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Wednesday, 15 January 2014 13:30

Friend dedicated and determined to help orphans

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Dedication and determination are traits I admire. One of the most dedicated and determined people I’ve ever met is my friend Albertine. I lived with her and her family several years ago as part of an exchange trip to Africa.


Albertine, a jovial mother of four, welcomed me into her family. I felt at home, but wondered why there was a small headstone in the middle of her yard.
It was sculpted from mud and its rounded shape made it look like the thatched huts in the neighbourhood. It bore no name so I asked who was buried there.
Albertine explained the grave belonged to a baby boy who died at the age of three, but whose short life impacted her in a profound way. 
Born to parents who died of AIDS when he was only a few months old, the baby was sent to live with his 60-year-old aunt. This aunt was Albertine’s next-door neighbour. Because Albertine had just given birth to her second girl, she was able to breastfeed the boy.
“A lot of people told me not to do that,” recalled Albertine. “They said the baby would bite my nipple and give me AIDS.”
She did what she could to help her neighbour’s nephew, but he’s now resting beneath a small statue of the Virgin Mary who watches over his headstone.
Far from being discouraged by the child’s death, Albertine thinks the experience strengthened her determination to achieve her life’s goal — to create an orphanage to serve the children of her country.
For 20 years, Albertine has been helping orphans on a continent where money isn’t easy to come by.
Albertine worked very hard and fundraised for several years and in May of 2005, she opened her orphanage. Its construction cost $4,700, which is roughly four times the average annual wage in her country.
The orphanage started with seven children and four women volunteers to look after them. Today, the orphanage has 32 kids. Some have suffered the loss of both parents while others come from exceptionally-poor families. In some cases, the parents don’t have the money to clothe or feed a child. They leave the child with Albertine for a few months or even a few years until they can provide proper care.
One of Albertine’s problems at the orphanage has been her operational costs. In 2007, the price of food went up more than 60 per cent. A 50-pound bag of rice that once sold for $15 rose to $47. Powdered milk, a stable item in an orphanage, also became much more expensive. Undaunted, Albertine found solutions. Since then, she has also expanded the dorms, added a well and holding tank and landscaped the facility.
Albertine walks past the small headstone everyday. His name was Fernand. His grave encourages Albertine to keep pursuing her goals.
(Dominique Liboiron is a speaker, author, teacher, journalist and photographer. To raise awareness about heart disease and to honour the life of one of its victims, Liboiron canoed from Saskatchewan to New Orleans. He is the first person to undertake that journey. He enjoys outdoor sports such as camping, hunting, fly fishing and canoeing. For more information about his speaking engagements, please call 306-661-8975 or visit his website www.canoetoneworleans.com.)

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Dominique Liboiron

Dominique Liboiron is a speaker, author, teacher, journalist and photographer. To raise awareness about heart disease and to honour the life of one of its victims, Liboiron canoed from Saskatchewan to New Orleans. He is the first person to undertake that journey. He enjoys outdoor sports such as camping, hunting, fly fishing and canoeing.