Haiti journal: Deaconess, 82, cares for orphans

Holly lives next door to the orphanage.

Holly lives next door to the orphanage.

Sister Paulette Holly was not expecting visitors, but that didn't stop her from conducting a top-to-bottom tour of the Methodist Children's Home, a place she clearly loves.

At 82 years old, she ventures where others fear to tread.

Holly is a deaconess for the Methodist Church in Haiti. She has lived next door to the orphanage for more years than she will say. Before she was converted from a Catholic, "and a very good one," to Methodist, she was a nurse and midwife.

As a Methodist, she felt called to "preach and heal."

The orphanage, like most buildings in Port-au-Prince, was shaken by the Jan. 12 earthquake. The children, ranging in age from 6 to18, are living in tents across the street. Holly and several others are sleeping in the space between the children's home and her residence. She says none of the42 children were injured or died.

Boys pass the time outdoors.

Boys pass the time outdoors.

"Thank God," she says.

Walking with the help of a cane, Holly took six U.S. visitors from the bottom floor to the roof of the damaged building.

"The rail right here is not secure so I use this pipe to hang onto," she says. She mentions a friend of hers who fell down the stairs. "I don't know why that happened," she mutters under her breath.

She takes us up two flights of winding stairs and shows us every room. A huge pot of beans is cooking on the stove. Children are playing in the back courtyard. The tour ends with one more staircase up to the roof.

Back outside, she walks under low hanging branches and rocky, uneven ground to a small house in the back that is destroyed.

Numbered cups line a shelf at the orphanage.

Numbered cups line a shelf at the orphanage.

Holly says she built the house for the relatives of a woman helper who lives in her house. "They would come and stay one, two, three weeks. &ellipsis; I had to get them out of my house."

Inside Holly's home, cracks crisscross the ceilings and walls. A large piece of furniture with a mirror is lying on the floor. It is not broken, but it is heavy. She says she has been waiting for someone to come over and put it back up.

"I think that will get done now," she says, smiling.

And it did.

*Gilbert is a news writer for United Methodist News Service on assignment in Haiti.

News media contact: David Briggs or Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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