This weekend Tommy Marren and a group of fellow walkers will embark on a 10k for the Gena Heraty Haiti Fund. The woman behind the fundraising drive, Gena Heraty sat down this week to give us a look at her work and what the last twenty-five years in Haiti have been like for her and tell us why it is so important to keep helping those in need.

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Time. Like a petal in the wind, Flows softly by. As old lives are taken, New ones begin. A continual chain, Which lasts throughout eternity. Every life but a minute in time, But each of equal importance. - Cindy Cheney

It’s a sunny afternoon in Kenscoff and Innocent and I are alone on the balcony here in Kay Christine. That it is so quiet is pretty amazing as usually all the kids are here -but what is more amazing is that Innocent  is giving me the space to write a few lines. Believe me- this is amazing?. Innocent is not known for giving people space!!

I see Jean Marie coming in after his break. This morning he came to ask me permission to go and move his family from where they are living because for the past week, in that area of Port Au Prince it is like a war zone. He told me now that he nailed up his house(rented) and he took a few of his things with his wife and kids and sent them to stay with an aunt- free from the bullets. Jean Marie is a childcare worker and he works one week on and one week off. Here in the mountains he is far removed from the desperation of Port Au Prince but what a stress for any father, for any family!

Tomorrow is the 15th of June- my Sister Kay’s birthday- and as it happens my 25th Anniversary here in Haiti and here in Kay Christine.  A part of me feels I should write something to mark the occasion- a bigger part of me groans cos lately I seem to find it very hard to write!

Most people are amazed when I tell them how long I am here. And usually I quickly reply- yes it is a long time to be happy! In general I suppose they look at me and as they can’t imagine living my life they presume it must be very hard or something. Yvonne has just plopped down beside me- a little tired after doing some sport. I can’t believe she is already 41 yrs old?.

Anyway back to 25 yrs in Haiti. I suppose the years are marked by many greats- great loves- oh my God, I could write a book on every single child that has expanded my heart with great love. Have you noticed how your heart expands each time you love and are loved? Well I have been so so blessed all these years to be loved by so many and to love so many. These kids give love so freely and without conditions- oh to be like them! They have such courage-often dealing with so much suffering- and yet quick to smile. Such beautiful smiles. These smiles are healing smiles- one smile  can warm you on your worst day!

Great losses- oh the pain of burying a loved one! That cold empty feeling that consumes you and it’s not that you feel sad- you become Sadness. As I said to a friend today- Death is CRAP and no amount of understanding or philosophizing about it will make a blind bit of difference- it is simply CRAP! In 25 years I have dealt with a lot of this CRAP and the only thing to say is that the more you love the more you will feel the loss of death and in my life here, there is no getting away from death. So you rely on Love to get you through the sadness. The only cure for dealing with grief is LOVE.

Great achievements- how far we have come in 25 yrs! How wonderful it is to see the children grow and blossom in our care. How fantastic to see our work grow and develop and our services reach more children and people in need! How marvelous to  see children that have grown up in our care turn into such beautiful caring, loving young men and women.

Great testimonies; every mother I see bringing her child to our services is a testimony of the love of a mother. Their struggles to survive, put aside as they carry their kids for therapy- so often humiliated on the way by people telling them to dump their child because this child will never ‘be any good, will never walk, will never talk’! Can you imagine what this must be like for these mothers and fathers? Can you even imagine a world where your child cries all night because she is hungry and you have no money to buy food? Can you imagine your child seizing all night because you could not afford to buy the epilepsy medicine?  When I tell you that these mothers and fathers are my heroes please understand I really mean it. I admire their courage and their resilience. I admire their refusal to give up. Their refusal to get discouraged. 25 years surrounded by courage and great sacrifices made for loved ones!

Great Suffering- oh dear- how awful it is to watch someone suffer. Is there anything worse? You try and try and try again to relieve the suffering but sometimes you just have to stand helpless and powerless- like Mary at the foot of the cross- and you have to accept that you are so small in the face of suffering. You learn to be humble- you do not have control over everything. You can fight and scream and yell and blame anyone you want but the bottom line is- somethings we just cant fix! But we sure will do our best and we will die trying! 

I have learned so much in the last 25 years and I am very grateful for all the people that have contributed to my learning. Living with people with disabilities is a great place to learn about yourself and believe me it is not always a happy learning! Is is not always easy to see our own weaknesses but believe me there is no getting away from them here?. I am lucky to live with such great teachers. 

I am lucky to be a part of this great Kay Christine family. I am lucky to have a wonderful family back in Ireland that have never tired of supporting me all these years . I am lucky that so many people believe in what we are doing and undertake to help us. Without help we are powerless. We are blessed to have so many people on our side.

I started this journey, many years ago as a young child in primary school- when I asked God for a job. I am happy to say that I am as happy and committed to this journey now as I was way back then. I have  lived a lot, learned a lot, grown a lot, loved a lot and suffered a lot during these past 25 yrs. Even have acquired a few grey hairs!! 

Thanks very much to all of you that are on this journey with me. Please do stay with me as we still have a lot to do! I pray for good health for 25 more happy years here. Keep us in your prayers and never underestimate the power of prayer or your capacity to do make a difference.  So many problems can be solved by acts of love and kindness. 

All the best!

Gena

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