Letter to Maine Friends

From Dr. Cynthia DeSoi

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Dear Maine Friends:

Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.  Located only 500 miles

from the U.S., you can be there in 90 minutes via departure from Florida.

Haiti was “discovered” by Christopher Columbus in 1492.  Although most Americans

believe that Columbus landed in North America that year, he landed first in the Bahamas, and then in Haiti, which he christened Espaniola.  Within 30 years of the

discovery, all the indigenous peoples were gone, dead due to abuse by the Spanish or from disease brought by the conquerors.  In order to take advantage of the many opportunities presented by the discovery of Haiti, and the rest of the New World, a massive slave trade was developed.  In the course of the following years Haiti was

repopulated with African slaves.  Eventually, after three (3) centuries of slavery, in 1803, Haiti won independence, becoming the second republic in the world.  Thereafter, although “free,” Haiti continued to suffer exploitation by other nations.

Since 1803, Haitians have languished under a cycle of inept and/or corrupt governments.  Consequently, the people and the environment itself have been

degraded and exploited.  What was once “the pearl of the Antilles” is now largely

deforested, infertile, and surrounded by water made unfishable by runoff from seasonal torrential rains.  The few remaining natural resources cannot begin to support a population in excess of nine (9) million people, the result being a

national state of malnutrition, disease, and reduced mortality second to none. 

Caught in this bleak situation are the children.

In the 1990’s, during the peak of the Haitian boat peoples’ dilemma, Father Marc

Boisvert, a Catholic Priest and Lewiston, Maine, native, was stationed at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.  As a result of what he saw, and what he heard from the

Haitian people, Boisvert resigned his commission in the Navy, sold his belongings and relocated to Les Cayes, a sizable city on Haiti’s southern coast.  It was his plan to help the Haitians, in particular the innocent and starving children.  What his U.S.

charitable organization has accomplished in the past 12 years is incredible, and is one of the few sources of hope (pronounced “espwa” in Haitian creole) in a relatively hopeless place.

Since 1998, Boisvert’s project has mushroomed from a single room facility to Hope Village (Vilaj Espwa), a 140-acre facility that provides nutrition, medicine,

education, and hope to thousands of people.  Since the January 12th earthquake, the needs of the community have become even more desperate, and the orphanage now

houses more than 800 vulnerable, abandoned, and homeless children.  These

children, and other neighboring kids who otherwise would be without, receive daily meals and schooling.  In addition to dormitories, schools and a medical clinic the

village has a vocational center, a horticultural center, and working farm.

I invite you to visit our website:  www.freethekids.org.  There you can explore the project, and learn more about current events and future plans.  I also invite you to

contact me to discuss how you might support this wonderful endeavor that resulted

from a native Mainer’s love for others, wise vision, and hard, hard work.

Thank you.

Cynthia DeSoi, MD