Care for quake kids

Danette Dooley
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Newfoundland woman volunteered at Haitian orphanage

The photo on the computer screen shows 34-year-old Johanne Gallant, sitting on the ground with her back to an old tire. Her cheeks are flushed from the hot Haiti sun.

A small boy named Janel is asleep in her arms. He's wearing a Mickey Mouse T-shirt and blue and red Spiderman Crocs that are too small for his feet.

Left, Gallant with some of the other children who live at the orphanage. Right, Gallant with eight-year-old Shynder. Like some of the other children living at the orphanage, Shynder has an enlarged head due to untreated fluid on the brain at birth. Submi

The photo on the computer screen shows 34-year-old Johanne Gallant, sitting on the ground with her back to an old tire. Her cheeks are flushed from the hot Haiti sun.

A small boy named Janel is asleep in her arms. He's wearing a Mickey Mouse T-shirt and blue and red Spiderman Crocs that are too small for his feet.

Nannies at the orphanage where he lives figure he's five years old.

"He's tiny for his age because he's malnourished," said Gallant.

She's sitting at the kitchen table at home in C.B.S., running a slide show of her recent one-month stay in Haiti.

"He likes to be picked up. I walked around with him a lot."

Janel's parents were among the estimated 230,000 people killed in the Jan. 12 earthquake.

News of the quake struck Gallant hard.

The Stephenville native had been been thinking about adopting a child from that country for several years, so what better way to help not one but many children than to volunteer at an orphanage in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince?

"There were times when I tried not to choke on my own tears," Gallant said of her trip, which ended in mid-April.

Gallant volunteered with Youth With a Mission (YWAM), an international, non-profit Christian missionary organization.

There are more than 120 French and Creole-speaking children living at the orphanage.

Some, like Janel, lost parents in the earthquake. Others are there because their parents can't afford to keep them.

Gallant pauses for a moment on a picture of an eight-year-old boy who has just come down a slide. His name is Wisben. His right leg is missing - a casualty of the quake.

Accomodations improving

When thousands were beneath the rubble, people started sleeping outside.

The children and the nannies at the orphanage slept in tents, as did Gallant during her time in Haiti.

Most of the children have now moved indoors, and they crave attention.

"They don't care if you just kick around a soccer ball or go and sit under a mango tree with them. All they care about is that you're spending time with them," Gallant said.

"This is Jacky," she said, clicking on the next photo. "He's 17. He wants to be a doctor. And this is Winzor, he's 16. He wants to be a mechanic."

The problem is, they have no money, and without money an education is impossible.

"I'd love to be able to give Jacky and Winzor and some of the other kids an education," said Gallant.

She said was particularly touched by the Haitian children with disabilities.

"They are trapped within their own bodies but you can see in their eyes that they are so smart."

Gallant is a bilingual steward on the Marine Atlantic ferry Atlantic Vision.

When her co-workers heard about her trip, they donated almost $400 to buy games, balls and other toys for the children.

"We knew that writing would help the children in their healing process, so Johanne brought down crayons and art supplies," said Marine Atlantic spokeswoman Tara Laing.

Marine Atlantic supported Gallant financially and granted her a two-week unpaid leave of absence.

Laing said it was important to the organization to support her in every way possible.

"This is all about someone in Newfoundland making a difference in another part of the world," Laing said.

Since she came back home, Gallant has been sharing her story with school children.

She recently gave a presentation at Beachy Cove Elementary in Portugal Cove-St. Philip's.

Her message is be grateful for what you have.

"These people, they lost their homes, their families, their neighbours, everything. They lost limbs. If they have one arm left, they raise their hand up and thank Jesus that they're still alive. ...

"I don't complain near as much as I used to."

telegram@thetelegram.com danette@nl.rogers.com

Organizations: Marine Atlantic

Geographic location: Haiti, Newfoundland, Stephenville Port-au-Prince Portugal Cove

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Recent comments

  • Karen
    July 02, 2010 - 13:31

    Johanne is as kind a person as you could ever know. To see Haiti through her eyes (she has so many stories!) added a whole new dimension to what the media presents. Through her, I learned that no act is too small to make an impact on this mammoth disaster. Thank you again, Johanne for sharing your heart and soul to make a difference.

  • Dean
    July 02, 2010 - 13:25

    Way to go Joanne. Makes me proud to have known and worked with you. I was down to the Dominican Republic last month. Even there you could see some of the after effects of the disaster in Haiti. And you are right about being grateful for what we have. cause you never know when it could be taken away from us.

