Father Andre Sylvestre
Father Andre Sylvestre is a Catholic priest of northern rural Haiti. As of 2014, he has been a priest of 32 years. He is the son of coffee farmers. His father died when he was 12; his mother is still living and never received any schooling.
As a child, Andre Sylvestre would walk 3-4 hours to school. At some point in his schooling, the distance was too great to walk daily and he only could come home during Easter and Christmas vacations. His schooling was interrupted several times and he completed 6th grade at the age of 18.
He was forced to quit school when his family’s coffee crop failed. This upset him terribly and he wrote a letter to the Sisters that operated the Holy Cross School and he requested that they find some means for him to continue his schooling. They granted him a full scholarship for 3 years…”a miracle”, he says.
After completion of those years, he was recommended for the seminary and continued his education in Port au Prince. The “miracles” continued and he was granted the opportunity for schooling in North America. Father Andre received a Master of Clinical Psychology from a university in Ottawa and later a Master in Counseling Psychology from Ball State University.
While in the United States, Father Andre contacted Linda Thieman, a woman well-known in a small Ohio town for guiding over 50 trips to Haiti. He explained to her that he felt called to start an orphanage – though he did not know when or how he would accomplish it – only that he felt it was something he was supposed to do as a way to pay back some of what God had blessed him with in his life. Linda had no financial means to help him, but remained in contact with Fr. Andre and kept their conversation on her mind.
Father Andre completed his degree, graduated from Ball State in December 2009, and planned his return to Haiti. On January 12, 2010 a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti that killed over 200,000 people and destroyed the largest, most populated city in Haiti. Within 4 days, Father was able to gain entrance into Haiti and spent 6 months counseling the survivors. There are not many trained counselors in Haiti and these people had lost everything and sometimes everybody they knew. He knew when he saw the parentless children living in the streets that it was time to start the orphanage he had long felt called to begin.
Shortly thereafter, 2 private individuals gifted Father Andre a one-time donation to purchase 15 acres of land in northern rural Haiti.