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Gena at NPFS Haiti, St. Helene orphanage. Photo by: nph-usa.org

Brutal gang attacks Mayo orphanage worker in Haiti

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Gena at NPFS Haiti, St. Helene orphanage. Photo by: nph-usa.org

County Mayo native Gena Heraty, who works at a Haitian orphanage, was brutally attacked outside her bedroom by a gang who then killed the orphanage's watchman last weekend.

The gang gained entry to the Kay Christine orphanage by pretending to have a package for Heraty, who is the director of the special needs program. In her unit, where she also sleeps, there are 29 people with severe mental and physical disabilities.

She told the Irish Independent, “Straight away I knew these were people looking for money, looking for me because I’d be the person perceived as having money.” She added, “They were quite aggressive - one had a hammer, one had a gun and another guy was running up and down the stairs.”

Heraty believes that at least one of the five men in the gang was a previous resident of the orphanage.

They hit her across her back and side and were shouting for money. Heraty gave them €400 ($537) which she had not yet exchanged from a recent trip to Ireland, but they ransacked the room looking for more and tried to tie Heraty to a chair. She suffered minor injuries and is thankful to be alive.

Edward Major, a local man in his 60’s and a watchmen at the orphanage, intervened and Heraty ushered the seven children in her room to another room. They heard shouting and fighting before silence. When one of Heraty’s staff opened the door, she saw Major lying dead on the floor.

Heraty said she did not hear a gunshot and commented, “So we realised that they had killed him with the hammer. They must have knocked him on the ground and they continued to beat him, I don’t know.”

She said about his death, “He had a very noble death. He lost his life to protect us . . . He didn’t have to do that, he could have waited for other people.”

The gang took the money and some electronics and fled. Most of the electronics were later recovered on the grounds of the orphanage. The orphanage will now consider armed security, which they had previously avoided because there are 400 children on site and they are already struggling to meet their fundraising targets.

Heraty said, “The last place you would expect a violent death to happen in Haiti would be in a house with special needs people.” She continued, “It is really so sad. What a waste of life.”

To donate to the orphanage, send donations to the Our Little Brothers and Sisters account at Bank of Ireland, Dublin Airport. The account number is 42863621 and the charity number is CHY11953.

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