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The programme documents the American-born missionary priest who buries Haiti’s nameless dead to the strains of a brass band playing Verdi, and the inspiring work of two Irish women who have been battling to save the lives of its destitute poor.
A convoy of pick up trucks stacked high with cardboard coffins lurches its way through one of the world’s most dangerous slums; the trucks are carrying the bodies of up to 100 people; they are being taken to the outskirts of Port au Prince, the capital of Haiti, to be buried. The funeral service, which is repeated every Thursday morning, is both surreal and disturbing.
Haiti (pop. 9 million) is the poorest country in the Western hemisphere; it’s also one of the most violent. Food shortages have become severe that people have had to resort to eating “mud” pies. Three quarters of a million were made homeless by recent hurricanes and everywhere young and old live in fear of being kidnapped, tortured and brutally murdered.
In the middle of the chaos, two Irish women – Westport-born child care specialist, Gena Heraty, and Dr Louise Ivers, from Whitehall, in Dublin, a world expert in infectious disease - have been working for years in Haiti’s slums and in its near inaccessible mountainous interior to bring hope and help to the sick, the poor and those who live in near constant fear of death and starvation.
Working alongside them as a doctor, hospital administrator, civil rights campaigner and frequent hostage negotiator is Fr Rick Frechette, a Passionist Priest, from Connecticut in the United States. To him life in Haiti has become “a nightmare which the entire world should be made aware of and should be trying to change”. He says a country that cannot even afford to bury its dead is “an affront to all of humanity”.
The documentary, produced by Caroline Bleahen and presented by Jim Fahy, takes it title from a remark by Fr Rick as he stacked his truck with the bodies of men, women and children. The bodies were a tiny fraction of those which pile up each week in the morgue of the main hospital in the capital Port au Prince. Their families cannot afford to bury them but every Thursday Fr Rick and a team of volunteers take them to a valley ten kilometres from the city and lay them to rest.
Documentary produced and directed by Caroline Bleahen, reported by Jim Fahy.