Mending Broken Hearts - Salvation Army Canada

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  • Mar19Wed

    Mending Broken Hearts

    Canadian Salvationist interns in Iraq at an organization that performs children's heart surgeries. March 19, 2014 by Melissa Yue Wallace
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    Growing up in the town of Kincardine, Ont., Erin Hardman, a fifth-generation Salvationist, had big dreams from an early age.

    “My grandparents, Lt-Colonels James and Priya Hardman, were officers who spent time in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka,” says Hardman, now 24 years old. “So while everyone wanted to be doctors or race car drivers, my childhood dream was to be like my grandparents.”

    Erin Hardman wearing traditional Kurdish clothing called Jilly Kurdi Erin Hardman wearing traditional Kurdish clothing called Jilly Kurdi

    Hardman's roots trace back to her great-great-grandfather, Colonel Yesudasen Sanjivi, who began working in the India Southwestern Territory on March 8, 1896. His son, Colonel Donald A. Sanjivi, became the first territorial commander from Kerala and he and his wife, Vimala Miriam, gave birth to Lt-Colonel Priya Hardman.

    Erin Hardman whet her appetite for seeing the world's needs after participating in a mission trip to Haiti with the Ontario Great Lakes Division, and then spending a semester in South Africa through the international studies program at York University in Toronto.

    After graduating last year with a double major in political science and international studies, she sought further opportunities to change the world. She had a particular interest in the Preemptive Love Coalition (PLC), a non-profit organization founded in 2007 and based in Iraq. PLC saves lives by training local doctors and nurses to perform children's heart surgeries, a valuable service for the tens of thousands of children in Iraq who are born with heart defects.

    Hardman inquired about PLC's summer internship program and was accepted, becoming the organization's first Canadian intern. Thrilled as she was to participate in the adventure, her family was less enthused.

    “They were a little skeptical and worried, but they had gotten used to me travelling to places that weren't entirely safe,” she says. “I told my mom, 'Just don't look at the news and I'll let you know everything is OK.' ”

     Joy and Tragedy

    For three months, Hardman spent her days performing a variety of tasks such as report writing, internal auditing, improving PLC's website and raising awareness through public relations and communications.

    She also had a few opportunities to interact with heart surgery recipients and others who were waiting for surgery.

    Saja, 11, before her life-saving heart surgery Saja, 11, before her life-saving heart surgery

    “We visited one of the first girls who received surgery about five years ago,” says Hardman. “She is now 18 and has graduated from school.

    “It was amazing to hear how she had progressed. With these types of congenital heart defects, many kids are lucky if they end up living to 15.”

    Since 2007, PLC has saved more than 700 Iraqi children and provided local doctors with tens of thousands of hours of hands-on training. But they're not always able to save everyone.

    “We were invited to see one of PLC's partner doctors perform a catheterization to check if the heart of a two-week old baby was healthy or not,” she says. “The baby had a heart defect and would normally have had to go overseas for an expensive treatment.”

    PLC was able to squeeze the child in for surgery, scheduled a few days later. The young mother was overjoyed and very grateful.

    “I told people back home, 'Hey! How exciting is this?' ” recalls Hardman. “But the day of their appointment, the child passed away a few hours before surgery.

    “That happened in my first week in Iraq,” she says solemnly.

    “Staff members told us that sometimes there's the mentality that, 'Maybe it's not worth it to do these surgeries when children don't end up making it and could have had another month with their family,' ” says Hardman. “But even though it's not always going to work out the way we want it to, there are other children, like those 700, who had no hope and now have life.

    “Some of the moments in Iraq were really hard, but it was amazing to see God's hand in the staff and the way he guided us through it all.”

    Erin Hardman was the first Canadian intern with the Preemptive Love Coalition Erin Hardman was the first Canadian intern with the Preemptive Love Coalition

    Hardly Sitting Still

    Now living in Toronto, Hardman continues to work with PLC and is also a campus minister at Ekklesia, a church at York University Glendon College.

    “Our campus is very international, liberal and not religious at all,” she says. “So first-year students come here and feel completely alone in their faith—we hope to bridge that.

    “I like that I can continue pursuing my passions for international development and social justice work through PLC and yet also get involved in my passion for ministry, discipleship and youth development through Ekklesia.”

    She believes her family and The Salvation Army have played a part in honing her desire to help others.

    “I grew up attending Suncoast Citadel in Goderich, Ont., a small corps that pushed me into leadership roles and gave me opportunities to serve in different ways,” she says. “Then when I moved to Toronto, Bloor Central encouraged young adults to do something with our faith, get involved in the community and do more than show up to church.”

    Though Hardman is not entirely sure what the future holds for her, she has seen how Christ's love can bring reconciliation and restoration to the darkest places of the world and hopes to share that love with those who don't yet know him.

    “Working for PLC showed me that we can really change the world,” she says. “It may not look like how we pictured, but it's fixing a real need and it all goes back to the idea that there's more to life than just us.”

    Photos: Courtesy of the Preemptive Love Coalition (Cody Fisher/Kendelyn Ouellette)

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