Board of Directors
Mary Lou Benoit-Connors, RN, Founder and BOD President
Mary Lou Benoit-Connors started her career as an RN after graduating from the St. Francis Hospital School of Nursing in 1966. Later she continued her studies and graduated from the University of St. Joseph, West Hartford, CT, with a BSN in Nursing in 1983. She has worked in many areas of adult chronic disease, and continues to work full time as the Pulmonary Rehab Coordinator for St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center, Hartford, CT. Her volunteer work includes:
Annual Medical mission trips to Haiti, bringing medical teams and supplies since 1983
Medication coordination at a group home for men with HIV/AIDS, 14 years
Working with Catholic charities to help newly arrived government sponsored refugee families
Chair, Social Justice Committee, St. Ann Church, which includes an annual shoe collection that sends hundreds of shoes to Haitian school children, and coordinating donations of food and school supplies to the local needy, including Hartford.
She was named a Paul Harris Fellow by the Rotary Foundation in 2014.
She has received the St. Joseph Medal Award from the Archdiocese of Hartford in recognition for her church and community work.
Dr. Robert Connors - Doctor of Optometry & BOD Treasurer
Dr. Connors is a 1977 graduate of the University of Connecticut and received his Doctor of Optometry degree from The New England College of Optometry, Boston, MA. in 1981. Doctor Connors served as an intern at the Dorchester Community Health Center, the Pediatric and Specialty Clinic of The New England College of Optometry, the Veterans Administration Hospital, West Roxbury, MA., and the Boston Eye Clinic. Dr. Connors also served as a clinical teaching associate for the PhD program at the Boston eye clinic.
Dr. Connors is a Fellow of the American Academy of Optometry, and a former member of the editorial board of The New England Journal of Optometry. He is a member of the Beta Sigma Kappa International Optometric Honor Society, the American Optometric Association and the Connecticut Association of Optometrists. He served as a preceptor for the licensing examination for the State of Connecticut., and for the Pennsylvania College of Optometry internship program. Dr. Connors has participated in numerous clinical investigations of contact lenses and for contact lens solutions. He has served as the Assistant Chief Examiner for the National Board of Examiners in Optometry in Boston in 1993. Dr. Connors has been in private practice since 1990 and serves as a consultant to several area nursing homes. He is a member of the Wolcott Lions Club and the Wolcott Chamber of Commerce.
Doctor Connors has been involved in purchasing and transporting food and medicine to Haiti for many years, and will continue to lend administrative support to Helping Haitian Children, Inc. Dr. Connors resides in Avon, CT with his wife, Marie.
Judy D'Errico - BOD Vice President
Judy D'Errico, BS, RPFT, CCRC, is the vice president of Helping Haitian Children Foundation. She worked at St. Francis Hospital for over 30 years as a Clinical Research Coordinator retiring in 2011. Over the years Judy has volunteered for many organizations including as President of the Junior Women's Club of Berlin, President and Secretary of various PTO's and Secretary of the Parish Council for St. Paul Church in Kensington. Children have always been her primary focus from initiating the construction of a playground in Kensington to chairing numerous fund raisers for catholic schools. She presently volunteers for the Granby Early Childhood Council.
Judy was introduced to Haiti by Mary Lou Connors when she was asked to accompany a medical group on a trip to Jeremie. Having never traveled outside the U.S., the first mission to Haiti was, to say the least, shocking. Seeing the orphanages, the poverty and illnesses among the children was devastating - children shouldn't have to live that way! It's a small contribution, but Judy hopes that serving as vice president for the Helping Haitian Children Foundation will help the children of Haiti who so desperately need it.
Atty L.D. McCallum - Secretary and Legal Counsel
L. D. (Les) McCallum is a former Naval Officer and a retired Assistant Attorney General for the State of Connecticut. He maintains a restricted legal practice in Connecticut. He holds a B.S. degree in Finance from Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida and a J.D. degree from Suffolk University, Boston, Massachusetts. He helped the founder, Mary Lou Benoit-Connors, form the legal organization for Helping Haitian Children and obtain Sec. 501(c)(3) charitable tax exemption. He is currently the corporate secretary and retains responsibility for record keeping, legal compliance and communication with regulatory agencies. He and his wife of 48 years, Carol, parents of three and grandparents of four, split their time between homes in Avon, Connecticut and St. Petersburg, Florida.