  • Roxanne
    July 02, 2010 - 13:23

    Im so glad to call this woman my friend and my hero! i've talked to Johanne while she was in hati from time to time, and I would cry as she would tell me her stories not only becasue I was hurting for these children but because Johanne was there making a difference and I was happy that she could be, and I don't expect anything less from her.we need more people like her in this world..She is a wonderful person one I will admire for all my life!

  • SANDRA
    July 02, 2010 - 13:18

    I agree with Polly one hundred per cent.
    Marine Atlantic should have giving Ms. Gallant alot longer off with pay for the great job she was going to do. I think Ms. Gallant deserves more than a pat on the back for what she did. Her story is very heartwarming and makes us wonder why we make big issue out of little things when we have people in hatti with bigger problems.

  • Sheldon
    July 02, 2010 - 13:17

    I agree 100% with Polly Pickford of NL.
    I am a friend of Johanne Gallant, and an employee of marine atlantic, and I know she didnt do this just to give kudos to marine atlantic. And for them to ride on her coat tails for publicity is outrages and selfish.
    A better statement would've been, we granted Jo a paid leave for as long as she needs to help these children of Haiti.
    I equate Jo's work in Haiti to that of Mother Teresa, god rest her soul, and the people there were very fortunate to have her.
    Jo touched a lot of lives during her stay, and at home as well. Lest we forget!!

  • Polly
    July 02, 2010 - 13:12

    Ms. Gallant is very much the hero here , she brought comfort to these children , but , is Marine Atlantic looking to benefit from this heartwarming story ? The following statement would have read so much better if it had come from Ms. Gallant----- Marine Atlantic supported Gallant financially and granted her a two-week unpaid leave of absence. Laing said it was important to the organization to support her in every way possible This is all about someone in Newfoundland making a difference in another part of the world, Laing said. It was very generous of Marine Atlantic to give Ms. Gallant a two-week UNPAID leave of absence. Marine Atlantic is patting itself on the back , and it sounds a lot like hubris ....

  • Karen
    July 01, 2010 - 20:20

    Johanne is as kind a person as you could ever know. To see Haiti through her eyes (she has so many stories!) added a whole new dimension to what the media presents. Through her, I learned that no act is too small to make an impact on this mammoth disaster. Thank you again, Johanne for sharing your heart and soul to make a difference.

  • Dean
    July 01, 2010 - 20:11

    Way to go Joanne. Makes me proud to have known and worked with you. I was down to the Dominican Republic last month. Even there you could see some of the after effects of the disaster in Haiti. And you are right about being grateful for what we have. cause you never know when it could be taken away from us.

  • Roxanne
    July 01, 2010 - 20:08

    Im so glad to call this woman my friend and my hero! i've talked to Johanne while she was in hati from time to time, and I would cry as she would tell me her stories not only becasue I was hurting for these children but because Johanne was there making a difference and I was happy that she could be, and I don't expect anything less from her.we need more people like her in this world..She is a wonderful person one I will admire for all my life!

  • SANDRA
    July 01, 2010 - 19:59

    I agree with Polly one hundred per cent.
    Marine Atlantic should have giving Ms. Gallant alot longer off with pay for the great job she was going to do. I think Ms. Gallant deserves more than a pat on the back for what she did. Her story is very heartwarming and makes us wonder why we make big issue out of little things when we have people in hatti with bigger problems.

  • Sheldon
    July 01, 2010 - 19:58

    I agree 100% with Polly Pickford of NL.
    I am a friend of Johanne Gallant, and an employee of marine atlantic, and I know she didnt do this just to give kudos to marine atlantic. And for them to ride on her coat tails for publicity is outrages and selfish.
    A better statement would've been, we granted Jo a paid leave for as long as she needs to help these children of Haiti.
    I equate Jo's work in Haiti to that of Mother Teresa, god rest her soul, and the people there were very fortunate to have her.
    Jo touched a lot of lives during her stay, and at home as well. Lest we forget!!

  • Polly
    July 01, 2010 - 19:50

    Ms. Gallant is very much the hero here , she brought comfort to these children , but , is Marine Atlantic looking to benefit from this heartwarming story ? The following statement would have read so much better if it had come from Ms. Gallant----- Marine Atlantic supported Gallant financially and granted her a two-week unpaid leave of absence. Laing said it was important to the organization to support her in every way possible This is all about someone in Newfoundland making a difference in another part of the world, Laing said. It was very generous of Marine Atlantic to give Ms. Gallant a two-week UNPAID leave of absence. Marine Atlantic is patting itself on the back , and it sounds a lot like hubris ....