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Sept. 15, 2003

Links to the SOUTH SHORE

Esther Madden of Hingham

wo decades ago, when Esther Madden first visited Haiti, a nun she met told her the country and its people would creep inside her heart and refuse to leave.

“You’ll never be set free,” Madden, 72, recalled being told. “You’ll always come back.”

The words proved prophetic. After her first trip in 1983, Madden returned at least once a year until 1986. She went back again in 1990, this time with two of her seven children. After more than a decade away, she returned again in 2001.

A lot has change since that first trip when a dozen people from St. Boniface Catholic Church in Quincy’s Germantown neighborhood journeyed there to donate a few thousands dollars from a fund-raising walk. In those first years, they went armed with simple gifts like stickers and candy to give children, and brought what they could to give away.

“Friends would say, ‘Do you think you’re going to save a nation with a suitcase of second-hand clothes?’” she said. “It just showed that the Lord stepped in.”

The first time Madden visited Fond des Blancs, the village adopted by the St. Boniface Haiti Foundation, there were hardly any wells for drinking water. People dropped gourds tied to strings down holes in the ground to capture water. As they pulled them up, the gourds would jiggle around. By the time they got to the surface, just a few drops of water remained inside.

When Madden, a Hingham resident and case coordinator in the civil division of Quincy District Court, returned to Fond des Blancs two years ago, she saw the hospital, operating room and nutrition center that the St. Boniface Haiti Foundation had built in the years since her initial visits.

Occasionally, someone will ask Madden, who is secretary of the foundation’s board of trustees, why she travels all the way to Haiti to help people when there is poverty so much closer to home.

“Most people assume it’s either here or there, that if you’re involved with the poor in Haiti, you’re not involved here. It isn’t like that,” she said. “The people I know who are involved in Haiti are also involved in places like Quincy. The difference is there is no help in Haiti except for the church.”

Karen Eschbacher may be reached at

Stories by
Karen Eschbacher
Photos by
Gary Higgins

The Patriot Ledger

Small Comforts in a Hard World: South Shore group's efforts provide housing, work to Haitian poor

A Study of Hope and Faith: Randolph woman is unlikely savior of Haiti's poor and downtrodden

Faces of Haiti: Briel Laveielle

Links to the South Shore of Massachusetts

Personal Journal

Numbers That Count: Here and There

Small map of Haiti (90KB)

Large map of Haiti (100KB)

Photos from Haiti (513KB)

View printed pages from the series


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