Celebrating Motherhood with Madame Pologne
March 14, 2011 - Haiti
A general consensus in Haiti can be hard to find. Yet in the matter of Madame Pologne Tingue, everyone seems to be in agreement.
“Oh she was the best,” Dachecard, a malnutrition program assistant at Kay Bois, insists. She, like dozens of other ex-eleves of NPFS, grew up with Madame Pologne. The petite and handsome Madame started working at St Helene in 1989, when she was only 21. It was NPFS’s first year in Haiti, and she was put in charge of 18 children, all 6 years old.
Madame Pologne (right) and Dachecard (left)
“Some of them were so sick,” Madame Pologne remembers. “There would be times where I didn’t sleep for several nights because I was staying up with a child who was ill. I was charged with taking care of these children just like they were my own. I knew it was my responsibility to make sure that there was no difference between the care I gave them and the care they would have received from their actual mothers.”
“She was always so tranquil, so calm,” Richie, an ex-eleve and current medical student recalls. “You knew you could go to her for anything.”
After three years, Madame Pologne moved to St. Helene’s baby house, where she watched over the orphanage's youngest residents. “The babies were so much work!” She laughs. “The children were 0-3 years old. You can imagine just how much work having one baby is - and we had 18! Plus I had my own family - my five sons and daughters. It was such a balance - I saw my family every other weekend, but that still meant I was seeing them only 4 days a month. But in Haiti, all the hardship and suffering unites us in such a way that you feel as if everyone is your family.”
“You wouldn’t know she wasn’t your mother,” Nora, an ex-eleve and nurse working at the Trauma and Disaster Hospital, remembers. “She showed us nothing but love and compassion.”
And she still does. After her husband passed away from diabetic complications, Madame Pologne transferred down to St Damien’s hospital in Tabarre so she could be closer to her family. Her house collapsed in the earthquake, and more than a year after the event, she still lives in a tent on a soccer field. She remains the sole economic support for her five children - her oldest son cannot find work in Haiti’s shattered economy and her youngest still attend school. Yet every day she is at work at 7am, ploughing away with the same dedication and efficiency she brought to the orphanage 21 years ago.
Her eyes are wet as she describes her situation in the tents - the neighborhood is dangerous and she worries about her children - but then she seems to reconsider and takes a deep breath. “Haiti is such a balance. Sometimes it overwhelms me, but other days, I have so much hope. I see all these ex-eleves working in different parts of the organization and I feel so proud. To see how the situation changed for these children makes me know that here, even in Haiti, everything is possible.”