Haitian staying in Boothbay following president’s assassination

Wed, 10/13/2021 - 7:00am

Alex Antoine is a 19-year-old Port Au Prince, Haiti native living in Boothbay. He joined the Hope Haitian Choir seven years ago, and became acquainted with Pastor Tom Kerr of East Boothbay United Methodist Church and his wife Sarah Kerr. 

But instead of returning to Haiti following the choir’s most recent tour, Antoine and his eight other choir members decided to remain in the U.S. following the July 7 assassination of Haitian President Jovenei Moise. 

The U.S. government is allowing all Haitians to seek TPS (temporary protection status) for 18 months due to the unrest in the Caribbean nation. Kerr served as the choir’s bus driver in 2015 and became friends with Antoine. “I know this gentleman. I call him ‘Uncle Tom,’ and asked if I could stay with him,” Antoine said. 

Other choir members found temporary homes in New Jersey, Connecticut and Waterville, according to Antoine. Kerr is pleased to sponsor Antoine. “He asked to stay with us, and I told him we’d be delighted,” Kerr said. 

While in Boothbay, Antoine demonstrates his vast musical skills on Sundays at the church. He accompanies hymns with his talent for bongo playing. Antoine began drumming as a kid without a drum. 

“In my youth, I always played, even if it was just on a table or anything I could find,” he said. “I love to drum, I’m naturally taught. It’s just a gift from God.”

While in Boothbay, he works part-time at East Boothbay General Store. Antoine is also planning to attend college after receiving his TPS. He wants to study cyber security at either the University of Southern Maine or University of Maine at Augusta. “I’m hoping to stay in the U.S. for a while. I want to help my family financially, and maybe someday return to home,” he said. 

Antoine enjoys working out at Boothbay Region YMCA and has made a new friend. “I met Nace Lawless and we become friends. I watched him play football last night (Oct. 9),” he said. “I don’t know a lot about football, but I’m learning.”

This was also the first time he experienced fall weather. In Haiti, he reported there are two seasons:“Hot summer and hot summer.”

He is also worried about the coming Maine winter. “I heard it’s very cold, and I’m a little scared.”

In preparing for college, Antoine is spending time at the Adult Education Center in Damariscotta researching grant opportunities. Those interested in making a financial contribution to his college fund should mail a donation to Hope Haitian Ministries, Post Office Box 374, Boothbay, Maine 04538.