In Sight

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Claudette Reny’s children have grown accustomed to the annual calls from her saying she’s going back to Haiti.

The 65-year-old radiology technician aide at St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center has traveled to the impoverished country 11 times over the past nine years to spend time with orphaned children.

It’s an all volunteer effort.

“I get so much more out of it than I can give,” the Lewiston resident said, just before leaving Tuesday with 14 other people.

The group is part of St. Mary’s Haiti Work Retreat that began traveling to that country in 1997. This year’s contingent, which will spend a week and a half in the Caribbean, is the largest ever and will split time between a hospital in Fond-des-Blancs and an orphanage in Les Cayes founded by the Rev. Marc Boisvert of Lewiston. Volunteers working at the hospital, including three doctors, will provide medical care and perform maintenance and construction. Those going to the orphanage will spend time with the kids and help wherever needed.

“I can’t wait to get there tomorrow,” Reny said with the excitement of a child on Christmas morning.

She has eight godchildren in Haiti and still wears a bracelet given to her by one boy three years ago.

“Father Marc had to kick this boy out once for his behavior. He really didn’t want to listen to anyone,” recalled Reny.

“Father Marc came to me and said he might have to kick him out again, so I spent two days and two evenings with him. He put this bracelet on my wrist as I was leaving and gave me a great big hug. He whispered in my ear, in English, ‘I love you.’ I promised him I would never take the bracelet off as long as he behaves.”

Next year, she hopes to be able to take her granddaughter with her.

“I have to go,” she says. “The kids just want to be held.”

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