MIAMI Herald Wishbook

Wish Book: The Joseph family in North Miami needs a dining room set


How to help

    Wish Book is trying to help hundreds of families in need this year:

• To donate, pay securely at

• To give via your mobile phone, text WISH to 41444.

• For information, call 305-376-2906 or email

    Most requested items: laptops for school, furniture, bicycles, accessible vans.


Little Grace Joseph’s 4-year-old face lights up a dim room.

A smile is rare, though she is clingy and kissy, even to strangers. She does not speak, the result of a premature birth that also has her eating pureed food through a tube in the side of her stomach.

“I blend everything,” says her dad Erick Joseph, a single dad of four children who works security for a company at PortMiami.

Grace’s twin sister Faith chatters away. They wear the same clothes, little blue jean shorts with a star on a back pocket and red and blue frilly shirts. Their older brother Zyrien, 5, and their nephew Jaykwon, 8, sit on a bunk bed, blasting away at each other playing video games.

Jaykwon is Joseph’s grandchild. He is the son of Joseph’s oldest daughter Stephanie Joseph, who doesn’t live with the family, but had a child at 13. Jaykwon’s father is in jail.

Joseph, his three children and one grandchild live in a tiny, $900-a-month, two-bedroom, third floor apartment in North Miami. The rooms are cluttered with beds. The living room furnishings are sparse, a small television, a couple of old couches. The family eats on a little children’s fold up plastic table with two small plastic chairs.

Two weeks ago, a gunman robbed Joseph at the apartment complex, taking what little cash he had in his wallet and a cellphone.

Still, he smiles.

“Now I have no ID at all,” said Joseph, who moved to South Florida from Haiti as a child. “But I’m a Christian. I really believe God does a lot of things for me. With the kids, He helps me a lot.”

Despite the sparse existence, and an old car that can barely fit two car seats in the back, all the family wants for Christmas is a dining room set.

“I don’t have a table,” said Joseph, whose $9-an hour, part time job rarely gets him above 30 hours a week.

He married nine years ago, and he and his wife had three children — the 5-year-old boy and the 4-year-old twins. Joseph’s eldest daughter is from a previous relationship.

The twins were born at Jackson Memorial Hospital after only 21 weeks, leaving Grace with physical and mental issues. They both stayed at the hospital for months. Even today, Faith often wears a mask that delivers oxygen to her system to help her breath properly.

The couple divorced in 2011 and Joseph took the kids after the state removed them from the mother’s care.

Children’s Medical Services, which works with the twins because of their special needs, recommended the family for Wish Book.

On Thanksgiving Day, Joseph took the kids across the street to play in a park.

Later, a friend stopped by and dropped off dinner — collard greens and turkey.

When Joseph works, good friend Katrina Barron watches the children. She has known them since they were very young.

Barron is a teaching assistant for Head Start in the Liberty Square housing project.

The Friday after Thanksgiving she played with the twins, Grace grasping Barron firmly, making eye contact. Faith fumbled about one of the rooms, almost violently emptying a toy box, before spotting what she was looking for, then placing the items back neatly.

When Barron spotted Zyrien sitting atop a bed frame while playing a video game, she sternly told him to get down. He obeyed.

“They’re actually a lot of fun — but a lot of work,” said Barron.

“I’ve been working with kids for 27 years, so it’s easy for me.”

Jaykwon, with big bright eyes and perfect command of the English language, spells each child’s name out for a visitor. He says he wants to be a firefighter, or a police officer.

Zyrien, his younger relative, has a more ambitious — though far tougher goal to achieve: “I want to be a football player,” he said, “for the Ravens.”

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