Messages from Father Rick Frechette, CP, D.O.
Fr. Rick is an American priest and doctor. He is National Director of Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos/Nos Petits Freres et Soeurs (NPH/NPFS, Spanish and French for “Our Little Brothers and Sisters”) Haiti, NPH Caribbean Regional Director and a member of the NPH Health Services Team. He served as a volunteer at NPH Mexico before co-founding the NPH homes in Honduras and Haiti. He has lived and worked in Haiti for more than 20 years. Read more . . .
July 22, 2010
My update of a few days ago did not include one extremely important project that I wanted to cover separately. This 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 damaged 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 blocks, 4,000 cobblestones, and 360,000 printed forms. Most of the bread is used for the poor, some sold to restaurants and other charitable organizations. The blocks are 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 U.S. $ 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.
Again, thanks for your encouragement, prayer and support. It is important at this moment of Haiti’s history that help to the country be immediate, generous, concrete and involve forming young people through education and enterprise.
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July 20, 2010
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. We hope to open July 27, on the feast of St. Ann. In the meantime, the program for kids in tent cities, called Fr. Wasson’s 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 10 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 prosthetics 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 Gilligan's 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.
I will find a way to get pictures of many of these activities on the website of Nuestros Pequenos Hermanos (NPH.com) and Compassionweavers.com as soon as I can. Many thanks to all of you for your prayers, donations, encouragement !
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February 22, 2010
What Family Means During Lent
Lent is meant to be a heavy time. The dark of winter, the recognition of sin and personal failing, the seeking of penance and self-discipline. This takes place during the period of the sun lengthening to full light at spring, which is the rich symbol of the victory of light in resurrection. Our Lent begins with three heavy darknesses.
We have retrieved the bodies of Mikhael, Delourdes and Ronald Ferdinand (the siblings of hermano mayor and NPFS employee Joseph). They currently are lying in our hospital chapel for burial today at St. Helene. These have been very emotional days for us, especially for Joseph and his older brother Dodo. Yesterday at Mass, the chapel was packed with hermanos mayores, crying and comforting, showing that the family bonds we have tried to instill are real, and are clearly seen when it counts. We stood before their lifeless bodies without words, with nothing but each other and our faith, hope and love. These really heal and give courage. It is amazing to see it as a true and deep dynamic. Father Wasson’s intuitions and instincts were right about the ability of a community to form a family.
Four other hermano mayores were arrested yesterday in separate incidences, two by Haitian police during a small rice distribution. The police assumed them to be thieves of the rice and the usual unfairness ensued. They were liberated only when the police themselves became beneficiaries of most of the rice.
Two others were arrested by U.S. military when the bus they were on as passengers hit a wagon. We still cannot understand why they were chosen as the culprits. One was handcuffed and beaten.
I mention this because before both injustices these youths were so clear about right and wrong, fairness and corruption and they are balanced in their views about how to handle it.
Rejecting offers from others to inflame it on the radio, they came to "dad," (me) as they said, to try to talk and figure it out.
I so admire their equilibrium and their refusal to be treated unfairly and this led to long discussions about how to proceed. But it also led to longer discussions about the importance of not internalizing the incident. In other words, fighting the tendency that victims many times have of feeling that for some reason they deserved what had happened. I admire their desire to have "dad" help figure it out and deal with it.
The third incident was also remarkable. A young woman was brought to our hospital in labor. Her mother, father and husband were killed in the earthquake and she didn’t want to deliver the baby. She kept crying and screaming out to the baby, “Don’t come out! Don’t come out! Stay where you are. This is no place for you. It’s no place for anyone!”
She literally fought the delivery. The Italian midwife volunteers tried to help her. Instead of pushing during contractions, she would suck up a deep breath and draw pressure away from her pelvis telling everyone to leave her alone, begging the baby not to come out into such a world.
The Italian midwives were crying, begging the mother to believe life was good. Begging to see the child and welcome him or her. They were midwives not just of the baby but of the mother’s soul. After 12 hours of resisting labor, then came the little baby and a mother with a new but faint twinkle in her eye.
It makes me shudder.
Let us thank God for the power of family during Lent and for the powerful reality that with even no blood or cultural ties we can really be family to each other.
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February 12, 2010
Thirty Days Later
It is tradition of the Catholic faith to celebrate Mass in the remembrance of the dead after one month has passed. Today throughout Haiti, at 7 a.m., in what is left standing of the parishes of Port-au-Prince, this Mass will be celebrated for the estimated 200,000 dead. In addition, President Preval has declared today to be a day of national fast, and the beginning of three days of national mourning. We are participating in this act of solidarity by offering Mass at 7 a.m. at Titayin, together with Bishop Dumas, at the burial place of the indigent dead. We ourselves have buried about 2,500 people there in the last 30 days.
