Dr. Cynthia DeSoi of Green is a Maine physician with French connections who provides expert humanitarian medical aid to the Haitian missionary program funded by Free the Kinds, Inc.  The program is directed by the Lewiston native and Franco-American priest Father Marc Boisvert.

Dr. DeSoi was volunteering to register guests at a Free the Kids, Inc., benefit in Kennebunkport when we met. She’s supports the missionary program as the medical director and a board member.  Father Boisvert’s missionary work is supported by the non-profit Free the Kids corporation.  His life’s work in Haiti is dedicated to providing education and medical care for Haitian children at Pwoje Espwa Sud, (Project Hope South), located in Les Cayes, in Southern Haiti. 

DeSoi is a Maine pediatric nephrologist, or kidney specialist.  Although her practice is in Lewiston, she travels throughout Maine to care for children with kidney diseases.  She began working with Father Boisvert about 10 years ago, following her second trip to Haiti with a group from St. Mary’s Hospital in Lewiston.

DeSoi travels to Haiti about three or four times a year to monitor the medical care for Father Boisvert’s kids.  “When we take the kids in, they almost always suffer from malnutrition, parasites both on their skin and intestinal,” she says. 

All of the kids experience emotional trauma with they first arrive at Pwoje Espwa.  “With time, the emotional distress improves,” she says. 

“They generally thrive and bloom in our program,” she says.  Three nutritional meals a day are served.   

Father Boisvert spoke about his missionary work.  Proje Espwa is in the progress of building a larger clinic because the destructive earthquake on January 12, 2010 which devastated the Haitian capital of Port au Prince drove many desperate people to leave the city to seek food and shelter elsewhere.  Tragically, the 8.8 magnitude earthquake leveled schools and businesses, leaving thousands homeless.  The breakdown of the country’s infrastructure following the earthquake and its aftershocks stopped the flow of food and medical supplies throughout the country. Thousands continue to suffer and die from hunger, and lack of basic medical care. Therefore, there is an increased need to provide care for the Haitian children because the economic conditions are not improving.  “The earthquake devastation resulted in a perpetual economic crisis for an already struggling nation”, he said.  Despite international efforts, adequate relief has yet to arrive to Les Cayes from Port au Prince.

A live auction followed Father Boisvert’s presentation. DeSoi donated her knitted handiwork to the auction.  She knitted a tightly stitched 70 percent mink and 30 percent cashmere blanket while traveling to Haiti during one of her medical director visits.   “It was a treat to knit,” she says.  She obtains the special fiber from a farm where the animals are bred for their fur, she says.

Speaking French helps DeSoi with her Haitian work. She learned to speak French while living in France when she was in high school, where her father was working at the time.  She grew up in Corning, New York.  Although her married name is French, the origin of her husband’s family is in the Alsace-Lorraine region of France.   Her ancestors were named Bedell and Allen, both French and British, she says.  She loves being in Maine.  “I have always felt my roots were in Maine. I love living here,” she says.

Some of the medical needs DeSoi wants to obtain for the children include an electronic medical record system for the clinic.  Routine preventive health care, like vaccines, and dental care are needed on a regular basis. She hopes to soon have the ability to observe and treat children who need overnight stays.  Public health efforts are needed to prevent malaria and sexually transmitted diseases, she says. 

A fence will soon be built around the perimeter of the children’s residences to provide them with more safety. A fence around the children’s homes will include a playground and will cost approximately $40,000.

More information is available about Free the Kids, Inc. at the website www.freethekids.org.