Alix Cethoute was fifteen years old when his dad, a tailor, migrated to the United States, to give his family a life that most Haitians can only dream about. Here is Alix’ story:
During my teenage years I would return to Haiti to spend a few days with friends and relatives. But I never stayed too long, and I always considered myself a visitor. Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere. And I was aware of this great poverty in Haiti, because you cannot go anywhere without noticing it. But I never allowed myself to get too close to it and I never wanted to touch it. Having escaped the grinding poverty of Haiti, I suppose, unconsciously at least, I wanted to remain aloof from it. It’s surprising what you don’t see if you don’t look for it.
Then in 2001 I went on a pilgrimage to Haiti with 12 other St. Philip parishioners, and my life has never been the same since. The faces of the poor were engraved forever on my soul. They were no longer anonymous; they were my suffering soulmates.
Mathew’s words – “I was hungry, and you fed me, thirsty and you gave Me drink… naked and you clothed me” did not hold much meaning for me. But in Haiti, they hit me hard. In Haiti, I found Jesus Christ for the first time in my life. I found Him in the children, whose stomach were bloated and whose naturally dark hair had turned bright orange from malnourishment. And yet they still knew how to smile that special smile of an innocent child unaware of their own suffering. And I found Jesus in a Dad pacing outside the children’s health clinic in Boileau, caressing and kissing the face of his feverish two-year-old daughter as he tried to rub away her tears. He had been waiting for four hours to see the doctor. But he did not complain. He just did not want his daughter to die. I have four children, and my first child was a little girl who very much resembled that sick little girl in Boileau. I immediately put myself in that gentleman shoes and, even though I am not the emotional type, I wept. That could have been my little baby girl. I went and begged the doctor to see that little girl that day, yes, I begged him. And when the doctor escorted the dad and his baby into the clinic, I felt like I had rescued that baby. God only knows. But what I do know is that I went on that pilgrimage for a reason. It was a calling from God, it was loud, and it was clear. He wanted me to do everything I could to help my poor brothers and sisters in Haiti.
Since then my objective to accumulate everything I could for myself and my family seemed and continues to be senseless. I knew then and strongly continue to believe that the only way I will ever find fulfillment is by filling the needs of the poorest of the poor. If I don’t, I have missed my calling. If you had touched them, if you had held them in your arms, you would know how I feel. I suffer with them and always will, so long as they suffer. Their heartache was my heartache, their tears were my tears, their tragedy was my tragedy. Today their heartache is still my heartache, their tears are still my tears, their tragedy is still my tragedy. Please help my poor brothers and sisters in Haiti. Join hands with me in our ministry of mercy and love. I promise you God will reward you for it.