The children and young people from Haiti at Casa Lelia, Cannara

Waiting for the children of Haiti

Around twenty children from Port-au-Prince, Haiti, spent Christmas with Sister Marcella Catozza in Cannara. Their amazement at the cold, the lights, at friends. And the night that brought He who can fulfil their hope into the world.
Marcella Catozza

"Does Santa Claus know that we are living in Casa Lelia?” Jesimel asked me this on the morning of December 24th. Within this simple question, was the courage of an eight-year-old girl who is trying her best to conquer a place in the world. A warrior, just like the other 19 warriors with whom we came from Haiti, in recent months, to Cannara, in the province of Perugia. We have left behind the violence and loneliness of a country that is increasingly sinking. A country that, in recent months, has seen chaos, misery, hunger and human despair grow. But we have not left behind the Kay Pè Giuss in Port-au-Prince, our home, where, for years, we have welcomed orphaned and abandoned children. We have brought that home, that piece of hope in Haiti, with us, pioneers of a new adventure. May it continue to indicate our path here in Italy, the history we live, the faces we encounter.

Thus in silence, little by little, 19 little Haitians prepared for the Christmas party: they are used to the heat, the sun, chaotic noise. Here they discovered the cold, coloured lights, music in the streets, the smiles of those who came to Casa Lelia bringing us presents. They wrote letters to Santa Claus and we put them in a big box under the tree: some asked for a remote control car, others for a remote control helicopter, others for a red hairband and some asked for sweets... And also for a backpack, a bicycle and even a puppy. And there were those who had also thought of writing a letter in Sister Marcella's name asking for a lot of money, after two bad robberies took Casa Lelia’s whole winter budget away.

The house was full of sweets that neighbours and friends from the area had brought in procession, like the wise men who visited the manger; their new clothes colourful and shining; the wait for the January days when everyone will go to friends' house to spend the last days of the holiday; the arrival of Santa Claus in the square and our choir, singing on a horse-drawn cart, wishing everyone a "Merry Christmas". Days full of waiting and curiosity to see who would come to visit us that day and what they would bring us, but also the wait for friends who would come to spend a few days with us.

And then Christmas Eve, beautifully shining, happened again, ten thousand kilometers away from our country. We got ready to go to church but it seemed a big step for the younger children due to the cold and how late it was. But no one wanted to stay at home, the crammed buses left in the dark of the night, the children wrapped in their coats but excited for the adventure. The church was warm, welcoming, there were many friendly faces, the priest smiled at us, the bells rang. Another place, other circumstances, but this year, too, we were there waiting for Him, full of a story of good, for us and for the world. A story shared with our brothers and sisters who have stayed in Haiti, all our friends, all the people who fight by our side, all those who came to kneel in silence before the manger in Bethlehem to recognize, grateful and moved, that everything is given, even if you were born in Haiti and even if you have to fight to recover the dignity that the good God gave you when you came into the world.

"What do you wish for Christmas?" This was the question posed to the children of the second grade: "To go and find my dad," wrote Jesimel, and on Christmas Eve, in front of the illuminated manger, we entrusted this hope to Jesus, with the certainty that what the heart of man asks for always has an Answer.