Thursday, December 30, 2010

Naomi Bronstein: Woman of Valor

She opens her mouth in wisdom, and the lesson of kindness is on her tongue.
Proverbs 31:26

Naomi Bronstein, a Montreal woman who dedicated her life to helping orphaned and sick children in the Third World, died last week in Guatemala. She was 65.
Bronstein died in her sleep after years of poor health, including a heart condition.
Often called the Canadian Mother Teresa, Bronstein is best known for bringing Vietnamese and Cambodian orphans to North America for adoption in the 1970s.
Potsmedia News, December 30, 2010

Naomi Bronstein living life with a purpose: helping orphans and sick children live a life of dignity.
PHOTO CREDIT: Montreal Gazette: December 30, 2010:

I never met Naomi Bronstein, but I wish I had. By all accounts, she was a remarkable, compassionate and selfless woman, the kind that our world needs more of—a woman of valor. In all Naomi Bronstein was the mother of 12 children, seven of whom were adopted. It is easy to see where her focus lay. Children were her cause, so to speak, notably taking care of children from such nations as Cambodia, Vietnam, Korea and Guatemala.

This morning I read about Mrs. Bronstein's death, which took place on December 23rd. She was 65. Like many others touched by her life, I felt a sense of loss, that a woman so giving and courageous will no longer be among us to make the world a better place. But we can take heart in learning lessons from a life that was well-lived and with a purpose that so few of us truly possess.

Naomi Bronstein was born in Montreal on September 22, 1945. She dedicated her life to helping the less fortunate in the world, notably children. In 1969, Mrs. Bronstein co-founded Families for Children, a group that brought Vietnamese and other Third World orphans to North America for adoption. In 1975, Bronstein established Canada House Orphanage in Cambodia until she was forced to flee by the Khmer Rouge.

Here is an excerpt from an article from People magazine (April 21,1975):
Mrs. Bronstein's involvement with Vietnam began in 1971 when she and her husband, a 33-year-old knitting mill sales manager, began to look into adopting a child. Outraged to learn that children of mixed parentage were languishing in orphanages all over the world, she decided to do something about it. Since then she has adopted six children herself (three from Vietnam, one from Cambodia, another from Ecuador, and a sixth of racially mixed Canadian parents) and shepherded 650 others to new homes in various countries.
That is almost 40 years of dedication to a worthy cause, the nurturing and care of children. For most of that time she has lived overseas in Vietnam and most recently in Guatemala, where she worked tireless for the children she adored.

She did return to Canada briefly. From 1981 to 1986, she and her family lived in Ottawa where she co-founded Heal the Children Canada, an organization that arranges life-saving medical care, in Canada, for children from overseas. During her tenure in Ottawa, she received the Order of Canada, in 1983, when Prime Minister Trudeau was the leader of Canada.

Of note, Mrs. Bronstein has also been awarded the Royal Bank of Canada $250,000 humanitarian award in 1997. She, as would be expected, donated the money to humanitarian causes. She has garnered many other awards.

To be sure, more could be said and written about this woman, but I would think her own words would do her memory justice. In a personal letter she penned in 2006 to a Dr Judy, we get a glimpse of her heart. This Letter was posted on the website of Dr Judy's cousin, Eva Rosenberg, and its revealing about Naomi Bronstein's dedication and passion for her children:
Dear Judy,

Things here have been pretty bad. Our co-worker and his 13 year old nephew were killed when going off the dirt road onto the highway after helping us with the wood. We build 400 beds for those sleeping in the cold mud. However Isaiah’s small truck was literally under this massive truck and both he and his nephew were killed instantly.

My financial support [name deleted] have written that they have stopped my living expenses and salary for Hugo and the light, phone, care payments etc as of this month, May. When I signed the contract I asked her first, and I told her that as the contract ended in Sept, I had to give notice in June. I don’t know if this was a mix up or not but it seems the payments stop in May.

There is no other place I can go as I have no money for rent or Hugo or car, or food or medicines. I have to be in country, actually living here in order to receive Grants and donations for projects, in order they be administrated and used correctly. All these expenses, including the place we rent for storage, and where Hugo and his wife and 3 kids live will have to go, his contract ends Nov 11th, but I think I can convince the owner to let us out earlier as Hugo, me, his wife, brothers and friends turned it from a cockroach infested, rat infected, giant cobwebs and filth to a painted clean place. I know he will be able to rent it for more.

However I have to pay for a place to live for myself, and salary and car payments and truck insurance, computer, light, gas, etc. This really adds up to $5000. per month. The Gibsons were giving me $9000 so I could also buy meds and pay for surgeries on kids here and still go to remote areas. Then it was cut more than half.

The US Weather bureau predicts 25 tropical storms and 17 Hurricanes for Guatemala this year.

31,000 are homeless, 1/3 of the country destroyed, we have grant and donation applications in, and one for the Mobile Medical Units that were old school buses that will go to the villages and treat the children & their families. If I am not living on the ground physically, none of these donations or grants will continue to happen and hundreds of children will suffer and many will die.

I need to find a way to raise, in a total pledge $5000 per month transferred to Canada and then my daughter wire transfers it to me here so an income tax receipt can be made that is acceptable to the IRS.

Really, when you think of $5000 a month divided up among people, companies, churches, clubs etc it really is not so hard to get going, and I am running out of time. The only thing is that whatever anyone pledges monthly, they have to keep this pledge for a year or how ever longer they want, but not less them a year. This is if its paid monthly.

I have to be here to help the kids, I cannot return to Montreal as I have no income at all, here or there.

So in 30 days I’m without funds, I am borrowing $3000 from a friend, but he knows I cannot pay it back. But I have to live and raise money for these children, who have nothing but more misery to look forward to this year.

Please Judy, I know it’s not your responsibility, but if you have any way that I can obtain living expenses in order that I remain here I cannot tell you how grateful I would be.

I have sent my CV in for jobs in Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The areas are more dangerous but there is a little more income because of it, they provide you with a place to stay medical and airplane there and back. Its not what I want to do.

It took me years to gain the trust of the villagers here, from all the places we go. I have all my contacts here since I arrived after the massive earthquake in 1977. Any ideas you can come up with?

Take Care, hope you are well.
Naomi Bronstein's vision was crystal clear, and her heart large and in the right place, which is evident in an interview her daughter Heidi Bronstein gave Postmedia News:
"She believed that every child had a right to life and dedicated her life to making this goal a reality for as many children as she possibly could," her daughter Heidi Bronstein said. "She is living proof that one person can make a difference."
In Naomi Bronstein's case, Woman of Valor, that is indeed true. May we all take inspiration from your example.

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