Through all of my professional and personal travels in the developing world over the past 30 years, the most powerful lessons have come from observing the determinable force of family.

I have seen families living in conditions so horrific – conditions that are unimaginable for most of us – whose capacity to overcome is inspiring. When you ask them what makes them happy they invariably refer back to the members of their family. And the beauty of many of these places is that family is not restricted to those who are blood related but rather include the community of human beings in a shared place and time.

In a small home shadowed by mango trees in the southernmost region of Haiti, Lisena takes advantage of her only opportunity for education. By doing so, I too have learned a lesson. It’s best to explain with her story.

“A family is a unit of loving and caring individuals who have a common purpose and love for each other. It is not defined by a particular number, nor about how they function. The common denominator of a successful family is and always will be love.”

The heat is sweltering here in Cote-de-Fer, where Lisena and residents have experienced the hottest temperatures in 15 years along with a record-breaking drought.

The weather’s effects are visible on the mango trees as their turn slightly browner than usual. The climate is even felt on the tables of the families, who rely on agriculture -fruits and vegetables- to eat and sell for money. But this season, this heat and this drought all take their toll and leave many women here with the same.

Little to nothing.

But that still does not stop them from attending their classes at the CMMB Mothers’ Club, where women explore issues of health and life. For many, like Lisena, now a graduate of the program, it’s the only formal education they may ever have beyond secondary school.

Lisena laughs with other Mother's Club members at a recent meeting. Although already graduated, Lisena returns from time to time to visit.

Lisena laughs with other Mother’s Club members at a recent meeting. Although already graduated, Lisena returns from time to time to visit.

Together, the women have formed a bond that Lisena does not take lightly. She encourages her sisters to continue attending the classes to become so powerful together that they may empower their families and community.

“When you learn something, it’s not just for you,” she said. “You have to go to the club because they are talking about important things for you, your kids, your family and your community as well.”

The learning did not stop when Lisena graduated. She now visits the classes where a new group of mothers have the opportunity to complete the course. She inspires her family, her community and certainly me.

Women like Lisena take on leadership roles that dramatically change the world around them. An empowered woman helps lead the way to a more healthy and sustainable future.  We see this in developed nations, and we see this in the countries where CMMB works.

Women help form decisions that create the foundation of a family’s and community’s lifestyle. Their decisions have far reaching implications that can affect generations of children and adults. I see it around the world, including my home.

My family –my lovely wife and three sons- make up some of my most precious and beloved memories. They provide me with comfort and peace. They fill me with joy. They complete me.

My wife, who is also a nurse, is the key driver for mental and physical wellness, and she makes sure we all maintain healthy habits. From the food we eat, what we do and what we even discuss, she is our wealth of information and a pillar for support. I am blessed to have her in my life, and I realize women like her and Lisena provide strong leadership. They make health a priority.

My wife’s empowerment means that I and my family are all the better. Lisena gets that. That’s why she’s passionate about what she learns, and I’m passionate to make sure women like her have access to what they need. It’s with her that families become stronger, communities are uplifted and nations rise out of poverty.

That’s why the work at CMMB is so critical. Our faith-based origins have led us to serve and protect families for more than 100 years and counting.  I fall in love with every family we reach and have the pleasure to serve. As a Catholic, as I was raised knowing that our works are a blessing not only to the ones we serve, but also to ourselves. We work to provide a better day for all.

Adrian, right, greets a family with a beautiful baby in a bowl. The bowl -commonly used as a wash basin, bassinet or to hold food- was a CMMB donation to families in Cotes-de-Fer.


I believe that day will come only if we continue to work hard, families united with families, to realize the full potential of every woman and child. The day our global society becomes a global community will be one similar to Lisena’s graduation.

“It was a beautiful day,” she said. “I was beautiful, the day was beautiful, everything was beautiful.”

What a beautiful day, Lisena. Here is to a beautiful tomorrow for your family.

Adrian Kerrigan is the Senior Vice President for Partnerships at CMMB. He joined in 2009, and played a key role in driving the events celebrating the organization’s first 100 years. He has more than thirty years of experience in institutional and non-profit leadership and development. Adrian was born and raised in New York City and resides in Oyster Bay, NY, with his wife, Sandie, and their three sons, Jake, Nicholas, and Liam.