After weeks of frenetic activity, we are returning to a state of equilibrium. Our hospital had become a trauma MASH unit, as had all other medical centers in Port-au-Prince that are still standing. We were able to offer about 30 surgeries a day at four sites (two in our hospital, one on our hospital grounds in a tent, and one at the St. Camillus Hospital, which we staffed for the emergency.) Many of these, sadly, were amputations – sometimes two for the same adult or child.
To give an idea of the size of the problem, it is likely there are about 20,000 people now who have been amputated or who have orthopedic hardware screwed through their skin to the bone. Port-au-Prince estimates about 20 Haitian orthopedic surgeons, and visiting teams to Haiti will soon leave. All 20,000 need to be followed closely for removal of hardware, control of infection, reevaluation of the amputation, and of course for artificial limbs and rehabilitation. We have worked closely with the St. Camillus Hospital so as to return our St. Damien Hospital to a pediatric center and to have a growing center for adults at St. Camillus.
In collaboration with the Papal Nuncio, the president of the Haitian bishops conference, the local CARITAS office and the Italian Protezione Civile, we are setting up seven positions in the provinces, (especially since about 30% of the population has abandoned the capital) to be able to allow access of these people to a medical system. We can do our best to follow a certain number from these sites, return them to Port-au-Prince for needed attention by helicopter or land, and use the points as well for large distributions of food and educational materials for schools. We hope to continue to partner with St. Camillus and the Haitian bishops to strengthen a similar response in Port-au-Prince.
At Francisville, we are making a center for production of artificial limbs. Gena Hergaty hosted a meeting two days ago of 30 non-governmental organizations at our St. Germaine program, to determine the best collaboration for all those eager to invest in rehabilitation and physical therapy.
On the home front, Erin Kloos has made an exception recovery after being dug out of our crumbled Fr. Wasson Center. The funeral of her brother Ryan will be later this month in Phoenix. Fr. Craig Hightower celebrated the funeral of Molly Hightower, concelebrated by Fr. Phil Cleary, President of NPH International. I hope I can arrange to leave Haiti for a few weeks to see my father, and to visit both families for Mass in their homes.
We offered Mass last Saturday for Molly and Ryan on top of the rubble of the Fr. Wasson Center on an altar made of fallen block, using chant and incense to honor Molly and Ryan and all who died in the earthquake, and to show our faith and hope, and determination to rebuild and continue our life-giving mission.
The Fr. Wasson Center is being cleared by heavy government equipment, and we will rebuild a central administration center on the site, with metal instead of cement framework, which are fast becoming popular here. We will also make an artistic monument to stand prominently on the corner, by a famous Haitian artist, dedicating the new center to Ryan and Molly and honoring all the victims of the earthquake.
In Tabarre, our three areas of destruction were the perimeter walls, the tower, and the chapel. The Italian Protezzione Civile is clearing the debris, reinforcing the tower, rebuilding the chapel and rebuilding the walls. Additional internal, non-structural damage to the hospital is being repaired by the Italian companies that made the initial installations (especially the central oxygen supply). The new maternity and neonatal program, born of necessity during the traumatic days following the quake, is following a good and logical course, and the rest of the hospital is returning to normal.
The surgical capacity will still be challenged as we tend to many postoperative children and new traumas. The cancer center got quite a boost, thanks to Sister Judy, as it is now a partner with the Danny Thomas Children’s Cancer Hospital in the U.S. This will bring quite a help for development, diagnostic, training, material and medicines.
The St. Helene orphanage in Kenscoff was largely spared, but we were glad to see so much charitable activity on the part of the children, coming to the hospital to visit injured children and distributing food and supplies in the tent cities.
The Family Services team has been very attentive to vulnerable children in the tent cities and has elaborated a good plan for continued involvement. Future reports will be given on all these points I mention in this summary by the people involved.
We are still gathering the names of those who have died or disappeared in the rubble. We hope soon that Daniela, our temporary home correspondent, will be able to make a memorial page on the NPH Web site. We are very much struck with sorrow by the deaths of our colleagues or deaths in their families.
The St. Luke program has been valiant and tireless, and we suffered the loss of some staff and directors. We also suffered the loss of one third of our 18 street schools. We will resume school in tents, as soon as we have enough, and thanks to Artists for Peace and Justice, we are studying all aspects of rebuilding.
Everywhere around us there are huge problems. There are wounded, homeless and hungry among our 800 employees (all programs combined, including St. Luke). This is made more dreadful by the advance of the rainy season. We had our first rain yesterday.
In a separate letter over the next few days, I will outline the investment we hope to make in addressing these three social problems and the rebuilding and advance of our own programs.
For today, please join us in mourning. Join us in prayers for the dead, for the living, for the future.
Thank you and God bless you.
