US Secretary of Health, Kathleen Sebelius, Visits St. Damien Hospital

The U.S. Secretary of Health, Kathleen Sebelius, was a guest of St. Damien Hospital.  She was welcomed by Father Rick Frechette, NPFS National Director and Dr. Jacqueline Gautier, Director of St. Damien Hospital.  On her first visit to Haiti, she met with the administration of the Hospital, participated in a Q&A session and toured the entire property which includes the ARV (AIDS) clinic among others.
Given the fact that the U.S is our partner in fighting AIDS there were many questions posed that addressed serious concerns.  With reference to medication and travel, one of the patients asked if it is possible to image a medicine that will completely cure AIDS.  the Secretary’s response is that it is in the works.  Father Rick further added that there is current research being conducted to prevent the body from rejecting the AIDS medications, which is common in those suffering from the disease.  There was lots of good news at the session.  Another question addressed the possibility of an AIDS infected person being granted a Visa to travel to the U.S.?  Her response was that it is possible if that person is traveling to seek treatment.
Dieuveck Rosembert
Fundraising Officer
NPFS Haiti

The Secretary of Health with Dr. Gautier on the tour of St. Damien

Question and Answer session with the US Secretary of Health

The US Secretary of Health meets with a St. Damien Patient

A Simple Story (on behalf of Fr. Rick Frechette)

It was a simple story.  Jesus was born in the simplest way, in the simplest place, of the simplest people.  He was born at the simplest time, without disturbance or noise.  No pomp, no ceremony, no titles, nothing of vanity. No place to be born within society. The onlookers were camels, donkeys, cattle and sheep. (And now you and I, onlookers from across the centuries, sadly sometimes resembling the first)

Hay for a blanket, stars for the canopy.

Humility, simplicity, gratitude, love, and faithfulness. These marked the moment.

This simplicity resonated in deep harmony with the heavens.  Heavenly favor was revealed by a playful star, by enchanting trumpets, by choirs of heaven voices, by profound peace on earth. Who could ask for more?

The depth of this witness brought simple kings to their knees on the floor of a manger, far from their splendid halls, (but it drove complexed kings into jealous rage, pacing fretfully on marble floors, planning the murder of children).

Would that the world were simple. Wonder if children were just children. Not poor or rich. Just children. All favored. Does anyone even notice the dancing star anymore?  Or are we weary, heavy, burdened, and trudging on with little hope?

Wonder if the way to help children, whose circumstance brings them far from their God-given favor, were simple. No heavy beaurocracys’ that become self-serving, no divided motivation, no demands for attention or fame or reward. Just simple.

Imagine committees, studies, projections and budgets giving way alternately to loving embrace, or passionate challenge, each in its season.

The call of Christmas, to you and to me, is the call to the simplicity of life that gives us freedom. It is call to free ourselves from complexity, and all the dangers that complexity brings. It is the call to serve humbly the God who is the beginning, the middle and the end of our journey. The God who especially loves children.

It’s a call to be simply, father, mother, daughter, friend, to the children who need us. The call to share hearts and values, time and treasures, and to share a journey together across the streets paved by our very limited days, toward our endless horizon.  No one too far ahead.  No one too far behind. No one left alone, no one left discouraged, no one lost.

A song for food, a laugh for drink, the joy of bread and wine.

As we continue to work together to help the children of Haiti, in season and out of season, in an ever more complex world, let us beg God to help us as we build with them, and for the children, a future.

Yes, we surely build homes and schools. We build clinics and hospitals. But we must build up lives and values. We must build up mercy and justice, dignity and peace, hope and trust. We must build the simple values proclaimed by the heavens, and fashion for ourselves and for the children simple lives. (Unless the Lord builds the house, in vain do the builders’ labor!)

 Once again, we thank you for joining us in this noble cause. We carry you in our hearts and prayers. The New Year holds for us all many difficult challenges. We pray for you, in thanksgiving, that you will be blessed and strengthened by the One who is called Wonderful, Counselor, Almighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace.

(But, be blessed and strengthened by all of us, too!)

Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year!

Fr Rick Frechette
Port au Prince, Haiti
December, 2011

Response From Father Rick

Hello Gena

The prophet Isaiah speaks of the Suffering Servant who is “accustomed to sorrow and aquainted with grief.”

This short phrase captures so much of what our experience is like in Haiti, side by side with people we care about deeply, many of whom suffer and die.

In Isaiah, the Suffering Servant is the prefigure of Christ, who doesn’t have to suffer at all, but freely chooses to enter into suffering  in order to help and redeem.

He does not choose to do so like someone who descends from on high in pity, to help an inferior, but as one who sees the incredible richness of the person whose misfortune is what makes us cross paths in the first place, so that, as equals, both lives are incredibly enriched. This kind of richness can only happen with solidarity that unites hearts and requires sacrifice.

