It was an experience no one will ever forget.
Radio personality Drew Mariani and Catholic journalists Rob Herbst, Patrick Novecosky and Peter Jesserer Smith went to Haiti with Cross Catholic Outreach President Jim Cavnar to witness the distribution of more than 2,400 gifts from the ministry’s “Boxes of Joy” program. The boxes, filled with toys, candy, school supplies and hygiene products, were for children in Les Cayes, one of the areas of Haiti devastated by Hurricane Matthew about 6 months earlier.
It was an incredible moment and a huge boost of hope for the boys and girls involved.
This is the third year the Box of Joy program has been offered to U.S. parishes, schools and community groups and in this case participants from 46 states had taken part, packing a shoebox with gifts for the poor. The program was launched to create a stronger link between U.S. Catholics and their overseas brothers and sisters and to offer a hands-on activity that would truly encompass the meaning of Christmas.
According to Jim Cavnar, the media personalities who came to see the distribution of gifts were deeply impacted by the experience. For most of these distinguished reporters, in fact, it was their first trip to Haiti.
“They all seemed struck by the level of poverty in Haiti – particularly the areas hit hard by Hurricane Matthew,” said Jim. “They were especially moved by the stories of the children, and by the fact that the kids had never received Christmas gifts before. The entire experience – the fact that the families were so poor, that they barely had one meal a day – all of these anecdotes impressed on them the dire situation in Haiti. I don’t think any of them had experienced anything like it before.”
For many of these poor children, a Box of Joy is the first time they have ever received a gift.
“They were also impacted by the hurricane damage they witnessed all along Haiti’s southern peninsula,” Jim added. “People in the States have a hard time realizing how devastating Hurricane Matthew was to the people of Haiti. Here it is, more than six months later, and even though much has been rebuilt, trees are still damaged and homes are still demolished. They saw the devastation first-hand and it affected them greatly.”