6 Month Anniversary: Letter from Father Rick

Dear Friends,

Six months have gone by since the earthquake, and easily our work is three times larger than it was before. We have so many new programs to meet the pressing needs. Today for the first time, we fired up our crematorium. Although I was joking that I would like to use it to make Sister Judy’s birthday cake (for her 65th today), the sad truth is that poverty still humiliates the poor even after their death (a simple trip to the general morgue would show that to be true in a second). Our first attempt at a more dignified burial through cremation was predictably for a child, for five year old Lori Demosthene. We said the usual prayers for the dead, and commended Lori to God, to ash, and to the earth. This is our reality. The circle of life, coming around all too soon, completed already in childhood. Our crematorium is dedicated to Our Mother of Sorrows. We have the sorrow of burying more than 50 children and 30 adults every week.

Our new campground for displaced children is nearly ready. We have been working there all week. Instead of circling the wagons, we squared off empty containers in a huge rectangle covering 4,000 square meters. We will expand it in time. The containers themselves will soon be dormitories for the children, and the area for meals, schooling and activities will be in the shadow of the containers with the help of large awnings. There are about 350 children waiting to come in. There will be an area for small children dedicated to St Ann, the grandmother of Jesus, and a section for older children dedicated to St Louis. In the meantime, the program for kids in tent cities, called Fr. Wasson Angels of Light, is going strong and fast becoming an informal school system and nutrition center for 3,000 children.

We have started another eight street schools over these six months. One of them is for blind and deaf children. The school they used to attend, St Vincent’s in Port au Prince, was destroyed by the earthquake, so we made a simple school for them until St Vincent is rebuilt. Our first ten children are already in this simple school.We named the school for the late beloved founder of St Vincent’s, Sister Joan Margaret. Our other 23 schools are all in session, some in tents and some in undamaged buildings, and all of them will be rebuilt slowly. We have a campaign in progress for this.

The program for prosthetic s and rehabilitation called St Germaine is well underway, and many people leave our gates with crutches, wheelchairs and artificial limbs just a little bit stronger and a little bit more able after every therapy visit. The mothers are so beautiful and patient with their children, but sadly sometimes the mothers also are disabled or missing a limb from the earthquake. Hope springs eternal.

Our St Luke field hospital for adults and children has saved a few lives already. It looks like something from Gilligans Island but it works for now. We are making a prefab surgery room at the moment, and doing our best to make it a family environment. We have a portable CT Scan already, and a portable Digital XRAY in the planning, most important since we receive terrible trauma injuries. Our ability will be greatly increased by this equipment which will be used in an air conditioned container! Just today, we received the donation of an ambulance for the field hospital, from the government of Spain.

On July 23, our original orphanage (as of 23 years) we will receive 40 children from the earthquake. It will bring the population there at St Helene to 400 children.

We are still very busy with distributions of food, clothing, water, tents, and thousands of shoes donated in memory of Molly Hightower, one of our deeply mourned volunteers killed when our headquarters at Petionville collapsed. The distributions are difficult but important, since Port au Prince hardly at all much improved from the original catastrophe six months ago. I think many of you saw the pictures of the memorial we made for our deceased children, staff, volunteers and colleagues from the earthquake. It is at St Damien Hospital. It is our new cornerstone.

At St Damien hospital, our cancer program is improving, the surgery center is very active, the new maternity and neonatology programs and struggling but doing well, and we now can do digital electroencephalograms and have them interpreted abroad. This is to monitor the seizure activity of our patients. It is a huge advance in our treatment of seizures. Also, just today, little Anabel returned to Italy to have part of her skull replaced, finally, after losing it in the nightmare of January 12, 2010.

One extremely important project is a production and training center that we named in honor of St Francis of Asissi, called Francisville. The motto for this endeavor is “works of justice are works of peace.” Francisville is envisioned to be a place where we produce what we and other missionaries need, of good quality and good price, and the production is intended to be also training. Many of the Francisville staff had training in Italy for all the pre-quake activities:  producing cement block, baking of bread, a print shop producing our hospital forms and school materials, and preparation to open a vehicle mechanic shop. During the earthquake, we used the damage building to continue and even accelerate bread production to help combat hunger, and the warehouses of Francisville were an important base for the many containers of aid shipped to us from many countries, and also as a storage base for the Italian Civil Protection.

In the last six months, we have repaired most of the Francisville buildings and the perimeter walls, and we have begun the foundation for a huge warehouse area, and have increased our production to include cobblestone for making roads, and pasta to go with the bread in battling hunger. We will soon open a sewing center there, to make clothes, especially school uniforms.

Francisville runs at no expense to NPH Italy, NPH Haiti, or any NPH affiliate. The St Luke program manages Francisville as a mission cooperative, paying for the production often through grants, and donating the profit to NPFS Haiti.

Since   January 2010 we have produced 950,000 small loaves of bread, 32,000 cement block, 4,000 cobblestone, and 360,000 printed forms. Most of the bread is used for the poor, some sold to restaurants and other charitable organizations. The block is used to help people rebuild their homes, missionaries rebuild their missions, and to rebuild Francisville itself. We just started the cobblestone and have not yet used it for paving. The printed matter is mostly for our hospital and 24 schools. The net profit to NPH Haiti over the last six months was US$ 32,116.

We are very proud of the progress of this creative and life generating center, managed by Nebez Augustin and Father Fhito Randal. We are especially grateful for the enthusiastic help from NPH Italy.

Other projects to be realized in the near future for NPFS Haiti include the construction of a trade school (by the government of Mexico) for our young adults from NPH, housing for the same students, and a secondary school (by Artists for Peace and justice)  for the young adults of NPH and the St Luke program.

Many thanks to all of you for your prayers, donations, encouragement!

Fr. Rick Frechette
National Director NPFS Haiti and Medical Director, NPHI

One thought on “6 Month Anniversary: Letter from Father Rick

  1. The ambitious work that St. Damien’s is doing in the midst of such suffering is astonishing and inspiring. I’m so proud and excited that Operation Blessing is working with you, Father Rick!

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