The young people in the care of the St. Joseph Family come from some of the most desperate conditions in Haiti, with no support network and often dim prospects for survival. Under the direction of Bill Nathan and Walnes Cangas (both SJF alums), St. Joseph’s Home for Boys is the center of this mission and the young men who reside here have, since entering the SJF, demonstrated the most significant leadership, success in their studies, and propensity for artistic achievement. Each day, the boys attend a well-regarded private school, enjoy nourishing meals, have private tutoring and instruction in a variety of artistic disciplines, participate in morning and evening chapel, spend time kicking back with their friends in the broader community, and enjoy clean accommodations and healthy sanitation. Affirmation is also a major focus, with daily ‘bravos’ in which all the boys tell each other how grateful they are for some act of kindness, from washing the dishes to simply saying hello.
This dream of bringing boys off the street to provide them with a Christian home and family became reality in 1985. The family grew from five boys living in temporary quarters to approximately 20 boys and a large home that included comfortable guest lodging, a chapel, and an art center. This home was an oasis in times of joy and times of sadness, with quiet recesses for contemplation and large spaces for celebration.
Vibrant gardens and spectacular art, standard fare at St. Joseph's Home for Boys
In January of 2010, the main home for these young men and the unique mission center that thousands of guests and volunteers had come to love came crashing down in a matter of seconds. Memories and material possessions were lost – Ben Splichal Larsen, a young seminarian from the United States was tragically lost amid the rubble – and a whole way of life changed in an instant for everyone at the St. Joseph Family and millions of individuals across the world. But, by the grace of God, no residents of the St. Joseph Family lost their lives as the building collapsed and the home’s director, Bill Nathan, was flung seven stories off the top of the building, but lived to tell his story of survival to the world.
Click here to learn more about Bill Nathan’s tremendous story.
In the coming months, the rubble was cleared, the boys moved to Trinity House in Jacmel and into the art center at St. Joseph’s, and a comfortable home next door was purchased and retrofitted to accommodate a steady stream of guests, who never stopped coming to visit the St. Joseph Family, despite travel advisories and outbreaks of Cholera across Haiti.
Today, thanks to the support of friends across the world, a brand new vibrant St. Joseph’s home stands in the footprint of the original facility. Guests are coming in droves, the spectacular collection of Haitian visual art, mostly spared from destruction during the earthquake, adorns the guest house, and the steady drumming and dancing of the Resurrection Dance Theater of Haiti is again enlivening the family room of the new building.
Walnes and Wootrod at SJF anniversary celebrations, January 2012
The guest house St. Joseph’s Home for Boys is the best deal and most comfortable place to stay in Port-au-Prince and is rated as a ‘Top Choice’ in the new Lonely Planet guide to Haiti and the Dominican Republic, which is available for purchase here.
Click here to learn more about traveling to Haiti.