Editor’s Note – This is the fourth in a five part series of diary entries written by Fairfield alumnus Paul Kendrick ‘72, who spent the week of January 10th through January 16th in Haiti. Kendrick is a long time advocate for sex abuse victims and a co-founder of Voice of the Faithful in Maine, which formed in response to the Roman Catholic sex abuse cases. He had visited Project Pierre Touissant, which was run by fellow Fairfield alumnus Doug Perlitz ‘92 in 2003. Last year, Perlitz was indicted by a Bridgeport grand jury on ten counts of abusing Haitian children. His trial is scheduled to start in April.
UPDATE : The Project can and must open immediately, if only on a limited basis to provide the kids with food, water and shelter. No more talk, no more meetings. I was there. It can be done. I offer my service.
In his letter from a Birmingham Jail, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. lamented, “Wait means never.”
Cap-Haitian – For the first time since I arrived in Haiti on Sunday, there were glimpses of sun in the distant sky. Most of the past three days were consumed by torrents of rain. The pot holes in the dirt streets were filled with water making driving more difficult than usual.
My first thoughts today were of the heroic people here in Haiti who put aside their own desire for privacy and safety to stop a popular, well-liked child molester child from sexually abusing children. The boys had lived in constant fear of Douglas Perlitz for many years. They knew if they resisted his sexual advances, he would take away their privileges or, perhaps they might even be tossed out of the school.
Cyrus Sibert, a husband, father and local journalist first broke the story of Perlitz’s abuse of children only after careful investigation and testimony from teachers and students. Sibert became the object of criticism from prominent Haitian business leaders, many of whom benefited from Doug doing business with them. Sibert is a thoughtful, but outspoken advocate for human rights. I have come to know him as a man of intellect, deep compassion, and abundant pride in his roots and heritage.
I am also grateful for the moral fortitude and personal courage of the remaining Haiti Fund, Inc. board members who responded to Sibert’s allegations by initiating a private investigation and cooperating with U.S. and Haitian investigators. They removed Perlitz as Executive Director against overwhelming adversity from Father Paul Carrier and other prominent and influential Fairfield County Catholics.
Margarette is employed as a social worker at the Justinian Hospital. Formerly, she was employed as a social worker at the Project’s drop-in center. The boys who were abused love Margarette. They know they can share their worries and troubles with her. She helps them understand that the abuse was not their fault.
There are others, including former teachers, who tried to stop Perlitz from abusing children. They were up against huge odds. Who would believe them? Would the school be forced to close if Doug left? How would the children be fed? Where would they live?
The sexual abuse of a child is a non-erasable fact. It affects the healthy lives of young and old, poor and rich, successful and not successful. What happened to these children must never happen to any child, at any time, at any place.
And then Rev. Paul Carrier, S.J. comes to mind. The kids call him Pere Paul. Carrier devoted himself to the Project. He traveled to Haiti once a month, he spoke on the phone with Doug several times each day, he focused his campus ministry on the Project, he preached constantly about the good work being done here (by Doug) and raised money at every opportunity. In fact, Carrier exercised almost complete control of the Haiti Fund, Inc., the non-profit entity he created.
Carrier was the Haiti Fund’s first and only board Chairman. Donations to the Haiti Fund were received at a Fairfield University mailing address on North Benson Road. Carrier saw to it that Perlitz was awarded an honorary degree by the University, was a keynote speaker at a commencement ceremony and was regularly featured in University publications.
As a result of my recent immersion experience in Haiti and my personal encounters with the pain and suffering of the victims, it is fair for me to ask Father Carrier to explain what he knew about the sexual abuse of children by Perlitz and when he first became aware that it was happening. Carrier knew.
I could sense the anger in the Project’s senior staff member who told me that Carrier did not speak to him for three years in the aftermath of the staff member’s confrontation with Doug about his abuse of the kids. We should all be angry. The staff member made a heroic attempt to stop children from being abused and the Haiti Fund’s Chairman of the Board won’t speak to him anymore? Carrier, the pied piper of social justice, must be held accountable.
It did not take me but a few days in Haiti to realize that the people in the Cap Haitian community want and need the school and drop-in center to reopen – now – today!
To do any less would continue to show our disrespect for the dignity and pride of the Haitian people. After all, we came and said we wanted to help, but, instead, we came and raped their children. When, at first, the children spoke about their abuse, many of us called them liars and abandoned them back to the dangerous streets. We took away their food and water. We said no to books, crayons and paper. Go sleep again in the alley. It will be a further insult to the community in Haiti if the facilities are used for any other purpose than a school and drop-in center for street kids.
In late 2002, my wife and I traveled to Bolivia, the poorest country in South America, as part of an Ignatian Immersion Experience. In preparation for our trip, our Jesuit spiritual director asked us to reflect upon the following:
Our first task in approaching
is to take off our shoes
for the place we are
approaching is holy.
Else we find ourselves
treading on another’s
dream. More serious
still, we may forget…
was here before our arrival.
ASAP – Psychotherapy and Counseling
There is a caring and compassionate social worker by the name of Margarette who is employed by Justinian Hospital in Cap-Haitien. Margarette was formerly employed by the Project and has continued to help the boys who were abused deal with the emotional and spiritual trauma of their abuse. Margarette needs our support now. We must provide her with both financial support and the professional assistance of psychologists and licensed clinical social workers who are experienced in treating victims of child sex abuse (for instance, my wife is a licensed clinical social worker with experience working with child sex abuse victims as part of a Sexual Assault Trauma team at a local mental health agency).
