PENFIELD — It is one thing to see pictures and videos of Third World countries, said Deacon Kevin Carges, but to view the shocking reality of the living conditions firsthand is indescribable.
"You see stories of these countries on the news and you have a sense of what’s going on over there," said Deacon Carges, who ministers at Our Lady of Peace Parish in Geneva. "But once you arrive there and interact with the people, it’s a very different experience."
The deacon has had the chance to witness the living conditions and interact with the people of Jamaica and Nicaragua during his travels there, but he said a trip to Haiti in July 2009 permanently transformed his life.
To help convey the significance of his life-changing personal experiences, Deacon Carges presented a pictorial slideshow at the July 26 installment of Theology on Tap at Don’s Original in Penfield, titled "Hope for Haiti."
The trip to Haiti, which Deacon Carges took part in on behalf of the nonprofit organization Food for the Poor, resulted in a personal conversion experience, he said. This transformation occurred mostly because of the sensory aspects of the trip, such as holding babies with bloated stomachs, seeing the thousands of people who live in the landfills and simply touching the Haitian people.
Everything seen and heard on the trip is "something that never leaves you," he said.
Five years ago, Deacon Carges never expected that his life would be altered by his involvement in helping the world’s poorest countries. When he was ordained in 2005, he had no experience with Third World countries. But after his 2006 trip to Jamaica, his view of the world and himself changed.
"I knew that I couldn’t just be Deacon Kevin anymore," he said.
Despite his busy schedule — including devoting time to his wife and four children and maintaining his duties as owner of Canandaigua Quick Print — Deacon Carges has taken steps to help aid Third World countries.
One such step was when he created "Deacon Kevin’s Circle of Friends." In collaboration with Food for the Poor, he is seeking donations to build tilapia farms, which will both empower and provide food for people in Third World countries, he said. The deacon also helped establish "Eight 4 Third World Hope," an organization that has already raised more than $9,000 to build a school in Jamaica.
Deacon Carges’ Theology on Tap presentation illustrated the urgent need for such groups as Deacon Kevin’s Circle of Friends. Participants viewed about 100 pictures of the living situations and people of Haiti, such as the desperate Haitians who walk around with wheelbarrows looking to collect valuable items to sell, and the piles of garbage mixed with sewage that spill into the middle of streets and communities.
Deacon Carges said that one of the most significant experiences his trip to Haiti was a visit to the orphanage Little Children of Jesus, which houses disabled children that have been abandoned by their parents, who lack the resources to care for them.
Yet despite the children’s seemingly depressing situations, it was difficult for the deacon to find a child without a smile on his or her face.
"They just want to be touched and held," he said. "That’s all they want."
The time he spent with Haitian children, as well as his exploration of the country’s hospitals, soup kitchens, schools and elderly villages, allowed him to observe the Haitians’ strong faith background. Even for the many citizens who have few possessions and little food, he noted that there is still a sense of gratitude and strong faith.
"The faith of the Haitian people is just tremendous," he remarked, noting that the country is 85 percent Catholic. "It almost puts me to shame. These people live God."
From his observance of the people in Haiti, Deacon Carges said that he learned several important lessons: Everyone is responsible for each another, and we need to mimic the values of the Haitian people, who perceive the solidarity of the community as the easiest way to help everyone succeed.
"After all, we are all sisters and brothers," he said.
EDITOR’S NOTE: To help support the building of tilapia farms in Haiti, donations may be made on Deacon Kevin’s Circle of Friends website.Tags: Faith in Action, Ontario County News