Madame Bernard and Sister Flora's Ophanage. Ile a Vache
Steve & Carol
Sat 2 Mar 2013 15:50
Claire and Mike had come to Ile a Vache with Frank Virgintino – an American who visits Ile a Vache every year and has written cruising guides for Haiti and the DR, this year he tried to organise a flotilla of yachts bringing aid to the orphanage, sadly he had few participants but Claire and Mike had joined him in the DR and Glide also had some supplies on board. The orphanage sent a boat to collect the supplies from the anchorage and we set off for a second visit to Madame Bernard with Mike and Claire on foot, Pam and Denis went on board Frank’s boat. As it was a school day there were less children along the way, in Madame Bernard we met up with the others and went to visit the orphanage.
Sister Flora is a tiny 70 year old French Canadian who has been on the island for over 30 years, she originally set up a clinic but soon started to take in children who are orphaned, one parent has died, are handicapped or their family just can’t afford to look after them and currently she has 75 children of which 25 are disabled. The youngest child at the orphanage is 1 year old and was one of twins who’s mother died shortly after they were born and Sister flora took them in at 19 days old, sadly one died shortly after they arrived. I found it strange that there were no other babies at the orphanage tough. The disabled children come from all over Haiti as Sister Flora is one of only a few orphanages who will take them in.
Sister Flora assessing a possible new arrival, this little girl is unable to hold her head up or support herself and her parents are no longer able to cope well, having a disabled child must make life very difficult.
The children are happy even though the orphanage is very basic.
This is the kitchen /cook house where all the food is prepared.
This happy little fellow has been waiting 2 years for a shunt to control his hydrocephalus! He stole Steve's sunglasses for the photo!
Some of the older handicapped children were very sad to see.
The ‘physio’ room
The less handicapped and well children that are old enough all go to school near by as soon as they return from school they change out of their uniforms, it must be murder getting them all ready in the morning!
Handing out balloons, pens and lollipops
The orphanage gets support from various places, we met a small Irish group who go every year to help build rooms, make access easier, paint etc. We also met a French couple who were delivering medical supplies from a Haitian Doctor in Guadeloupe, Frank and other cruisers who are aware of her work as well as a charity called Friends of Ile a Vache. With no government aid Sister Flora relies on donations and charity to care for the children, she is currently training the first child the orphanage took in 30 odd years ago to take over from her, as and when she is no longer able to be as active as she is now.
She is an amazing lady who speaks no English but chatters away in French and cares so much for the children and people of Ile A Vache, she not only runs the orphanage but a medical clinic and school as well.