In 2015, my ministry, Pax et Bonum Communications, began to do more than simply putting the power of film at the service of the poor…and began to actually serve the poor. After making more than 20 films on global and domestic poverty that stressed the obligation Christian have to be one with the poor and featured people who exemplified the self-emptying love of Christ by serving the poorest of the poor, I felt called to serve unschooled street kids in Haiti.
A Place for Kids to Be Kids tells the improbable story of how a filmmaker (me) and an artist (my wife, Ecarlatte) left our comfortable lives in California to open a free day care center for children in the poorest nation in the western hemisphere. The film traces the evolution of the Santa Chiara Children’s Foundation from operating out of a small apartment in a slum caring and for ten kids a day to our move to a larger, safer walled compound serving 50 children a day, including a dozen kids who live at Santa Chiara.
Pope Francis said: “I see the church as a field hospital after battle.” In its humble, very limited way, the Santa Chiara Children’s Foundation is a kind of field hospital for kids. They knock on our gate weary from their battle with extreme poverty, constant hunger, emotional neglect, and often physical abuse. They come wounded in many ways. We begin by welcoming them, then feeding them, then embracing and encouraging them, then playing with them, then teaching them…and sometimes even healing them. When needed we offer them temporary shelter and even access to medical care. We pay school fees for some kids. But mostly, we offer them love.
An important part of the mission of Santa Chiara is to offer the children classes in reading, writing, and math. Many of the children cannot read. Each child is given one-on-one personal attention depending upon their needs. Without educational opportunities the children will not have any chance to escape the prison of poverty that ensnares so many Haitian. We also provide art and craft classes which is the only time the kids get to explore their own creativity. Outside the walls of Santa Chiara there is no time for anything but the struggle for survival.
The film is divided into two parts, each presented on a separate DVD. Part One, “Sowing the Seed,” documents the early days of living in the slum. Part Two, “The Harvest,” features life in our new, larger home. Part One runs 49 minutes. Part Two runs 93 minutes.