canarsie church haitian asylum seekers
Attorney Frederic Aurelien offers pro bono legal counsel at Beraca Baptist Church, on Oct. 22. Photo by Sam Bojarski

As he adjusts to a new life started in America just weeks ago, refugee Maxime Francois said he has particularly struggled with the English language. After making the trek from South America and entering the United States via Del Rio, Texas. 

But luckily, Francois and other asylum seekers are able to work on their language skills, while meeting other needs, at a Brooklyn church that has served as a welcome center for new arrivals. 

“Each time we come here, they welcome us. We’ve gotten clothing, we’ve gotten doctor’s visits,” said Francois, speaking in Creole through a translator, at the Beraca Baptist Church welcome center on Oct. 22. He was flanked by his wife Nachtachie Francois, who like Maxime is in her 20s. Maxime held his daughter Maximayela, a toddler, in his arms. 

To view the full story, please subscribe to The Haitian Times. You can choose a $60 Annual Subscription or a $5 Weekly Pass.

When you join The Haitian Times family, you’ll get unlimited digital access to high-quality journalism about Haiti and Haitians you won’t get anywhere else. We’ve been at this for 20 years and pride ourselves on representing you, our diaspora experience and a holistic view of Haiti that larger media doesn’t show you. 

Join now or renew to get:
— Instant access to one-of-kind stories and special reports 
— Local news from our communities (especially New York and Florida)
— Profiles of Haitians at the top of their fields
— Downloadable lists and resources about Haitian culture 
— Membership merch, perks and special invitations 

First-time subscribers also receive a special welcome gift handmade in Haiti by expert artisans! Do it for the culture and support Black-owned businesses.

If you’re seeing this message but you’re already a subscriber, you can log in for immediate access to this story.

Sam is a reporter for The Haitian Times and a 2020 Report for America corps member. He has covered Haiti and its diaspora since 2018. His work has also appeared in USA Today, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and Haiti Liberte. Sam can be reached at or on Twitter @sambojarski.