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. 

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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 sam@haitiantimes.com or on Twitter @sambojarski.