Tuesday, April 17, 2007

St Paul friends of Friends of the Orphans build hospital in Haiti

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Through a St. Paul organization, dozens from Minnesota and Wisconsin donated more than $3.5 million to help build a hospital in Haiti, where 20 children were dying each month.

Mothers showed up at 6 a.m. holding their sick and dying children in their arms and waited in a line three blocks long, hoping the American priest with a medical degree could perform miracles. For many children in Haiti, help came too late.

Half the recorded deaths in the island country are infants and children younger than 5.

They die of tuberculosis, polio and AIDS. Worms, parasites, bacteria and viruses invade their small bodies. They are children with stunted growth, swollen tummies and hands crusted over in layers of peeling skin due to malnutrition.

But now the health of more children will be restored and more lives saved because of 45 individuals from Minnesota and Wisconsin who, in the face of Haiti's political chaos, violence and poverty, have built St. Damien, a 200-bed pediatric hospital. "So much goes on in Haiti in the way of kidnapping, crime and corruption, and a lot of people say it's a hopeless situation - but I don't think so," says Dwain Kasel, of Vadnais Heights, who was the catalyst for the fundraising campaign to build the hospital. "The fact is, Haitians are people who are hurting, and they need help."

St. Damien is a project of the Minnesota branch of Friends of the Orphans. Starting with a major donation from an individual in Minnesota (who wishes to remain anonymous), the local group raised more than $3.5 million - more than half the $6 million cost of the project.

The hospital, dedicated with song and prayer four months ago, is up and running, offering medical care and shelter to the fragile patients carried through its arched front gate.

Friends of the Orphans has six regional offices in the U.S., including one in St. Paul on Marshall Avenue, and supports a network of orphanages in nine Latin American and Caribbean countries. The first was founded in Mexico in 1954. The orphanage in Haiti, built in 1987, houses about 480 children.

Rick Frechette, a Roman Catholic priest from the U.S. who speaks Creole, French, Spanish and German, as well as English, is executive director. Working in Haiti convinced "Father Rick" he needed a medical degree so he could minister to children medically as well as spiritually. He left Haiti to attend medical school and returned a doctor. [...snip] Pioneer Press

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