Throughout the globe, holiday time signals a return to the stories we hold most dear, the stories that remind us about what is most precious in our lives, stories that define our values and nudge us to embody them. Stories that call to us to become the best people, communities and societies we can be.
Over the decades of our involvement with Hôpital Sacré Coeur and our beloved Haitian sisters and brothers, we’ve collected many memorable tales. The one we continue to return to, especially at holiday time, is about young Magdalene and her gift.
Five-year-old Magdalene lived in suffocating, extreme poverty with her parents, five siblings and blind grandparents. If you have visited Haiti, you can imagine her world. Lumpy dirt floors not big enough for all the feet. Walls — with more holes than cobbled together bits of fronds, cane and moldy grasses — sag and shift in the winds. Dangerously spitting open fires cook more charcoal than food. And, all around, a jungle of vegetation and creatures are ever determined to reclaim the small spot Magdalene’s family calls home.
One summer, many years ago, Magdalene awoke to find that her mother, who was sleeping beside her, had died during the night, a victim of cholera. Unable to understand why her mother was taken from the bed, never to return home again, Magdalene went into depression, and would not speak or eat.
A week later she too got cholera, along with her baby sister who was eighteen months old.
Sr. Ann met Magdalene after her admission to Hôpital Sacré Coeur. Under the medical staff’s exemplary and compassionate healthcare and Sr. Ann’s unfailing attention, eventually, little Magdalene began to eat and talk. Before the child and her baby sister left the hospital, Sr. Ann arranged for follow up visits and schooling for all the children.
On her very first day of school, Magdalene and her brothers made a surprise visit to Sr. Ann. Dressed in her spotless uniform, school bag slung on her back, tiny Magdalene brought Sister a huge avocado as a token of appreciation!
Magdalene offers us the precious gift of contrast. She shows us what emotional and physical extremes a tender, frail child can survive; and she shows us, in a vivid, almost unbearable to view, tableau what is unconscionable for any child to endure.
A maelstrom of unsettling events circles our globe, each depositing the message of unjust contrasts into our laps. Storm ravaged homes stand in the shadow of palace weddings, multi-billion-dollar profits overarch outstretched tin cups, and a national obesity crisis gets reported a news column away from the latest seven-figure tally of Africans, dead from starvation. The contrasts are too stark and too many to easily deny them. Thoughts of how to close the gaps can leave you limp from feelings of powerlessness.
In a landscape of poverty and hunger, Magdalene found the biggest fruit, and gave it away. In the face of profound betrayal, she found the courage to love another maternal figure, and forged a mutual bond of trust. From the grip of death — with the help of an exceptional hospital and generous donors — she freed herself and found her way back to the life of a young girl, happy to share simple joys.
Today, Magdalene is a vivacious 16-year-old who attends school in Cap Haitien with her now 11-year-old sister. (And boy, does Magdalene love her studies!) Her teachers always remark on how incredibly kind, loving and considerate Magdalene is to her classmates, teachers and strangers alike.
That’s why we love Magdalene’s story, especially now, during a season that celebrates the undefeatable spirit, rebirths and goodwill to all. Magdalene exemplifies the trek from unspeakable, unjust horrors to victorious physical and emotional transformation ——— and on to an unselfish and hope-filled life in which compassion is given freely to all.
Magdalene is the poster child for the undefeatable, love-filled mission of CRUDEM and Hôpital Sacré Coeur. For over 30 years, CRUDEM/Hôpital Sacré Coeur donors, volunteers, and staff have banded together as a community to close the gaps implicit in the unjust, unconscionable contrasts present in northern Haiti. Each has found fruits, courage and strength in unlikely places and lovingly given them in joy and gratitude. As a result, countless Haitian lives have been saved, wounds have been healed and hope has been fueled. In return, the community and the region have been transformed and the gaps have closed a bit.
Through YOUR generosity, Hôpital Sacré Coeur has become THE major force in the delivery of quality healthcare in Haiti and in the positive transformation of countless lives.
Together, we can, and we do make a significant difference in our crazy and battered world.
You won’t be able to experience the appreciation in the faces of the patients and their families, the warmth of their hugs or the extra force in their handshakes; but we assure you, the appreciation for YOUR gifts is palpable, oft expressed and enduring!
Harold Prévil, M.D.
CEO, Hôpital Sacré Coeur
Sister Ann Crawley, C.S.J.P.
Hôpital Sacré Coeur Outreach
David G. Butler, M.D.
Chairman and Medical Volunteer
P.S. YOU can make a tremendous difference! Please, send your tax-deductible donation by December 31st. Remember: 100% of your donation goes directly to patient care programs.