Special Off-Year Ramblings 2008

This year has been a different rhythm for me from the last six; usually, by now I have been at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital for two months.   However, this year I will be heading down in the beginning of January and stay through March.   I will be teaching the same courses, just a semester later… I admit it was a little selfish of me to want to avoid “winter” and play golf through the Fall.  

There are some special issues that wanted you to know about… [And yes, “special” always means money!]   It has been about four years since I asked for your donations in order to re-construct a flat for visiting teachers and volunteers.   The refurbished apartment has been put to good use with rave reviews.   Every year that I have returned since then I’ve noticed something that a donation would improve; however, I have resisted mentioning them as I share my work there so volunteers can get the experience of others in a world very different from theirs.   In fact, all of you have supported me each year in many different ways… including keeping my “beer fund” from never going dry.  

However, there are some big changes happening at Mercy. When I go to Guyana in January, Mercy will not be the same because it will be missing a big piece of its heart......Sister Sheila Marie Walsh, R.S.M. is leaving in December.  Years ago, after “retiring” as the CEO of two large hospitals in Buffalo, New York, she requested to go where she had wanted to go for her first assignment – overseas.  As a result, She has been the ‘boss’ at Mercy for seven years.   Actually, she has been almost everything at Mercy.  It was not unusual to see her mopping up after a flood, moving furniture, picking up garbage at the Christmas Fair, kicking the backup generator when it wouldn’t start, walking a new patient to the right clinic, or on a Sunday trip with other Sisters to the Leprosy Hospital in Mahaica to deliver care packages and encouragement, always calling everyone by their name and knowing something about their lives.   She was always on the go -- the first administration staff person there in the morning, and often the last to leave. 
You know how they have a ‘Miss Congeniality’ in beauty contests?  Well, I do not recall ever seeing her in a bathing suit, but she’d sure get the award at Mercy; there would be no debate that she personified the meaning of hospitality.  An example: new or old volunteers would be greeted by Sister Sheila at the airport almost any time of day or night.   It was cheaper - and probably even safer – to have a limousine driver do it, but that was not the impression that Sister Sheila wanted all of us to have.  She was welcoming.  One volunteer remembers for many of us: When I arrived in December one week before Christmas, she was there with open arms and I just had this calmness and solidity about my decision. She embraced me and every time I see her I still get that sense running through my body.”   

And here comes the usual punch line:  no one is irreplaceable; life goes on.  She was going to leave quietly and without fanfare, but I don’t think that’s right.  While she will leave many memories and scores of accomplishments, I believe she should have something special to celebrate her leaving.  [She’d be embarrassed if she knew I was doing this and probably be mad at me; however, she won’t be there when I get there in January.]  Right now the School of Nursing is in need of some new desks and chairs as well as some final renovations, like an elevated sidewalk and overhang.  [The two classrooms have had their floors raised to stop the rains from flooding them.]  An initial estimate for the costs is about $9,000 to $10,000 Canadian.  I would like to think that there are enough people who could make this possible.  

It seems fitting to have a walkway named after her as she managed the hospital by “walking about”.  It could be called “Walsh Way or “Sister Sheila’s Street”.   And if we did accomplish this, I know she’d like it and might even forgive me for doing it. 

If you wish to contribute, please send your donation to the “Sister Sheila Fund” at one of the following locations.   They will issue a charitable receipt for all contributions.

In Canada:
 Guyana Christian Charities Canada
Mercy Projects/O'Connor
1612 Arathorn Court
Pickering, Ontario  L1X 2B9

In the United States:
Mercy Projects/O'Connor
Mercy Center Development Office
652 Abbott Road
Buffalo, NY 14220

In Guyana:
Mr. Shawn Rampersaud
Head of Finance
St. Joseph Mercy Hospital
130-132 Parade Street
Kingston, Georgetown
Guyana, South America

I was told it would be helpful for donors to know the costs of specific piece; however, that would require too much math for my personality.   We are presently seeking a manufacturer in Guyana for the desks, so we do not know the actual costs of each chair and desk set… and everything takes time in Guyana.  I am forecasting that they will be in the $100 range per set.  And as far as the cost of donating a square foot of concrete, it doesn’t seem all that attractive for donors…  I will be grateful for any amount that you may wish to give… and certainly all the student nurses will really appreciate your gifts.

Take Care,