Derry’s generosity gives hope to Haiti

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A Derry nun working with the United Nations has spoken of the hope existing among the people of Haiti, which was left ravaged a year ago when it was struck by an earthquake.

Sister Deirde Mullan of the Sisters of Mercy said that care funded by generous Derry folk has helped to save lives and rebuild the country.

“Life is what happens when you are planning something else,” Sr. Deirdre said: “These nine words contain so much wisdom and they were to become a mantra for me in the days following the Haiti earthquake.

“I was in my office at the United Nations, when I got a phone call from Sr Michael that Fr. Canny and the parishioners of St. Eugene’s wanted to help. All focus switched to Haiti and the Derry-Haiti Connection was born.

“The money donated by the people of Saint Eugene’s enabled hundreds of people in the aftermath of the earthquake to be given emergency food, clean water and shelter.

“In addition, 700 children are still in school because of the generosity of the girls of Thornhill College, the boys of Saint Peter’s High School and the boys and girls of St. Brigid’s College,” she explained.

Recalling one remarkable story, Sr Deirdre continued: “One of our sisters – Dr. Karen Schneider was scheduled to take 15 young doctors in training to Haiti and so, they were one of the first medical teams on the island.

“Sr Karen is a paediatrician in John Hopkins university hospital in Baltimore, where she trains young doctors in disaster and trauma medicine.”

A visitor to Derry in the past Sr Karen has spoken at St. Eugene’s Cathedral and through the schools in the city who helped. She was keen to share the story of her recent reunion with one of her more memorable patients.

“Sister Karen and her team set up an emergency room tent in the compound of what was left of the United Nations. Baby Jenny who was two months old was rescued after four days under the rubble. She was brought to the tent, where Sr Karen and her team were treating the children,” Sr. Deirdre explained.

Karen worked on the baby but she knew time was against her – the baby’s chest was crushed, she had a fractured skull, she was experiencing breathing difficulty and she was very dehydrated.

“If this baby was to have a chance, she needed to be flown to Miami.”

Sr Karen helped escort the baby, whose name was unknown, to the airport and watched her being airlifted to Miami where she received the appropriate medical treatment.

Recently the life saving nun was reunited with the little girl whose life she had saved. Sr. Karen said that the baby had never been far from her thoughts.

“This baby has been in my thoughts and prayers over the past year, I want to know, is she walking, starting to talk, is she playing, because when she first came to me, I didn’t think she’d be able to do any of those things? “I didn’t think she would live.”