Broken Wings: family taking care of family
In 1985, Michael Geilenfeld, a former Brother with Mother Theresa's Brothers of Charity, with $1,000 in hand, rented a small four-room house and offered a home and a Christian family lifestyle to five boys that were then living in the streets. St. Joseph's Family of Homes was established.
His hope was that these youngsters would learn the value of family, education and the importance of independently caring for oneself while at the same time searching out opportunities to serve others. The home grew from five boys to approximately 20 boys in a wonderful home with guest facilities, a chapel, and an art center.
In Haiti, children with physical or mental challenges are sometimes considered to be manifestations of evil spirits. During a violent phase in Haiti's recent history, the women who ran a home for disabled children feared for their own safety and decided to return to their home country. They looked for someone to take over their home, but when do one would, they canvassed all the homes for children in the area, asking if they would take one child each. The only home to respond was St. Joseph's.
Michael thought it would be a good learning experience for his children to grow up with a child with disabilities. However, when they went to the home, the boys accompanying Michael decided that they should not only care for one child, they should take over the entire home and care for them all. Wings of Hope was born.
When Peter Eyvindson visited and saw the conditions of the home and the children living there, he was overwhelmed with the positive outlook of the young men running the homes. As a result of his experience, Peter wrote Soni's Mended Wings. Proceeds from the book allowed Micheal and the family to build a beautiful facility for the children.
Until everything changed with the earthquake, Wings of Hope was considered to be the best facility for challenged children in Haiti. With your help, it will be, again.
The Resurrection Dance Theatre of Haiti
In time, Michael discovered that these wonderful children lacked self-esteem because of their difficult lives prior to coming to St. Joseph's. In an attempt to foster their sense of well being, accomplishment, and to provide a method of expression, Michael turned to the arts - eventually establishing The Resurrection Dance Theatre of Haiti.
The dance theatre has grown from these humble roots and now tours across Canada and the United States on an annual basis. Drummers accompany the dancers' portrayal of the children's lives and Haiti's history through contemporary and traditional Haitian dance. The drum, a traditional symbol for Haitian freedom, plays a prominent role in their presentations and is primarily the only musical accompaniment.
St. Joseph's Guest Home
Seeking to be more independent and to not have to survive on donations alone, Michael established the St. Joseph's Guest Home, opening St. Joseph's to travelers and guests for a very reasonable price, again teaching his children of the world and caring for others. Over the years, many guests have stayed and were made to feel very welcomed by the children who live at the home.
St. Joseph's Community Art Center
A few years ago, St. Joseph's Family purchased the home adjacent to St. Joseph's. Presently under the last stages of renovations, the building is designed to reach out to the community by providing a space where neighboring children can experience training in the arts.
A well known Haitian artist, Ralph Allen has volunteered his time to conduct art classes -- with outstanding results! Art from the center first appeared in 2003 in a book of prayers called "A Gathering of Angels", then again in 2004 in "Always Room at the Inn", and most recently in 2009 in the recently released "Shine".