“It’s not her fault. She’s not even a person yet.”
These words from a Haitian boy came as a shock to Fr. Marc. A little girl was misbehaving very badly that day, and Fr. Marc felt that she needed to be corrected. But now he was being told that he could not hold her responsible for her actions, because “a child doesn’t get a soul until they’re 2.”
After more than a decade of ministry at the Espwa Village orphanage that we support in Les Cayes, Haiti, this was the first time Fr. Marc heard the troubling superstition that a person is not a person until the age of 2. He worried that this false belief not only allowed parents to excuse their children’s bad behavior, but it also opened the door to child abuse.
It seems that Haiti’s most vulnerable poor – the children – are often the least protected. Wealthier families take in the children of the poor and treat them as virtual slaves, overworked and underfed. It was child abuse that inspired Fr. Marc to start his own school at Espwa, after one of his boys came home bleeding from a severe beating by a teacher with a rawhide whip.
With our ministry’s support, the 650 orphaned and destitute boys (and a few girls) under Fr. Marc’s care get more than food and shelter — they also learn that they are special in God’s eyes. They are introduced to Christ’s love through catechism training and open-air Mass on the orphanage campus, as well as by the example of Fr. Marc himself. His heart for the poor is infectious, and he always puts their needs above his own.
“I sometimes wonder how many children we are saving from a life of slavery,” Fr. Marc said. “I know in my heart that a good percentage of our kids would have no option but to go that route if we were not here.”