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Kaneland senior offers a helping hand in Haiti

Teen connected with youths on recent trip

On a recent trip to Haiti, a Kaneland High School senior made such a connection with a 2 1/2-year-old girl, she wished she could adopt her.

Elburn resident Madeline Cole, 18, said she will do what she can to help little Berdine and all the children of Mama Yole’s orphanage and school. The orphanage is home to girls from about 3 to 18 years old, and the school is open to the community.

Cole and other members of Lord of Life Church in La- Fox recently spent eight days just outside of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, which is still recovering from the January 2010 earthquake that left many dead and collapsed and severely damaged hundreds of thousands of homes and other buildings.

From March 12 to March 19, male members of the church worked on repairs to the three-story school, which hasn’t been used since the earthquake, while the women spent time with the girls of the orphanage.

“They just crave affection and love,” Cole said.

On the first night of their trip, Cole handed out about 50 teddy bears to all the children and learned their names.

“By the second day, I knew all 50 of the girls’ names,” Cole said. “They loved that.”

The group also handed out more than 150 dresses to the girls, provided by Lord of Life Church and Batavia Congregational Church, where Cole’s grandmother worships.

Cole also enjoyed getting to know Mama Yole, who put her life savings into the orphanage and school when she returned to Haiti after living in New York with her husband for some time. Now in her 70s, Mama Yole hasn’t had it easy. Both her husband and daughter were murdered just down the road from the orphanage, Cole said.

“It’s inspiring to see a woman whose been through so much, but still keeps her head up and does everything she can for these girls,” Cole said.

Before the group left, they drilled a well so the compound had access to clean drinking water, a major achievement. Clean water is especially important considering the area has no garbage handling system. The area they were staying in didn’t have constant electricity.

“I learned not to complain in life,” Cole said. “... The trip was an eye-opener.”

Cole enjoyed her time so much, she’d like to return around Christmas with her entire family. They are trying to raise about $3,500 for round-trip airfare and to purchase materials to rebuild the school, purchase goats and fencing material, and provide funds for the care and support of orphaned children. To make a donation, visit

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