Karen Kohl - Accounts Receivables Manager
Karen Kohl heads the logistics, supplies and US organizational support for Helping Haitian Children. She builds on a long history of work in Haiti beginning in 1988 when she was part of a mission trip with the Haitian Health Foundation in Jeremie. She began a long-term collaboration with Mary Lou Benoit Connors during this period. On this trip she found her calling to serve Haitians by working in US churches and communities to increase awareness and service for support of needed services. She excels in the “behind the scenes” work required improve health and development on the ground. Karen has led 14 teams of first time visitors (150 people) to Haiti with the goal of encouraging commitment and ongoing support.
Her work with the Haitian Health Foundation broadened to other organizations, communities and needs around the country. One example was in response to the immediate needs presented by the 2010 earthquake. Karen volunteered to manage an 8000 square foot warehouse in Arizona to provide medical and basic survival supplies. The warehouse was used to collect, sort, organize and pack relief supplies sent to Haiti with support from FedEx, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, and Sean Penn. Examples of Karen’s long term commitments include HHF, support for an orphanage and a vocational training program for older children, and sewing cloth diapers and layettes with the help of women in Connecticut and Arizona. She has also been working with Dr. Rick Frechette, a Passionist Priest from Connecticut, to help address the unfortunate need for burial shrouds for children who die at St. Damien Pediatric Hospital as well as the many impoverished adults who die without family or friends. Father Frechette has made it one of his missions to provide burial services and dignity to all Haitians. Karen’s sewing support has helped make this possible.
Dr. Lahiri - Medical Doctor
Dr. Bimalin Lahiri was born in Calcutta, India and received his medical degree from the University of Calcutta. In 1964 he came to Connecticut for his postdoctoral training and continued his career at St. Francis Hospital & Medical Center. He has been the Chief of the Section of pulmonary and critical care medicine for the last 20 years and until recently the Director of the Critical Care Units. He frequently lectures at International Meetings in India, Egypt and the Philippines. Dr. Lahiri has received numerous honors and special recognitions including Commitment to Teaching Awards, Best Doctors In America, Ct Thoracic Society Award for Distinguished Service and The Gold Humanism Honor Society.
Dr. Lahiri has traveled to Haiti on several medical mission teams since 2005. In addition to direct patient care, he has taught the local Haitian physicians and health care agents pulmonary care. Dr. Lahiri maintains an active interest and concern for the health needs of Haitian people. His expertise is a valuable resource for HHC medical practitioners.
Dr. Lahiri lives with his wife in West Hartford, Ct and has two children and four grandchildren.
Sharon Daly Eriksen - RN, CPN
Sharon Daly Eriksen RN CPN is a Pediatric Nurse working with the South Shore Community of Long Island. Besides pursuing her passion for working with children Sharon Chairs the Pediatric Unit Based Council, is an active member of: Nursing Research Evidence Based Practice Council, Nursing Education Council, Patient & Family Education Council and Infection Control Committee.
While volunteering at a clinic for the uninsured dispensing much needed medication and providing teaching when necessary has increased my understanding of the struggles that other face due to poverty, unemployment, physical and mental disabilities. On a weekly basis it is a joy to care for a Religious Community, The Sisters of St. Joseph. This is an Assisted Living Convent with a powerhouse of wisdom and knowledge provided by the 25 Sisters who reside there. As Coordinator of Religious Education for Special Needs Children my faith base has been broadened by the innocence of the students Love of God.
Sister Ellen Flynn - MA Pastorial Counselor and Haiti Urban Expert
Sister Ellen Flynn is a Sister of Mercy. She brings 20 years of experience to the Board of Directors based on her work in both urban Port-au-Prince and in Fond de Blanc. She is the advisor for health and social resources in Port-au-Prince. Sister Ellen began her first three years in Haiti as the Director of the Norwich (CT) Mission House in Port-au-Prince. Her responsibilities were to manage immersion groups from the USA in Port-au-Prince and surrounding areas.