ASAP – Reopen the Drop-in Center in the inner city
This operation doesn’t need to immediately return to full capacity. It is my understanding that the former inner city facility is still available to rent. With immediate funding, a small staff can be hired to begin providing the children with three hot meals, water for bathing, athletic activities, games, schooling, etc.
ASAP – Reopen the Village
The Village is Project Pierre Toussaint’s residential program on the outskirts of town with space for 60 to 70 kids. In addition to a core curriculum of reading and writing, the children are offered a wide variety of vocational training, including sewing, driving, welding, woodworking, and tailoring.
While in Haiti two weeks ago, I visited the facility which appeared to be in good shape thanks to security having been provided for. The Village must be reopened immediately, employing at first a small staff to provide food and shelter to 50 or so former students who have been roaming the streets for the past year.
Circumstances may provide for the rehiring of a former senior staff member who is in the process of moving back to Cap-Haitien from Port-au-Prince because he lost his home in the earthquake. This individual is capable of overseeing the restructuring of both the village operation and the drop-in center.
ASAP – Reopening Team Assembled from Haiti and U.S.
At first, a few dedicated people from both the U.S. and Haiti will form a new Board of Directors or Advisory Committee to begin the process of reopening the Project. At first, the one and only task will be to open the doors so that the kids can be fed and provided with a safe place. People I spoke with in Haiti do not want the project to be named Project Pierre Touissaint.
ASAP – Financial Support
Fairfield University President, Jeffrey von Arx, S.J., has the ability to quickly raise $500,000 as the beginning of a new and revitalized capital campaign for the project.
ASAP – We Must Never Forget What Happened
I envision that part of a new mission statement is an unwavering commitment to become a center to provide educational support and child sex abuse awareness programs as a way of combating child sex abuse in Haiti. The new school would become a “beacon” for all other schools, orphanages and non profit organizations to reach out to. It is my firm belief that the Fairfield University and Order of Malta communities have a moral and ethical obligation to take the first step in making reparations and restitution to the boys for the harms and injuries inflicted upon them as a result of their abuse by providing immediate funding to a get the doors reopened.
ASAP means just that. Now, immediately, no more waiting.
April 2006 – It was unexpectedly announced by New England Jesuit Provincial, Rev. Thomas Regan, S.J., that Rev. Paul Carrier, S.J., Fairfield University’s longtime Director of Campus Ministry, would begin a sabbatical at the conclusion of the current academic year. It is interesting to note that, in the University’s official announcement of Carrier’s leaving, there was no direct mention of Project Pierre Toussaint, a main focus of Carrier’s campus ministry. Instead, Rev. Jeffrey von Arx, S.J., President of Fairfield University, stated, “I am particularly aware of the need for continuity in support of the outreach programs that have characterized the apostolic commitments of this worshiping community, especially our programs in Haiti, and I will be working with Fr. Carrier to assure that continuity.”
September 2007 – In breaking news, Cyrus Sibert, a journalist located in Cap-Haitian, Haiti, began reporting that an American who helped street kids in Cap-Haitien was sexually abusing the children. Soon after, an investigation of these child sex abuse allegations against Douglas Perlitz was initiated by the Haiti Fund’s Board of Directors.
April 2008 – Rev. Thomas Regan, S.J. instructs Carrier to resign as Chairman of the Haiti Fund’s Board of Directors and to resign as a member of the board. Regan also informs Carrier that he must resign from his non-salaried teaching position at the Convent of the Sacred Heart school in Greenwich, CT.
September 2008 – A letter, signed by the newly appointed Chairman and President of the Haiti Fund, Inc., is sent to supporters and donors of Project Pierre Toussaint, announcing, among other things, the termination of Executive Director, Douglas Perlitz. The letter concludes by saying, “…We are pleased to inform you that books and supplies have been ordered and that school will start on September 10th. Because of your caring, over 300 street children in Cap-Haitien will be off the streets and in a classroom.”
September 2008 – Twelve individuals, including several former Haiti Fund, Inc. board members (Rev. Paul Carrier, S.J., Hope Carter, Amber Gray, Madeline E. Laccovara, Philip Allen Lacovara, Esq., Jessica Lozier, Dr. Suzanne MacAvoy, Deborah Picarazzi, Nick Preneta, Jeanne Tisdale and Thomas L. Tisdale, Esq), signed a letter that was sent to the same donors in which the signers disputed the firing of Perlitz. They wrote in part, “We cannot judge our Haitian friends, but we will not in good conscience allow their poverty, and the depth of their struggle to destroy Doug Perlitz.” In other words, the boys who had the courage to report their abuse by Perlitz are liars.
October 2008 – I wrote several email messages to Jesuit Provincial, Rev. Thomas Regan, S.J. and senior Fairfield University officials, including Nancy Habetz and Dr. Mark Reed (with copies to President von Arx), requesting that the Fairfield University website be updated to reflect that Perlitz was fired from the Project due to credible allegations of child sex abuse (the official letter from the Haiti Fund’s board of directors to supporters and donors announcing the firing of Perlitz was available for publication). Regan responded, “The Society fully supports the decision of the Board, which had as its primary goal assuring the protection of children.”
November 2008 – Dr. Mark Reed, Vice President for Administrative & Student Affairs, refused to publish any updated information about Perlitz on the University website.
December 2008 – The Haiti Fund, Inc. runs out of money. Project Pierre Toussaint is forced to close and the kids are returned to the streets with no food, water or shelter.
September 2009 – Perlitz is indicted by a federal grand jury on ten counts of child sex abuse. He is arrested and transported to Connecticut.
December 2009 – Dr. Mark Reed cancels a scheduled meeting between Reed, Vice President Marketing and Communications, Rama Sudhakar, and me due to the advice of the University’s lawyers.