In the end your sorrow and grief are the tangible witnesses to the fact that the union of hearts worked, and took root strong and fast

Your words about Audelina and the beautiful picture of her show us how real this all is.

From Italy, our touch of solidarity: we offered mass for Audelina the same day as her burial, in the beautiful cathedral of Milan, with the volunteers and workers of NPH Italy.

Again, I offer my sympathy and prayers and wish you all the Christine and Germaine families bon courage and much strength from God.

-Mon Pere

Mayor of Milan, Letizia Moratti Visits St. Damien Hospital and President Preval

The Mayor of Milan, Letizia Moratti, tours St. Damien with Fr. Rick Frechette

The Mayor of Milan, Letizia Moratti, tours St. Damien with Fr. Rick Frechette

Hello everyone,
I am just back from Haiti, where I have been with Ida and Roberto Dall’Amico, once again for a very intense, sharp and very positive mission.

Mariavittoria Rava and Mayor Moratti at St. Damien Hospital

Mariavittoria Rava and Mayor Moratti at St. Damien Hospital

The Mayor of Milan, Letizia Moratti, visited St. Damien Hospital, and felt emotionally involved in our projects, understood Father Rick’s hard work and she said she would like to help us.

Mayor Moratti visit the ICU

Mayor Moratti visit the ICU

Mayor Moratti Visits with a child at St. Damien

Mayor Moratti Visits with a child at St. Damien

The same day we went to the Government Building, where we had an unexpected meeting with the Haitian President Preval and we talked with him about Nos Petits Frères et Soeurs, organisation that he knew already. Father Rick discussed with him and the Mayor a collaboration between Milan – Port-au-Prince that could pass through Fondazione Francesca Rava-N.P.H. President Preval has also asked to be invited for an official visit to St. Damien Hospital in Tabarre and have an Italian dinner at our guest house.

Mariavittoria Rava, President Preval, Mayor Moratti

Mariavittoria Rava, President Preval, Mayor Moratti

NPH is truly a project coming from Heaven. I am convinced more every day, and Father Wasson is leading us where we would have never thought. Now it’s our turn to work well in order to treasure these beautiful chances, with effort and with the joy of the results in our hearts. I have also seen Luciano on Francisville’s site. He’s very professional and humanitarian and he’s also very close to Father Rick’s work and ours.

In the care and emotion of these days, I have felt very close to everyone in this unbelievable adventure of help for the children of Haiti; any time you go there, you feel the emergency of the need, the scream in a dignified silence, the generosity absolute and free in the smiles of the people who welcome you, even in the midst of despair, hunger and disease.

Ten children of our street school in Wharf Jeremie, came from the slums to the airport, wearing “Casa dei Piccoli Angeli” (Kay Germaine) t-shirts, to welcome Mayor Moratti, Proud of this mission, they were wonderful and stayed with us the whole visit. Knowing where they came from, the conditions they live in and considering the fact that they may have not eaten since the day before, I was looking at them like heroes; heroes of love, peace and hope.

They not only need our help, but they deserve it, they deserve it beyond any obstacle and any difficulty. I would also like to share with you the beautiful pictures taken by Stefano Guindani, already on his 3rd trip to Haiti since December 2008. Please visit www.stefanoguindaniphoto.com to see his beautiful photos.

Thanks for being on our team!

Mariavittoria Rava
Executive Director – Fondazione Francesca Rava/NPH Italy ONLUS

Inauguration of Kay Ste. Germaine

December 3, 2008 was a day of joyous celebration for us at NPFS as we inaugurated Kay Ste. Germaine on the hospital grounds in Tabarre!  We had many, many guests: parents and families of the children in our programs, a large group of friends who came from Italy with Mariavittoria and the Fondazione Francesca Rava – N.P.H. Italy, several friends from Hollywood, friends from our offices in the US and Europe and other NPH homes, many news reporters and journalists and lots of friends and neighbors in Haiti. The children were so happy to see what a big event this day was!

 

Continuing the dream of Kay Christine at our orphanage in Kenscoff and Kay Eliane at our facility in Petionville, Kay Ste. Germaine was born from Gena Heragty’s vision to support the families of special needs children in Haiti.  Many people in Haiti do not receive the basic rights that everyone deserves – respect, love, medical care, education and affection.  Many children are humiliated because they are “handicapped” – because they are different.  Their families are often humiliated because they seek to keep their children and take care of them.  They struggle to take care of their children and they endure great sacrifices in order to keep the children with them.   Our work in the Kay Ste. Germaine programs is an effort to support the families of special needs children so they do not have to abandon them.  We want to make a difference in the lives of these children.  We want to provide services they need so that each child can live to his or her own individual capacity.  If we help the families to take care of their children then everyone benefits.   

