News / Americas

    Haitian Home for Street Children Rebuilds

    Michael Geilanfeld, who runs St. Joseph's house for former child slaves and street children in Port-au-Prince, shows some of the damage from last year's earthquake.
    Michael Geilanfeld, who runs St. Joseph's house for former child slaves and street children in Port-au-Prince, shows some of the damage from last year's earthquake.

    Multimedia

    Jeff Swicord

    Amid the loss and horror that surrounded the earthquake in Haiti a year ago there are positive stories of triumph over tragedy.  Several days after the earthquake, VOA's Jeff Swicord met Michael Geilandfeld, an American who runs a house for former child slaves and street children.  While the house was heavily damaged by the quake, Geilandfeld vowed to carry on with his work.  We stopped by to see how he was doing in the new year.

    "This painting really depicts a child who is in struggle and feeling alone and lost," explained Michael Geilanfeld, who runs St. Joseph's, a house for former child slaves and street children in Port au Prince.  That was Michael a year ago, a few days after the devastating earthquake of January 12.

    "So this is the house the children were in," Geilanfeld continued.  The house and neighboring facilities were heavily damaged.  The children had to be moved to the safety of the countryside.

    Counting blessings

    Today, Michael Geilanfeld counts himself and the St. Joseph's community lucky.  Last year at this time, the quake hit just as they were about to celebrate their 25th anniversary.

    "We were having 250 people come for this anniversary celebrations from all over the United States and Canada.  So we had painted the house, put up new curtains.  The house looked as best it has ever looked.  So, less than two weeks before that celebration, it all came down," he recalled.

    Progress

    A year later, thanks to the generosity of donors from abroad, St. Joseph's is rebuilding.  The orphanage bought and moved into the house next door.  An architect has donated his time to rebuild the old house, and insisted the footings be dug extra deep.  Other precautions will be taken to ensure the house can withstand another earthquake.  

    The children have returned.  Twenty-two boys live at St. Joseph's; most attend this school around the corner.  Fijnole, 17, has lived in the house since he was three.  His parents could not afford to care for him.  He says going to school is something he never imagined when he was younger.

    "It is a good thing for me because now I can go to school and I can lift up my parents.  My dream is to lift my parents where they are.  To helping them as much as I can," Fignole said.

    Helping hands

    Exza, 17, has been helping out with the new construction.  Exza came to St. Joseph's after the earthquake, and says without the safety and security it provides, the last year could have turned out very differently.

    "It was a good year for me because after the earthquake we had a hurricane and then a cholera epidemic.  But I was not affected and I am safe, so it has been a good year," Exza said.

    Aid groups say it's impossible to know how many children were orphaned by the earthquake, but USAID estimates the number to be at least 15,000 - with as many or more losing their main care-giver. So far, UNICEF has only re-united a few thousand children with their families.

    Lasting effects

    At St. Joseph's, Michael says the quake was traumatic for all of the children. 

    "Just going through the earthquake, the shaking, and all of our guys would tell you that they thought it was the end of the world. They thought everything was going away for good.  And if a car drives by and the building shakes, they would all run," he said.

    Michael has not forgotten the tragedy most Haitians have experienced. He has hung this painting in the house - depicting a tent city - as a tribute to the resilience of the Haitian people.

    "They have been reduced to this living under trees and living under tarps, and yet life goes on. They make the best of what they are doing. But it is a struggle because they are living day by day," he said.

    Optimism

    A year ago, this mural at the entrance of the building was destroyed.  Now, Michael is typically optimistic about the loss.

    "But we can repaint, right? we can rebuild. What we celebrate is we didn't lose any of the children.  They would not be able to be replaced. So, all the material things are not important," he said.

    Once the original house is restored, Michael Geilandfeld plans to build three new buildings on the neighboring property he has acquired.

    You May Like

    Clinton, Trump and the 'Woman’s Card'

    Ask supporters of Democratic front-runner in US presidential campaign, and they’ll tell you Republican presidential candidate is playing a dangerous hand

    Russian Censorship Group Seeks Chinese Help to Better Control Internet

    At recent Safe Internet League forum in Moscow, speakers from both nations underscored desire for authorities to further limit and control information online

    Video Makeshift Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Free classes in Islamabad park serve a few of the country’s nearly 25 million out-of-school youths; NGO cites ‘education crisis’

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora

    More Americas News

    Venezuela's Top Beer Maker Halts Output in Dispute with Government

    President threatened earlier in week to seize any plants halted by private companies and hand them over to workers

    US Reports Its First Zika-Related Death

    Puerto Rican man in his 70s died from internal bleeding related to rare immune reaction to Zika virus infection in February

    Rio Olympic Flame Visits UN Office in Geneva

    Flame, which was lit in Greece last week, was brought to UN for first time before it heads to Brazil for torch relay ahead of opening ceremony in Rio on Aug. 5

    Britain Foreign Secretary Visits Cuba for First Time in Nearly 60 Years

    Philip Hammond signed several cooperation agreements on energy, education and financial services

    In 'Papa,' Hemingway Returns to Cuba via Silver Screen

    Film about Nobel Prize-winning author is first full-length Hollywood feature produced on island since 1959 Cuban Revolution

    Victims of Chile Colony Hope German Documents Bring Justice

    For three decades beginning in 1961, the enclave of Colonia Dignidad, or Dignity Colony, founded by Paul Schaefer, was the site of torture, slavery and child abuse