Consultation Considers Expansion of Haiti Medical Project

Photo by Dale Minnich
The newly named Coordinating Committee for the Haiti Medical Project includes (from left) two Haitian physicians—Verosnel Solon and Pierre Emmerson; Paul Ullom-Minnich, an American physician from Kansas and convenor of the committee; Ilexene Alphonse, onsite staff in Haiti; and two members of the National Committee of the Haitian Church of the Brethren–Yves Jean and Jean Altenor.

On Feb. 28-March 3 a consultation about the Haiti Medical Project was held with leaders of L’Eglise des Freres Haitiens (the Haitian Church of the Brethren) and the Global Mission and Service arm of the US church.

The consultation included meetings with the Haitian staff of the Haiti Medical Project’s mobile clinics, meetings with the National Committee of L’Eglise des Freres, a first meeting of a newly established Coordinating Committee for the Haiti Medical Project, and a trip to northern Haiti to explore possible partners for emerging new work.

The project began as a partnership of US and Haitian Brethren responding to health needs in the wake of the 2010 earthquake. Since then, clinics have been held in 10 communities where L’Eglise des Freres has congregations. Local churches have been key participants in promoting and arranging for the clinics. Klebert Exceus, a former field director for Brethren Disaster Ministries, played a vital role in the initial organizing of the project. Several communities have emerged as primary sites where clinics are scheduled about quarterly.

Staff for the Haiti Medical Project consists of Haitian medical professionals, aided occasionally by visiting Brethren physician, nurses, and other volunteers from the US. Haitian physicians who have been involved in offering the clinics include Kensia Thebaud, Pierre Emmerson, and Verosnel Solon. Clinics typically each serve around 150 patients and are enthusiastically affirmed by the National Committee of L’Eglise des Freres.

Photo by Otto Schaudel
Construction has begun on a new building that will serve as office space for L’Eglise des Freres Haitiens (Church of the Brethren in Haiti) and headquarters for the Haiti Medical Project. The building is being constructed with volunteer help from US church and college groups, on the headquarters compound of the Haitian Church of the Brethren on the outskirts of capital city Port-au-Prince.

During the consultation, a Coordinating Committee was established. Convenor for the group will be Paul Ullom-Minnich, a physician from Moundridge, Kan., who was part of the first Brethren medical delegation to Haiti following the earthquake and has been a key leader in developing the project. Committee members include two Haitian physicians–Verosnel Solon and Pierre Emmerson; two members of the National Committee of the Haitian Church–Jean Altenor and Yves Jean; and on-site staff Ilexene Alphonse. Haiti-based members of the committee will convene monthly for a video conference meeting with Ullom-Minnich.

Strong support by individuals and congregations in the US has provided funds for the first year’s clinics and expansion of the work in Haiti beginning this year. The number of clinics will increase from 16 to 24 per year. The possibility of adding services such as eye care and simple dental service is being explored. A building to serve as a base for the project and as an office for the National Committee of L’Eglise des Freres is under construction.

There is interest in exploring new work to address wider issues of community public health. One issue of concern is the high mortality rate of mothers and infants in the birthing process. In Haiti, in the majority of cases childbirth is not attended by a medical professional and less than sanitary conditions prevail. The consultation visited and talked about partnership possibilities with leaders of Midwives for Haiti in Hinche, a ministry founded by Nadene Brunk and other members of West Richmond (Va.) Church of the Brethren.

The consultation team also visited the remote village of Mombin Crochu to meet with representatives of an organization that trains volunteers to lead community development work, often focused on public health education. A group of about 20 volunteers from surrounding communities traveled in to share their stories, some walking as much as three hours. The Brethren were interested this group’s approaches and the low-tech methods for household water purification that were demonstrated.  Possible links with this organization are being explored.

The consultation group also visited Brethren congregations in Bohoc, Croix des Bouquets, Laferriere, Sodo, and Acajou.

Participating from the Church of the Brethren were Ullom-Minnich, Global Mission and Service executive Jay Wittmeyer, Global Food Crisis director Jeff Boshart, Haiti Medical Project volunteer Dale Minnich, and Lancaster (Pa.) Church of the Brethren member Otto Schaudel.

— Dale Minnich is a former denominational staff member and a past chair of the Mission and Ministry Board.