Dale Minnich provided the following report to Newsline after returning from a recent trip to Haiti with the Haiti Medical Project. It highlights both concerns stemming from security obstacles in Haiti in recent months, and successes with new aspects of the project’s work:
Concern for security. Two colleagues and I are back from a very good trip to Haiti on Jan. 28-31. We found the staff hanging in there well in spite of dealing with closed roads and the prospect of violence for most of April and then from September through November as part of a series of protests against the Haitian president. The protests tend to spur violent and criminal actions and need to be treated with care. Aggravations for us have included a rock through the windshield of one of our pickups and one of our motor cycles stolen at gun point at a filling station about a half mile from our headquarters and guest house. God’s service is not always easy. Of course we need to be extremely careful with needed in-country travel. We are thankful we sustained no staff injuries. Community Development Team director Jean Bily Telfort reported a strong priority to keep staff members safe in spite of a determination by staff to be out in the field.
Mobile clinics. Dr. Versonel Solon, Jean Altenor, and Wesmer Semera–leaders of our Mobile Clinics program–reported that by scheduling more clinics during the months when roads were not closed, including a strong December push, they completed the full complement planned of 40 clinics last year serving nearly 7,000 patients.
New focus on latrines. The most important decision reached during the January meetings was to begin immediately to gear up for a significant push in the area of latrine construction. We visited the farming community of Morne Boulage where staff have built three pilot latrines in recent months. Residents were enthusiastic about the latrines and had been well taught about the health dangers of the established practice of “going in the bush” near their homes. There are seven or eight of our service communities where no more than five percent of the population use any sanitary system to deal with this need. Among our efforts to reduce high infant mortality, latrines is a needed third focus along with pure water and education through mothers’ clubs. We decided to increase the budget from 13 latrines this year to at least 50 in 2020, and at least 100 the next year. Staff will be working on the details of the new latrine emphases. In the meantime we will be looking for some additional individual and congregational gifts to make this increase possible. Vildor Archange, coordinator of Community Health and Water Projects, reported a strong desire for latrines in the communities where their lack is most pronounced.
Pure water projects. The Haiti Medial Project focus on programs to introduce pure water in most of our service communities is meeting with very strong support. Through January, 19 of the scheduled first 24 community projects were already sponsored by Brethren congregations, individuals, or organizations, with construction continuing through 2020. Giving for water projects totaled $203,654 in 2019. The team will be adding 5 or 6 more communities soon to the list of projects for 2021, hoping to complete a total of 30 projects in the 4 years 2018 to 2021. Water project construction has been slowed by the closed roads. Leaders look to catch up during 2020 with 10 projects scheduled during that time.
Finally a denominational headquarters. A highlight of the January meetings was the dedication of the denominational headquarters building, under construction since May. General secretary of L’Eglise des Freres d’Haiti, Romy Telfort, deserves many accolades for his vision, his building design, and his tireless work to move the project along. In addition to specialized areas for kitchen and medical storage the building features large spaces on the top floor as offices and meeting space for the Church of the Brethren in Haiti and for the Haiti Medical Project. These spaces provided excellent new meeting venues for the January meetings. It is hard to believe that this beautiful new resource was built and equipped for only $36,000, a tribute to volunteer labor and careful planning.
Attending these events with me were Pat and John Krabacher from New Carlisle, Ohio. Pat is a volunteer for Haiti and Nigeria with an assignment to help us find new sources of funding.
— Dale Minnich is volunteer staff for the Haiti Medical Project. Find out more at www.brethren.org/haiti-medical-project .