The Dedication of When Dreams Touch

The Dedication of When Dreams Touch

 

Dedication to Sister Marie Carmelle Voltaire, CSSAF (9/21/62-3/10/12)

 

I’d like to share with you a little about the dedication of When Dreams Touch. I have been blessed to have many people in my life who have inspired and challenged me–my parents, my children and my friends. But I’ve also been fortunate to work with many wonderful individuals from Haiti, the US and all over the world whose lives and passion have met in service to the people of Haiti.

Because I believe this story belongs to Haiti, especially the women of Haiti, I chose a special dedication to one individual- Sister Marie Carmelle Voltaire. Sister Carmelle, pictured above, who passed away while I was in the middle of editing When Dreams Touch, was the nurse who started and ran the primary care clinic in the rural community of Fondwa. She welcomed anyone and everyone with a big warm smile and she had a heart to match. She was a gifted healer and teacher–far better than I. She loved life and she loved learning and she was a deeply spiritual woman with a dream to help and heal the body and soul of anyone in need.

During my initial visits in Haiti, I taught Sister Carmelle and the other healthcare workers about the causes, prevention, diagnosis and treatment of HIV/AIDS. They taught me about the practice of medicine and the art of healing in Haiti, where there are few pills and extremely limited diagnostic services. Sister Carmelle taught me that sometimes giving food and listening were more important than anything. But she also advocated that more could and should be done to lessen suffering of the men, women and children in her rural village. So together we built a small medical laboratory and established a community HIV/AIDS Program. Sister Carmelle and other healthcare colleagues I’ve worked with in Haiti reminded me why I dreamed of becoming, and became a doctor.

But we were much more than colleagues. When I was sick with malaria, Sister Carmelle brought me food and sat beside my bed until I ate. Because one of the major dangers with the severe type of malaria I contracted in Haiti, is a precipitous drop in blood sugar and coma. When my mother passed away in 2006 while I was living in Fondwa, she and the other sisters comforted me and prayed for my family. And when my stubborn American “need to get things done” met the many challenges one finds in Haiti, and I was ready to give up and go home, she encouraged me to stay. She believed that I had something of value to contribute, even when I did not.

As the years have unfolded, what Sister Carmelle and my times in Haiti etched in my heart is the awareness that Faith has many faces. Always loving, Faith is a fierce protector, a stubborn warrior, and a gentle and prayerful soul. Faith allows us to dream and hope and continue when the circumstances of our lives and the world come crashing down around us–such as happened during the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. Faith allows us to accept our weakness and celebrate our successes, and with grace to try and do more.

Sister Carmelle passed away in March of 2012, she was not yet 50 years old. She left behind a legacy in the community of Sisters of St. Antoine, founded together with Sister Simone Achille and Father Joseph Philippe. The young women in this community oversee the primary care clinic in Fondwa, which is still a temporary structure following the earthquake. They also ensure that over 700 children receive a quality education at St. Antoine’s School and over 65 at-risk children have a safe and loving home at the orphanage. During my most recent visit to Fondwa in March, two years after Sister Carmelle’s death, I was reminded how just how powerful one person’s dream can be and what incredible things can happen when our dreams touch!

For more information about health and education programs in Fondwa and what you can do to help, please visit these websites: www.apfhaiti.org and www.ufondwa.org

Stay tuned for future blogs about maternal and child health and HIV/AIDS in Haiti, the stories behind the stories and culture and travel in Haiti. Thank-you!

7 Comments

  1. Marge
    May 28, 2014

    When I think of religion in Haiti, voodoo comes to my mind. Do most people in Haiti practice voodoo?

    • Rosemary_Author
      May 28, 2014

      Hi Marge,

      You are not alone thinking about Haiti and Voodoo or as spelled in Haiti Vodou. From my perspective, the influence of Vodou in Haiti is often misunderstood. Please watch for my next blog later this week.

      Thanks,
      Rose

      • Rosemary_Author
        Jun 14, 2014

        Ralph,
        I hope the recent post was helpful. I’m also posting a picture of a Vodou Temple near where I lived in Haiti. Thanks, Rose

        • Lauti
          Jun 19, 2015

          My name is Erica Peters. I am an emergency nurse at Highland Hospital, the cotnuy hospital in Oakland, CA. I recently returned from my second two-week stint in Haiti doing relief work at the Port au Prince General Hospital. I am writing on behalf of Dr. Megan Coffee whom I had the pleasure and honor of working with while in Haiti. Her unremitting work begs recognition, so I wanted to give an eye witness account of what she is accomplishing down there and how important her work is to the hospital staff, her fellow volunteers and most importantly her patients.Megan has been down in Haiti since January and is working seven days a week for a minimum of 12 hours each day with very few exceptions. She established and now supervises a 3-tent, 45-bed inpatient tuberculosis treatment center, and she runs a Monday through Friday outpatient TB clinic. She treats many patients diagnosed with both HIV and TB, and collaborates with other clinics to attain supplementary medications or a more appropriate setting. Just in the first week of June, Megan coordinated (and funded) a plane transfer to a local surgery center for a 23 year old boy who was paralyzed from spinal TB. All this, it is important to remember, is happening on a hospital campus where retrieving one working tank of oxygen presents any number of obstacles. Her work load is overwhelming.Dr. Coffee impresses everyone she works with. The American volunteers including Doctors, Nurses and NGO staff are awestruck by her and describe her with words like, commited , amazing , inspirational , dedicated , and tireless . More importantly, The Haitian community adores her: not only does she commonly receive phone calls from her old patients thanking her and updating her on their recovery, but on her birthday, despite their very real poverty, her patients and their families decorated their tents and celebrated her with a party. The nurses she works with come in on their days off to make her lunch, and one of the head hospital administrators jokes with her that they are the only two people at the hospital everyday.Megan is providing TB treatment to a population that would otherwise be abandoned. There is no intention to continue TB treatment on the General Hospital campus without her presence, and TB treatment in Port au Prince before the earthquake was painfully limited. Her contributions to the public health of Port au Prince are impressive, to say the least, and I am truly proud to know her.I would encourage you to volunteer with Dr. Coffee in Haiti to really grasp what she has tackled, but since that may not be possible, I want to relay to you her compassion, enterprise, selflessness, energy and unwavering commitment to the people she serves. Erica Peters, MSN, RN

          • Rosemary_Author
            Jun 19, 2015

            Hi Erica,
            Dr Coffee sounds like an amazing person, and someone I would like to meet. I’ve been to the General Hospital a number of times before and after the earthquake. Indeed it is a challenging place to work! Can you share Dr. Coffee’s email, or pass mine along to her (redhanmd@yahoo.com)?

            Thanks so much for connecting with me. Always great to hear from others who have a heart for Haiti!

            Rosemary

  2. Anas
    Mar 5, 2016

    I am coming to Haiti Nov 15 with a group. We are brgniing some supplies with us but have no more room. I have some thoracenthesis kits that my hospital here has no use for – for whatever the reason is. They give me extra supplies destined for donations. I will try to find a way to get them to Haiti unless you have someone coming from Minnesota that I can contact.

    • Rosemary_Author
      Mar 7, 2016

      Hi Anas,
      Please contact via my email redhanmd@yahoo.com. Thanks for you willingness to help Haiti!
      Rosemary

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