Fr. Rick Frechette
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||February 10, 2010
Fr. Rick Frechette gives an update from the NPH/NPFS St. Damien Hospital in Tabarre, Haiti.
Watch the video.
January 26, 2010
We are very appreciative of your concern, prayers and support. Today, the workers started to break up and haul off the tons of cement and iron that used to be our Fr. Wasson Center in Petionville. It is very important to us that this location is cleaned up and a new initiative is started there. I still admire the teams of 20 and 30 people who dug without stopping until they found Dr. Castro, Erin, and the bodies of Molly and Ryan. We are not sure what we will rebuild there yet, but for sure we will make a prominent memorial dedicated to Molly and Ryan, and to all of our Haitian staff and friends who died elsewhere in the tragedy.
We estimate that we are missing about 20% of our Haitian staff. Some have gone to the United States, some are dead and some are still absorbed in their tragedies. We are not sure of the total deaths yet and it will take some time. When we have a good idea, we will have a memorial ceremony for them and a page on the Web site to honor them. We have offered many masses for them already.
At the orphanage in Kenscoff, things have been fine. Busloads of our children from St. Hélèn have come to the hospital so they can have an idea of the problems, pray for the suffering and the dead and also visit the injured children.
The situation in the hospital has calmed down and we are better organized with an infrastructure in place. Patients that were sent for surgery to the USS Comfort will be returned to recouperate at our facilities. Also we will accept patients from the general public hospital. We are anticipating as many as 200 post-operative patients.
Medical teams from many countries are doing all they can and all are working together in the best capacity. Four medical teams are going out daily to work in the poor areas. The team working at Christ Roi are working in the only standing building in the area.
We have a team that went to Leogane and Jacmel, two destroyed cities, to assess how we might be able to help. Alfonso Leon and his team have been working in parks where children gather on the streets to offer food and other help. They are also starting to search for orphans and other vulnerable children. We have begun free water deliveries with the St. Luke water truck and the St. Hélèn orphanage water truck and we are starting food distributions tomorrow.
Gena Heraty and Norma Lopez are developing the team for the rehabilitation of the many children and adults who lost arms and legs. It is bittersweet to walk through our hospital and see so many children that are missing a limb, still with a big smile.
We have many homeless employees who prefer to live in a tent rather than taking them onto our property. It is important that they keep their social and family networks vibrant and our hope is to help them build their own small homes in the future with blocks we make ourselves at our Francisville industrial center.
There are many ex-pequeños as well with nowhere to live. We hope in the meantime to get tents for them and to have stations where they can come for food. Hopefully one day we can also help them rebuild their own homes.
The problems are overwhelming. In relation to health, education, family, life, employment and social stability, the earthquake will have severe ramifications well into the future.
Please keep up your important prayers and support.
Thank you again and God bless you.
Fr. Rick Frechette
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January 15, 2010
After driving by night to Kennedy Airport January 12th, and flying to the Dominican Republic January 13th, Conan and I arrived to Haiti this morning in the helicopter of the President of the Dominican Republic. This ride was due to the reputation of NPH in the Dominican Republic, NPH Italy, a reputation enhanced in the DR by Andrea Bocelli not long ago.
Our first tasks were the medical evacuation of one of our American volunteers, the medical evacuation of one of our Cuban doctors and the evacuation of the body of one of our American visitors.
We also had 18 funerals today. One for John who works at our St Luke program. We miss John very much. He often stopped at my door to tell me the milestone of his developing baby, which delighted him no end. John ran our computerized language lab. Another was for Johanne’s mother. Joanne is one of the Directors of the St Luke program. All the others were of unknown people who were sadly rotting by the wayside.
Other sadnesses…the death of Immacula, our only physician assistant, who worked at our huge outpatient side of our hospital. The death of ALL but one of Joseph Ferdinand’s brothers and sisters, the death of the husband of Jacqueline Gautier as he was visiting a school which fell and all the students (all died), the death of our ex-pequeño Wilfrid Altisme who was in his 5th year of seminary for priesthood. Other stories of deaths of people who are dear to us keep coming in.
We spent the rest of the time managing the countless people with serious and severe wounds, coming to our hospital. We are doing our best for them, under trees and in the parking lot with ever diminishing supplies. We will work throughout the night and beyond. No stores are open, no banks are open. Diesel is running out. Will be out in two days if we don’t find a solution, which will mean no power at all. The hospital is without water since there is some broken line between the well and the water tower.
Structural damages to the hospital seem superficial at first glance, but about half the outer perimeter walls have fallen. The old hospital in Petionville is in ruins, and teams of workers, led by Ferel have been digging in the rubble around the clock.
WE HAVE NO INTERNET. OUR PHONES DO NOT WORK. IF A CALL DOES GET THROUGH WE CAN’T HEAR OR BE HEARD.
Please continue to pray for us. We pray for you too.
Fr. Rick Frechette
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