Father Marc Boisvert, founder of Free the Kids was ordained a priest in 1984, and served the Church for 6 years before joining the U.S. Navy Chaplain Corps. It was through his pastoral work he learned of the miserable conditions in Haiti. In 1997 he took leave from his post as Catholic base chaplain at Marine Corps Air Station in El Toro, CA and made a visit to Haiti to see what life was like there first-hand. What he saw touched his heart and he leaped into action. When he returned home, he submitted his letter of resignation, sold most of his possessions and decided that January 1st of 1998 would be the day to start a new chapter in his life. When he arrived in Haiti in the late morning on New Year's Day he was deeply touched by the hundreds of homeless children; and the children who spent their days in the streets because school was too expensive; and the sick children who had no hope of going to a clinic. It became clear to him that this was his calling – to help alleviate the effects of poverty on these children.
By September of '98, with the help of a group of young adults, he started a soup kitchen, a small shelter, and a school. In October they transformed an abandoned building into a home for 15 kids. It was those first kids who coined the name Pwoje Espwa, Creole for Project Hope. That place filled up quickly with homeless children. The local bishop offered them the abandoned former seminary, a rat-infested structure with a caved-in roof called LaMadonne. The chapel was solid and they moved in. They grew to about 60 children and a staff of five. In the spring they received help putting a sturdy roof on the building, and then a second floor. They had decent housing for the first time. Children kept coming and soon LaMadonne was out of space. The boys were attending various local schools. This was not necessarily a good thing because of the harsh corporal punishment practiced by teachers. One day a boy returned to the orphanage after school with a blood soaked shirt. He had been whipped with a cowhide switch for not paying attention. It was then that the staff and Father Marc decided to open their own school. They could provide a safer environment, a better education and do it for much less money than the schools charged. In September of 2000 he opened the doors to Ekol Espwa. In due time two schools, an orphanage and a soup kitchen were opened. There were 125 boys and another 250 children in their schools.
Their dream was to have some place out of the city where the air is fresh and the colors vibrant. That dream came to reality in 2002 when benefactors made it possible to purchase 125 acres of fertile land, about 20 minutes from the city of Les Cayes. They immediately began shaping and developing what would become Villaj Espwa.
At Hope Village they have planted a farm, built dormitories and schools and begun vocational training to teach the children viable trades to secure their future. They have over 750 children living at Hope Village and over a thousand more going to their schools each day from poor neighboring communities.
Thanks to God and to their generous donors, they've come a long way since 1998. At Hope Village much has been accomplished but there is still much more to be done. They still need to raise money for medical and dental clinics so that our children get the proper care they deserve. They built a vocational training center where the boys and girls learn practical skills that someday will enable them to earn a living. They have added a pre-school so that the children can get an early start on education. The farm continues to evolve and provide more and more crops each year. There are always projects in the works.
Hope Village provides hundreds of children with shelter, food, clothing, education, basic medical care and a family. But what they really offer the children of Southern Haiti is HOPE.
Father Marc is my Hero!
Submitted by Anonymous
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