Helping Haiti — 
‘It makes a difference to this one!’

By Margaret Pénicaud
Special to The Anchor

MARTHA’S VINEYARD, Mass. — I recently participated in an online program called “Best Lent Ever.” One question that was put to us was “How can purpose elevate your work?” The focus was for us to “find something that you consider worthy of your talent and character, and give yourself to it.”

For more than 20 years now I have been working to help the poor in Haiti by working in solidarity with the Daughters of Mary Queen Immaculate, an indigenous teaching order of Haitian nuns. Granted this “work” is entirely voluntary. There are no salaries in our non-profit, but I always add that, “the retirement plan is out of this world!”

Basically my work for Haiti consists of fund-raising for the Sisters and supporting them in their mission of “accompanying orphans, children, adolescent girls, and mothers in the areas of health care, schooling, and professional formation, for their human fulfillment and growth.” The Sisters have presently more than 5,000 students and individuals under their care in the southern half of Haiti.

I am responsible for putting the Fish Farm Haiti donors’ hard-earned dollars directly in the hands of these trusted Sisters. I find it satisfying to know that these Sisters will continue their work even if I am no longer in the picture. They work for the love of God and their people. As for their American counterparts, we are all volunteers. Not only are there no salaries in our non-profit, but we pay our own transportation to and from Haiti. We do not use the money we have raised for our personal travel expenses. We want every penny to go to Haiti. Our work is our gift from the heart.

This past November, three of us, Bonnie Gardner from Greenland, N.H.; Jessica Buckley from Edgartown; and I traveled to Haiti. Our first stop was at the Project in Lilavois, outside of Port-au-Prince, where we interviewed, took pictures, and delivered gifts to the 61 children in our sponsorship program. There are currently 501 children enrolled in the primary and secondary classes of the school. At the trade school where women are learning to cook and sew as a means for honest livelihood, the class has grown from 15 students last year to 35 students this year. Sister Mimose, the successful 20-year veteran teacher at the trade school, has asked us to help build a new and bigger facility for her over crowded classroom.

We also traveled to three towns along the southwestern coast of Haiti to assess the needs and progress after the destructive passage of Hurricane Matthew in the fall of 2016. In Roche à Bateau, we slept in the patients’ room of the medical dispensary completed there. In Damassin, the Sisters were living in unimaginable poverty. It has been more than a year since the hurricane and they were still sleeping crowded together in one room, with no running water, no roof over most of the building, and yet they continue to run and teach a school with 500-plus children.

In Coteaux, where we directed our Haiti relief fund raising efforts, the Sisters have three new bedrooms, a kitchen, and a partially rebuilt wall around their residence. They dream of rebuilding their kindergarten classroom that would double as an after-school program. All the Sisters living in this impoverished, remote coastal area agree that life would be a lot easier if they had one vehicle they could share and use to transport patients to the hospital, purchase supplies, and keep in contact with the rest of their religious community. 

There is a legendary story of a huge storm that washed up on the shore hundreds of thousands of starfish. Mounds and mounds of starfish were left stranded to die. A little girl walked along the shore and bending over picked up a starfish and threw it back into the sea. Again and again she repeatedly bent over, picked up a starfish and tossed it back into the sea. Onlookers scoffed at her. “Don’t you see how impossible it is? There are hundreds of thousands of starfish. No matter how long you try, it will never make a difference!” Picking up another starfish and holding it up, the little girl said, “Makes a difference to this one!” and tossed it back into the sea!

Sponsor a Child: $250 a year; feed a child Breakfast Program $100 a year.
For more information email:; call 508-645-2710, or visit

Margaret Penicaud is a parishioner of Good Shepherd Parish in Martha’s Vineyard and a member of Little Children of Mary.

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