Sunday, July 29, 2012

Why is Free the Kids Board Member, Nelson J. Vogel, Jr., Ignoring the Protection of Haitian Children from Sexual Abuse?

July 29, 2012

Nelson J. Vogel, Jr.
Barnes & Thornburg LLP
600 1st Source Bank Center
100 North Michigan
South Bend, Indiana 46601

Dear Mr. Vogel,

I am writing to you in your capacity as a member of the Board of Directors of Free the Kids, the Norh Carolina based non-profit, that supports and directs Pwoje Espwa in Les Cayes, Haiti.

With 600 children in residence, Pwoje Espwa is one of the largest orphanages in Haiti. Its founder and director, Rev. Marc Boisvert, OMI, is a Catholic priest and U.S. citizen who belongs to the Oblates of Mary Immaculate religious order.

By this letter, I am asking you to respond to ongoing concerns by child protection advocates of an incident that occurred at Pwoje Espwa in May 2011.

Brother Robert-Anthony Campbell, FSD, a live-in volunteer at Pwoje Espwa, wrote on his blog that he put his hands all over ("washed from head to toe" and shampooed the hair) the naked body of an 11 year old boy who lives at the orphanage. In addition, Brother Campbell's blog contained disturbing references to other children. 

When I asked Brother Campbell about the incident, he immediately shut down his blog.

When I asked Father Boisvert about the incident, Boisvert shut down the ability to post comments on his blog.

When child protection advocates asked Father Boisvert for a copy of Pwoje Espwa's Child Protection Policy, Boisvert ignored all requests.

When I asked Father Boisvert to conduct a professional investigation of the incident by a trained forensic investigator, I was told by Jim Cavnar, President of Cross International (Cross International provides $500,000 each year to Pwoje Espwa), that an "attorney" had investigated the matter and there was nothing to it.

Case closed - at least in the minds of all interested parties at Pwoje Espwa.

Brother Campbell was hastily recalled to Troy, NY by his superiors.

Father Boisvert is currently on a 6 month sabbatical.

By coincidence, two individuals from Maine are members of the orphanage's board of directors; Dr. Cynthia DeSoi of Lewiston and Portland attorney, Robert Morris.

Board members, DeSoi and Morris, are hostile to concerns about child safety at Pwoje Espwa.

It's reminiscent, don't you think, of what we know now about the child sexual abuse coverup at Penn State?

Lot's of people looking the other way. Lots of people putting the institution first and the safety and well being of the children last.

I couldn't help but notice, Mr. Vogel, that you are a former president of the Big Brothers and Big Sisters organization in South Bend, Indiana. As president, did you, your staff and your fellow board members ignore the safety of the children and young people you served?

It is incumbent upon you, as a member of the Pwoje Espwa Board of Directors, to insist that a proper investigation of the incident between Brother Campbell and the naked 11 year old boy be conducted by an experienced professional who is trained in child sexual abuse investigations.

It is also incumbent upon you, Mr. Vogel, to insist that Free the Kids (Pwoje Espwa) publish the organization's Child Protection Policy and Code of Behavior on its web site.    

Why would you want to do any less?



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