 

Archibishop Miot celebrated the beautiful mass along with concelebrants Fr. Rick Frechette and Fr. Julien Estiverne.  Children from each of the Kay Ste. Germaine programs offered the gifts during mass including a wheelchair and various therapy items used within our programs. 

 

Archbishop Miot Celebrates Mass

 After the mass, Phadoul Amisial read a letter to all of the attendees from the Apostolic Nuncio of Haiti offering congratulations and blessings from Pope Benedict XVI. 

Gena also spoke to the guests about the programs of Kay Ste. Germaine.  Because we were having difficulty with the microphone, Gena shared the symbolism of this and that we all need to remember that the children we celebrated this day are searching for alternate ways to be heard as well.

 

Gena gave special mention to the wonderful women who run the programs of Kay Ste. Germaine.  Finesse Fonfilus has been working with Gena since 1993 and is currently running the programs at Kay Germaine.  Marie-Carmelle Devil has been working with us since 1996 and currently oversees the Kay Christine program in Kenscoff.  Jeanne Juna Devil has been with us for two years and is currently managing the Kay Eliane program in Petionville.  And Yolaine Etienne is running the school programs in Kay Eliane and Kay Germaine.

 

Before the song and dance program started Gena requested that all guests, “take the time to closely observe the children, to see how much time they put into their performances, to see how proud they are, to see how much they like to show off their talents, to feel the sense of community among everyone working and visiting with us and to realize the children are the ones that continue to bring us together as they daily reach out to us and touch the parts of us that probably no one else can reach.” Mothers sang to celebrate the children, children from St. Helene orphanage sang to celebrate their special needs brothers and sisters, and the children in the Kay Ste. Germaine programs sang and danced to celebrate each other!  The program was full of music and singing and the children felt like stars among all the camera and videos! 

 

The cameras were also on the children as our guests from Hollywood and Italy, including Paul and Deb Haggis, Madeline Stowe, Diane Lane, Josh Brolin, Maria Bello, Bryn Mooser, Jimmy John Louis, Michael Stahl David, Martina Colombari, Barbara Bruchfield, Gian Sarder, US Senator John Edwards, and Michele Farina each traced their hand and signed their names with various children from the Kay Ste. Germaine programs.  This was great and made the children feel like real movie stars!

 

 We are so very proud of the Kay Ste. Germaine programs, our staff and our children and look forward to following Gena’s vision and continuing to reach out to the many, many special needs children in Haiti who still need our help. 

 

St. Damien responds to the Petionville School collapse.

Fr. Rick and emergency response teams attempting to dig children out of the collapsed school.

Fr. Rick and emergency response teams attempting to dig children out of the collapsed school.

Yesterday, the College La Promesse Evangelique, a school in Petionville collapsed around 10am.   On an average school day approximately 700 children attend school at La Promesse, but yesterday was a special occasion at the school and as many as 1500 people may have been inside the building.

Many people have asked me how St. Damien responds to an emergency of this magnitude.  Immediately after hearing about the school collapse, Fr. Rick and two teams of emergency responders from St. Damien rushed to the scene and were welcomed into chaos.  Every able body was helping to dig the children out of the debris from the collapsed floors.  Children were rushed to nearby hospitals for treatment and our teams treated those in need.  Just as our teams were ready to head back to St. Damien we received a phone call that a near fatal car accident happened directly up the road from where we were.  Our team rushed to the site and immediately  received two injured patients who needed transport to a hospital.  All the hospitals  where either full from the earlier school collapse, or on strike, so our “ambulance” took these patients to a private hospital in Port Au Prince.

This morning we learned that emergency teams at the school were calling for body bags for the children who still have not been found inside the debris at the school.  Trained dogs had been brought in and also the emergency teams started using a heat technology to detect if any of the bodies inside are still alive.    Our teams showed up ready to help and we were happy to find out that 17 children had been found alive inside one of the areas where the children were not thought to survive.

Next was a trip to the local hospital to see if their facility has been able to respond to the children received last night, or if we needed to offer to transport some of the children to St. Damien.   We left with two children.   At this point our vehicles split up because we also received a phone call that one of the children we brought to a private doctor had perished during the night and we had to go pick up the body to take it to the morgue.  Visiting the morgue is quite an altering experience on its own, but today was especially sobering because one of the rooms was designated for the 60 bodies of children that had already been transported from the school.   We also learned that the number is still growing because another classroom with no survivors, 20 children and 1 teacher, had been discovered.

We are trying to lend our help wherever possible during this time.  This tragic event has affected not only the children and staff of the school and their families, but also the surrounding communities, emergency staff, our staff and many volunteers – and we ask for your continued prayers.

Watch Fr. Rick and members of St. Luc in a Reuters video report from Petionville

Click here to see our photos from the school collapse