03/20/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

What I Know About Haiti

Seamus Matlack has traveled to Haiti twice, making close friends with boys there who have repeatedly come to visit him in Boston.

Almost everything that is wrong with the world in this day and age is in Haiti. Did you think slavery didn't exist any more? Well, child slavery is one of the only profitable markets in Haiti, along with the drug scene. You know how little kids in the US clump mud together to make 'mud pies' as a fun rainy day activity? Well, the little kids in Haiti mix a little salt and whatever other food they can find (those foods wouldn't normally pass the standard for the homeless here), mix it with mud and EAT IT just so they can have something in their stomach. I would think after this devastating (actually that's too weak a word, but I'll use it for lack of a better one) earthquake, images and information about this deprived (another weak word choice) country would have circulated and that it would be common knowledge that they don't have running water and that half of Port au Prince lives in huts -- really four concrete walls that have a tin sheet on top of it and hopefully a tarp at best -- but in case for some reason you haven't heard, yah that's their life.

When I went down to Haiti, the best way to sum it up was that it was an incredibly poor country that had just gone through a war and earthquake at the same time.

That was before this 7.0 earthquake hit.

That's where Hearts with Haiti and the St. Joseph's homes comes in. St. Joe's was started by an incredible man named Michele. He started with almost no money and took in boys off the street and gave them a home. Soon it began to grow and the main St. Joe's house was built. This place has been an oasis in Port au Prince, filled with art, learning, faith, love, and joy. Countless street boys, many of whom were child slaves, have been taken off the streets and given the opportunity to go to school, learn art, have a home, a family, and a chance at a good life. As they expanded another home called Trinity House was built in the Haitian countryside. In addition to being a home, there was also a school and feeding program started for local families. Most recently, Wings of Hope was started. Wings is a home for mental and physically disabled kids. In Haiti children with mental or physical disabilities are considered devil children and are most often abandoned by their families who are scared of them and too poor to take care of them.

The organization around the St. Joe's homes is called Hearts with Haiti and has done an incredible amount for these kids and for all of Haiti. This is where I stayed when I went to Haiti. The work they were doing blew me away. Everyone involved was so inspiring and despite such immense hardship, there was a huge amount of joy. These people and Haiti has entered my heart and changed my life.

Due to the earthquake, the main St. Joe's home was completely destroyed, leaving the St. Joe's family stranded up in the mountains at Wings with their funds and home gone. I cannot articulate how much this pains me. That home was such an incredible place and took so much hard work that the idea that it is gone is almost unfathomable. Luckily no one was killed, but several people were very seriously injured. One of them was Bill, a former child slave and St. Joe's boy, who has grown up to become one of the main leaders running the St. Joe's family. He is a beautiful soul and is one of the nicest, kindest people I have ever met.

So does it really take a 7.0 earthquake for people to notice? There were food riots in 2008 and living conditions were as bad as they've ever been. Now that the earthquake has hit, I can't even imagine how bad they could possible be. For once, let's not ignore this dying nation. Instead, let's help it come through such a terrible occurrence prospering and bustling with the excitement that things can and will be different. For now the spotlight has finally lit up the Haiti. So make this rare window of possibility for Haiti count. When people are this poor, every dollar counts. I don't need to inspire you but I do need you to understand why this moment in world history is so important. Hearts with Haiti has set up an earthquake fund to help the St. Joseph's family and the people of Haiti. In order for them to recover and for them to help their country recover, they need your help. If this country can't change now, the opportunity for a brighter future has come and gone. So if your human nature isn't telling you to help this part of the human race, than your values must be in disarray. Please, I implore you to make a difference in this world and help this desperate country.

Donate HERE

Edited by Kerry Matlack

Seamus Matlack is an 8th grader at Boston College High.
Kerry Matlack is a sophomore at Buckingham Browne & Nichols School.
Tom Matlack is their dad.

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