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Missionary's e-mail describes damage to Haiti orphanage
By Justin Kmitch | Daily Herald Staff

Patty Meyer of Naperville, right, has not heard from orphanage director and friend Marie Major since a few days before the earthquake.


Courtesy of Patty Meyer

Before it's collapse Tuesday, Grace House of Hope for Girls was home to 30 girls ranging in age from 2 to 15.


Courtesy of Patty Meyer

The 30 girls in the orphanage were living in a one-room brick building with a leaky roof before Patty Meyer visited them in the summer of 2007. The new orphanage has been destroyed and local reports indicate the girls are now sleeping outside.


Courtesy of Patty Meyer

Patty Meyer does crafts and activities with the girls when she visits. She does not know when she will return to Haiti but would like to be back there helping soon.


Courtesy of Patty Meyer

Girls from the orphanage are dolled up in dresses and shoes that Patty Meyer brought to them from donations she collected in 2008.


Courtesy of Patty Meyer

Meyer said the girls from the orphanage were very proud of their new, freshly painted living quarters.


Courtesy of Patty Meyer

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Published: 1/13/2010 12:54 PM | Updated: 1/13/2010 5:38 PM

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Naperville resident Patty Meyer has devoted much of her life in recent years to raising money to build the Grace House of Hope for Girls orphanage and accompanying church in Bon Repos, Haiti.

Early Wednesday morning, she learned via e-mail from a fellow missionary that both the church and orphanage, about 10 miles north of Port Au Prince, were destroyed in the earthquake. Workers were able to shepherd all of the children from the orphanage before the collapse, so no one was injured.

Throughout the years, Meyer has developed a close bond with orphanage Director Marie Major but has not been able to contact her directly.

The following is an excerpt an account Meyer received from fellow missionary Debbie Berquist, who is about a half-mile from Marie Major and the orphanage:

"We also went down to see Marie. The church indeed did collapse. The second floor still holds its shape but sits on top of the rubble of the church underneath.

"The mommies got all of the girls out in time. They slept outside in the yard across the street from Marie's house.

"The girls had eaten this AM - they are able to cook in the kitchen at the school. The school, dining room and new rooms Marie prepared are all standing so they do have a place to stay.

"Right now they are holding off searching for any property of the girls in the rubble. Marie's house is fine - as you can imagine her blood pressure is not at the lowest it's been. Her brother has an injury to his forehead, lots of damage where he was. Marie said one of the students from her school had died."

Another message from Berquist read:

"We felt aftershocks until about 4 a.m. - one pretty big one at midnight and (again at) 3 a.m. The one at midnight brought most folks out of their rooms. Most slept or at least rested on their mattresses under the stars - one was on the picnic table and a couple in chairs. Most reported that they got at least several hours of sleep. Everyone's spirits are holding up well."