By Jessica Easthope
A family sitting around the table, eating and laughing, a home cooked meal is ready on the stove – it looks idyllic – but only if you don’t know where they’ve been.
“My wife was really traumatized by all the people we saw suffering along the road, especially the children dying, she felt like she and our child could have died too,” said Jean Altenor.
For a month and a half, Lynda Aurilus and Jean Altenor, like more than 15,000 other Haitians, were on the move, walking most of the way from Chile to Texas – headed for the Del Rio border.
“We knew we couldn’t go back to Haiti, we could never go back so we saw the opportunity and decided to join a big group and go,” Lynda said.
They arrived in Cambria Heights, Queens in September with just the clothes on their backs. They were taken in by Marie and Joseph Orilus, Lynda’s aunt and uncle.
“It’s beyond comprehension what they explained to me the agony they went through, to walk from 11 countries, I can express the sadness within me to reach out to them,” said Marie.
They left Haiti, fleeing political violence in 2017 after Lynda’s cousin was murdered. Now they’re starting over in another foreign country – but here it’s the promise of the Diocese of Brooklyn to keep them safe.
“We have to come as a community, as a church to see what can we do to accompany these people long term,” said Father Hilaire Belizaire.
Of the 1,000 Haitians who made it to New York, 200 have settled in the Diocese of Brooklyn. Father Hilaire Belizaire, the coordinator of the ministry to Haitian immigrants has been helping them get settled.
“Jesus identified himself with the poor, with the needy, that was the face I saw in those migrants, this is an opportunity to respond to the gospel mandate,” said Father Hilaire.
People who made it through the border aren’t eligible for refugee status so they’ll all relying on host families like Marie and Joseph.
“As Catholics, there’s no greater reward,” Marie said. “Knowing I helped somebody improve their life.”
And if you want to help others like Lynda and Kean make a new home in New York City
Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens is on the frontlines resettling migrants. To donate to their cause, visit ccbq.org and click “give now.”