The Family Business
May 24, 2011 - Haiti
Nora doesn’t remember life before St. Helene.
The 23-year-old was abandoned as a baby, and so spent her entire life growing up at NPFS, first in the baby house in Kenscoff before graduating to the older girl dorms. She came down to Port-au-Prince to attend high school, and when it was time to graduate, there was no doubt in her mind what she would do next.
“I wanted to work for the family business,” she laughs. “I grew up here, had seen every level of the program, and knew more than anything that I wanted to give back.” When the cholera epidemic hit, Nora saw the perfect opportunity.
“It was absolute chaos,” she remembers. “You started hearing things, little things, and then all of a sudden we were digging trenches, putting up tents. Patients were flooding into the gates, and we just had to start something out of nothing.”
Nora and Madame Pologne, who helped raise her in Kenscoff
Nora was in good company working with fellow ex-eleves to turn the tide against the devastating illness. “You didn’t get very much sleep!” She recalls. “I would be running back and forth between the St. Philomena Family Rehydration Center and St. Damien, transferring patients, trying to find supplies. Anything we could do for these sick and scared families, I tried to do.”
From October 2010, the center of St. Philomena proceeded to fuse with the St. Luc Field Hospital, becoming what, seven months later, is known as the St. Luc Medical Center, a 200-bed center serving both cholera and diarrhea patients, as well as the numerous other illnesses that plague the population of Haiti. Nine medical and surgical initiatives, including Adult Oncology, Cardiac, and Burn, as well as Social Violence and Trauma, do whatever it takes to provide dignified and supportive care to the center’s sickest patients. Composed of four large-scale hospital wings and over ten adjacent buildings, the St. Luc Medical Center serves as a centrifugal force in the Haitian capital.
The Center also serves as a place where mothers and families, feeling that they have nowhere else to go, abandon their children. Nora, who now works with these children, explains: “I’ve heard in the US there are places where you can bring your baby if you are not able to care for them–here people come to the hospital. Sometimes they’ll leave the child at the gate, or say that they’re just stepping out for the moment to buy some food, and then they’re gone. The kids then stay here with us while we try to locate any family members the child may have.”
She smiles. “I treat those children just like they treated me so many years ago. I bathe them, feed them, play with them–just like I was their own mother. I know what it means to be abandoned, and to then find yourself become part of something. These are children who are looking for care and support, and myself, being able to give that to them, is all I could ask for.”
Ivy Kuperberg, Dieuveck Rosembert
Communications Officer, Fundraising Liason