder, excellent coffee, the beautiful and well prepared  meals — all speaking the visible sign of love.

Learn to live with other members of the family who care as much as you do and who can expand your world and worldview. Live with and know that we all come not only with special gifts, but also our personal needs. Haitians who have suffered from slavery and multiple invasion, try to maintain self-direction in spite of outside pressure and policies, and they seem to carry within them the ability to share, to love, and survive with dignity. I was there years later and watched Haitians of all ages stand in the broiling sun, without complaining just to vote for the first time.

This earth quake was a natural disaster, a wake up call which claimed the world’s attention and highlighted their daily struggles. St. Joseph’s Home for Boys will be rebuilt because we believe in the goodness of God and the people of God.

I have responded to calls saying what can I do, inquires from Texas, North Carolina, Virginia, South Carolina, Tennessee, Maryland, Georgia, and Illinois. Where do you run when the earth shakes, who do you turn to when your world falls apart, who do you lean on when buildings crumble, what do you hold on to…your faith, your family and your friends. The motto for the home is “with God all things are possible”. This is my belief; my faith tells me that we will rise from the rubble as family.

— Willie J. Dell

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