Compassion is the key ingredient of all our efforts
Sometimes a common experience will unite people from various backgrounds in a joint effort to improve the lives of others. The foundation on which Ronald McDonald House Charities Curaçao was built, is a group of parents that had gone through similar ordeals and decided to join forces to set up a Ronald McDonald House Charities program at the hospital in Curaçao. RMHC Executive Director Claudia Rigaud is one of the founding members of the foundation. Known for her incredible passion and hands-on creative spirit, she inspires all those around her to give their utmost for the end result: advancing the mission of RMHC and support families with sick children in Curacao.
Claudia’s spark was ignited when her own world was turned upside down and the unexpected happened. The year was 1995. Having just given birth to her firstborn child, what was supposed to be a joyful experience, turned into painful agony as her baby encountered issues which resulted in several heart-wrenching moments, during which she wasn’t sure her baby would make it. Claudia still recalls those months at the hospital, taking turns with her husband sitting in an uncomfortable chair in a tiny room next to her baby, with a window that overlooked a few nearby buildings. In the same space 5 other moms in the same situation. “I often wondered how the other parents were experiencing such an ordeal. Even when you have support from family and friends at home, it’s still so difficult to go thru all this by yourself in a hospital. All you really had at that time was a chair and sometimes a cup of coffee from a nurse that would take pity on us. Something had to be done.” In December 2009 the founding members started working on the structures needed to create a Ronald McDonald House Charities Chapter and its first core program, a Ronald McDonald Family Room for Curaçao. Meanwhile they started helping and volunteering at the children’s department as well.
The hospital was very supportive in trying to re-arrange the departments, spaces and offices, in order to accommodate the newly formed foundation, and create space for the RMHC Family Room. On April 1st 2012 the RMHC Family Room in Curaçao welcomed its first family. A young girl, who during an outing at sea, had been in a serious accident. Her father was a marine that was temporarily on the island with his family. The entire family was able to stay with her at the hospital at the RMHC Family Room. “Imagine if we hadn’t been there. It was such a relief to be able to be there for them and offer them this possibility. But it was also then, that we really realized this was bigger than we ever imagined it would be”, Claudia recalls. With the support of the Global RMHC organization and through collaboration with the Ronald McDonald Kinderfonds in the Netherlands, the RMHC in Curaçao was able to continue its efforts to develop the organization here in Curacao.
Ten years later, RMHC has seen an extensive growth, the development of their foundation’s structure and an important move to the new facilities in the recently opened Curaçao Medical Center. Claudia also gained knowledge and experience in her role at RMHC, as she served on the RMHC Global Advisory Council in 2017 and 2018 as a representative for the Latin American region. And on a personal note, within her family Claudia experienced a beautiful full circle moment: Her firstborn child, the reason she was driven to bring about change at the hospital in the first place , now resides in the US and has volunteered at one of the Ronald McDonald House Charities in the US.