How Could I Not Have Written this Book?


In the rudimentary guesthouse in the village of Cherident, the roosters woke me up before dawn. I’d just spent my first night in the Caribbean nation of Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.  The inky sky turned grey, then pale pink and blue. Shafts of early sunlight streaked into the window that had neither glass nor screen. I looked up, and a lizard blinked back. Soon, the clear air was filled with laughter and song, as hundreds of children—each dressed in crisp uniforms of yellow and white—danced down the hillsides.

Because of an American woman, the children in the once illiterate mountains of Haiti are getting an education.

I asked our Haitian host, “Who funds these children to go to school?” The priest erupted in uncontrolled laughter as he told me of Frances Landers from Arkansas. For years, Frances tirelessly raised the money to build and operate forty schools in the rugged mountains.

Scan 38 2Entranced, I sent photographs of the darling children to Frances for her fundraising. This began our friendship. Captivated by her energy and faith, and knowing her story needed to be widely shared, I asked in 2004 who was writing of this miracle in Haiti.

“No one,” Frances replied. She suggested me. “Martha, you know the work from so many angles.” It took a long time for me to take her advice. Published five years after her death, Hope Personified: Frances Maschal Landers is my tribute to this remarkable woman.

Amidst poverty and roosters, Frances’ non-profit continues the work she began. Thousands of kids are growing up educated, and this gives us thousands of reasons to have hope for Haiti.

“Martha, the pictures you sent are the best I have ever had. They arrived 30 minutes ago and I have quickly gone through them. They brought tears.”

Frances Maschal Landers, 1999

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