Father Fredy Eli, a Haitian Vincentian, is more than a priest of the Congregation of the Mission. He’s become a father figure to 25 children he rescued from untenable circumstances following an earthquake in January 2010, and he is changing the direction of their lives.
The International Vincentian Family launched a $25,000 donation matching program on the Feast of St. Vincent de Paul to support the transformational work Fr. Fredy is doing in Haiti. It is being offered through Zafèn, which is part of the Vincentian Family Haiti Initiative created to commemorate the 350th anniversaries of the deaths of St. Vincent and St. Louise de Marillac.
He found some children abandoned in a hospital; others he met through a food distribution program; and a few more he picked up in the displaced persons camps where “living is an egregious situation with high risks of violence and a likelihood of low life success,” he said.
“Before the earthquake, some of the children were already in quite horrible conditions. Most have never known their fathers and were raised in broken homes with only a mother and little access to education. The earthquake made them victims a second time.”
But the earthquake changed Fr. Fredy’s life, and in turn, has created a fresh start for these kids. “As some parents were giving me children that they couldn’t take care of, the idea of a full-fledged house was born.”
Fr. Fredy rented a home in Tabarre and named it The House of Children and Hope in Haiti. It is aptly titled because it has given refuge and stability to 12 girls and 13 boys, whose lives have already been transformed and continue to improve daily.
He is proud of a young girl he met through his feeding program who became one of the first children he took into the house. “When she arrived to get food, she would stand in line, very dirty and unkempt,” he recalls.
Now, after two years in the house, she has changed completely. She has started to build confidence and discovered she is a great singer. “You can see that she is already on the path to a better life,” he says.
Another child who is doing very well in the house is a boy he picked up from the local camp. “He was irresponsible and not in school. Now he is in the 5th grade, exceling at school and is quite responsible,” Fr. Fredy reports. The care and supervision he receives at the house is making all the difference.
The children are in a safe, stable home with regular daily meals. All are enrolled in school, and they have extra-curricular activities such as embroidery, music, cooking and sports lessons.
Fr. Fredy is gratified by the progress these children have made. “Now, you can see that they have recouped some of the dignity that was lost by their living situation. They are part of a family unit and are given access to what is a luxury for many living in their situations.”
He says it is heart-warming to see the children now. “They started out without manners and a bad life direction. It is like a crab slowly coming out of its hole in the sand. You start to see a change little by little through responsibility, working in school and their interactions with others. God is using me to change their lives, and it feels great.”
To learn more about The House of Children and Hope in Haiti, click here; or to make a contribution that will be doubled by the International Vincentian Family from now through Christmas 2012, click here.