NEW YORK NURSE: November 2010
by Mark Genovese
“Anybody who knows Haiti knows that they take care of family,” said Sister Mary Finnick. “They have a sense caring and concern that has not yet been expressed to the rest of the world.”
Finnick, a former NYSNA Board member and now director of the Matthew 25 House near Port-au-Prince, discussed the progress of that nation’s recovery since the January earthquake during a presentation at NYSNA’s Biennial Conference. With her characteristic strength of spirit, wit, and positive outlook, she offered stories of how her staff at the hospitality house is helping people manage through the trauma and gradually reclaim their lives.
She estimated that the tent city that sprang up on an adjacent soccer field became, at one time, home to more than 2,000 people. Even after engineers determined many homes were safe, families still slept in tents out of fear their homes could still collapse.
“Homelessness is not something Haitians experience,” Finnick said. “They don’t have homelessness as we see in the States. They want security. They want a roof over their heads at night. Living in the street was a very difficult thing to accept.”
“What you saw on your television back home was more than we saw in Haiti” she added, because the area lacked electricity for several days. She said they made do with supplies they had, starting by hanging sheets and tablecloths on lines. Over the next several weeks, they received many donations, including large tents.
“Families received tents as long as they promised they would keep them clean and organized, wouldn’t cook inside them, nor have candles or sharp objects.” Finnick praised the Haitian people’s innovation in devising items like wheelchairs out of lawn and kitchen chairs.
Today, the population of the camp is about 500. The transition has been slow but orderly. The makeshift clinic has since been turned into a classroom where 120 children attended kindergarten and primary school. Since the beginning of October, enrollment is now more than 250.
Supplies of milk for the children now arrive regularly, water-purification equipment has been installed, and a compost sanitary waste system is operational. Many families are now earning their own incomes, selling bed sheets that were in stock at Matthew 25 House and some of the donated clothing.
Shortly after Sister Finnick’s talk, the people of Haiti faced new challenges with a hurricane and an outbreak of cholera. But she believes they will face them and recover. “Haitians live day to day. They always say: ‘I’ll be here tomorrow, if God wants it.’”
She cited one 13-year-old girl as an example. She’d lost a leg during the disaster and wanted help so she could return to school. The Matthew 25 staff researched prosthetic companies in the States to find her help. They found a company willing to donate an artificial leg. “Help came right away. Now see the look on her face,” she said pointing to the projection screen. “Not only is she going to school, she’s dancing!”
Matthew 25 House provides support and assistance for many individuals. Donations (payable to Matthew 25 House) can be mailed to:
Parish Twinning Program of the Americas
309 Windemere Woods Drive
Nashville, TN 37215