In 1993, she moved to Hospice St. Joseph (now called Outreach to Haiti). She lived there for 12 years. She managed the house and programs and organized care for many very sick people: providing transportation to medical facilities, receiving them from throughout Haiti, working with orphanages, private physicians, hospitals, the embassies and consulates, and burying those who died. She kept her positive and balanced approach to service of others throughout intense political and economic crises. She also welcomed visitors and oriented them to Haiti.
Father Joseph Cheah, OSM, Ph.D.
Born in predominantly Buddhist country of Burma (Myanmar), Father Joseph Cheah, was nurtured into the Catholic faith by his nominal Catholic father and convert Buddhist mother. While both had formative influence in his life, the example of his mother as a truly caring person did much to make him appreciate himself. Eventually, a lack of even a rudimentary command of the English language when he immigrated to the U.S. was not an insurmountable barrier to jump on the way to adolescence. It wasn't until his college years that Fr. Joe began to express his faith in an active manner. No longer relegating organized religion to the back burner of perfunctory Sunday observance, he channeled his energies into establishing an outreach group that provided opportunities for students to minister to the poor, the elderly and the young. He also assisted in the resettlement of Burmese and Laotian refugees. Today, Fr. Joe, a member of the Order of Servants of Mary (the Servite Order), is Chair of the Department of Philosophy, Theology & Religious Studies at the University of Saint Joseph in West Hartford, Connecticut.
Bette Gebrian, Public Health
Bette Gebrian BSN MPH PhD, is the chair of the public health committee of Helping Haitian Children. She is an internationally recognized public health nurse and medical anthropologist. Dr. Gebrian was the public health director for the Haitian Health Foundation (HHF) in Jeremie, Haiti for 27 years. She developed a program serving a population of almost 200,000 remote rural communities. Her primary focus was on building relationships with communities and helping support their participation in work to save the lives of mothers and children. This work included eliminating deaths from neonatal tetanus and other vaccine preventable diseases, treating child pneumonia in communities, and reducing maternal deaths. A key element in improving clinical care to children in rural areas was ongoing collaboration with the University of Connecticut where she has been a faculty appointment. She has mentored hundreds of Haitian staff, university students and volunteer groups in community based primary care. She is extremely knowledgeable about Haitian culture and health practices. The excellence of Dr. Gebrian’s work in community health collaboration, research and practice has been recognized by many national and international organizations.
Prashant Grover, MD - Member at Large
Prashant Grover, MD, FCCP. Dr. Prashant Grover was born in Delhi, India received his medical degree from the Maulana Azad Medical College, New Delhi, India, and completed his postdoctoral training at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine in Farmington, Connecticut. He is an accomplished physician with specialties in both critical care and pulmonary medicine and is the current Director of Medical Critical Care at St Francis Hospital and Medical Center in Hartford, Connecticut. He is a two time recipient of the Thomas R. Preston Award for Excellence in Teaching and was a finalist for the Kaiser-Permanente Teaching Award at the UCONN School of Medicine. Dr. Grover is a member of the American Thoracic Society, the American College of Chest Physicians, the Society of Critical Care Medicine and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. He lives with his wife, Pooja, and two children in Avon, Connecticut.
Sherry Gorman - Webmaster & Administrative Support
Sherry Gorman has been a technology consultant for the past 20 years. Prior to that she worked at IBM for 10 years as a Systems Engineer. She has worked with Healthcare, Government, Banking and various other industry sectors performing in the roles of a Senior Business Analyst, Process Analyst or Project Manager. She has experience in process improvement, business management, project delivery, and application development.
Sherry has had the privilege of traveling to Jeremie, Haiti on six (6) occasions (from 2009-2015) with the Avera Healthcare Medical Missions Group from Sioux Falls, SD. The group of healthcare professionals teamed up with the Haitian Health Foundation (HHF) located in Jeremie, by offering patient care, dentistry, breast cancer awareness, screening and biopsies, pap smears blood pressure readings and education, etc. Sherry, who has assisted the dentist or taken patient vitals, has more recently focused on assisting HHF with application development solutions. Whether it is creating a Breast Cancer Awareness newsletter, fixing printer settings, creating reports or designing an HIV patient database Sherry truly enjoys sharing her skills and has a great love for the Haitian people.