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Standing with Persons who are Poor:
Sisters Provide Blankets to Newborns in Haiti

Nurses Ann Weltin and Sara Kraus traveled to Haiti in October 2012 as part of the Sisters of St. Francis Common Venture volunteer medical trip. When they returned, they gave a presentation to the sisters of their experiences. While Ann and Sarah were in Haiti  they helped to deliver 22 babies. The mother’s who delivered the babies had to walk up to three miles to get to the hospital and bring their own sheets—not even knowing if they would have a bed to deliver in. And due to lack of space, some women even delivered their babies outside. If they did have a bed, they could only have it for three hours after birth until they had to go home to make room for another mother to deliver. Many did not have a blanket to wrap their child in for the walk home so some wrapped their newborns in newspaper.

When Sr. Marge Burkle, OSF heard this, it unsettled her. "I could not get that out of mind," she said of a newborn baby wrapped in a newspaper. "It just stayed with me."

So she decided to do something. She approached the sisters in the Commitment Circle for Standing with the Poor and asked if they, as well as other sisters at Mount St. Francis, would be willing to take on a project where they would sew blankets for the children to be taken home from the hospital in.

"There was unanimous support," said Sr. Marge.

With the help of Sr. Mary Ann Helle, OSF, who is in charge of the sewing room at Mount St. Francis, Sr. Marge put her plan into action. Within days she had $1,000 in donations to buy the fabric for "Project Baby Blanket." When both she and Sr. Mary Ann went to purchase the fabric at JoAnn Fabrics and Hobby Lobby in Dubuque, both retailers were supportive of the project. "They gave us a huge cut in price," she said of the lightweight flannel fabric purchased for the cause.

Sisters volunteer to help cut the fabric and sew the blankets. St. Anthony’s Parish in Dubuque sent supplies to their sister parish, St. Montfort’s in Port du Paix, Haiti, and included the blankets with their shipment.  And 200 blankets were sent along with volunteers from Vinton, Iowa, who traveled to Haiti this past winter. The sisters also gave 50 blankets to the Presentation Lantern Center in Dubuque to be handed out to new mothers.

One of the sisters who has volunteered for the project is Sr. Kenneth Hemann, OSF. "I wanted to help in this project to help the poor," she said. "Your heart is very much with them."

Sr. Mary Ann also agreed. "What must those mother's think when they can wrap their little one up in a blanket?"

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