Jacky Francois gives a testimony at Rendezvous Christ Church, about how he found Haiti Teen Challenge.

Jacky Francois, 21, lived on the street, in a prison and in an orphanage before hearing about Haiti Teen Challenge. In a testimony he made at Rendezvous Christ Church, Francois explained how he navigated through several personal and legal struggles.

“My mother died when I was three. I grew up with a friend of my mother. When I was growing up I didn’t find my father in the house. The lady I grew up with did all her best to help me. But I couldn’t understand all her efforts,” Francois said through a translator.

At the age of 7, Francois began acting out. He started coming home late and later started stealing from people in his community of Bristou, a neighborhood in Petion Ville that Francois said is “like a ghetto.”

After drawing the ire of his neighbors, Francois left Bristou and began living on the street. But street life, he said, is “a complete system,” and in order to provide for himself, he joined a gang.

“This crew, what they were doing was stealing things off of the salespeople on the street,” Francois said.

At the age of 11, he got arrested during an attempted robbery and ended up at a juvenile detention center. Luckily, an American missionary who had become acquainted with Francois and his street crew worked to get him out. He left the detention center after about six months in custody and began living at an orphanage.

“There was one student that was in Teen Challenge that (worked) in the orphanage, and he was talking to me about the program. This is how, after my graduation from the orphanage, that I ended up being here,” said Francois.


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Sam is a reporter for The Haitian Times and a 2020 Report for America fellow. He has covered Haiti and its diaspora since 2018. His work has also appeared in USA Today, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and...