By Paul E. Brubaker
One motivation for being involved with the Haiti Medical Project arises from Jesus’ teachings in Matthew 25. Characteristics of Jesus’ followers are those who care for the hungry, thirsty, unclothed, sick, and imprisoned. The Haiti Medical Project helps meet these needs of the people in Haiti.
In 2010, a devastating earthquake occurred near the capitol city of Port-au-Prince causing the death of an estimated 350,000 people. A small group of Church of the Brethren individuals from the US responded by spending a week helping to meet the healthcare needs of survivors. As a result of this response, God moved in their hearts to see the lack of ongoing healthcare in Haiti and motivated them to do something about it. The Haiti Medical Project is the result.
The project is financed through grassroots efforts by raising money from individuals, churches, and organizations. Distribution of this money is managed through the Church of the Brethren General Offices and the Global Mission of the denomination, but no money for project is in the denominational budget.
The project started as a series of mobile medical clinics. This consisted of a number of Haitian doctors, nurses, and support personnel traveling throughout the country and providing care in villages with a congregation of L’Eglise des Freres Haitien, (Church of the Brethren in Haiti). The church’s leaders and members are instrumental in arranging the sites for the clinics, usually associated with a church building or an associated school. Everyone in the community, not just church members, is invited to attend the medical clinics. All medications prescribed to patients by the providers are purchased in pharmacies in Haiti prior to the clinic, and are distributed as needed at no charge. In 2012, 12 mobile clinics were held. In the past few years, 48 clinics per year were held, although they were reduced to 32 in 2021 because of funding restrictions.
In 2015, a Community Development Team was formed and a number of new projects were started, aimed at improving health in communities. These have included a team of Haitian nurses who travel to villages and teach classes to pre-natal patients as well as mothers of children up to two years of age. They teach preventative measures related to hygiene and nutrition, and check growth parameters of the children, looking out for problems with these individuals and hopefully improving Haiti’s dismal child mortality rates. Several of these nurses also provide services as school nurses for four schools associated with L’Eglise des Freres Haitien.
Several nurses on the Community Development Team have taken additional educational courses from Midwives for Haiti, and now do training for village matrons. A matron is an untrained villager who assists in home births for women electing home deliveries, which may be the easiest option for many women in Haiti. The nurses teach the matrons about using sterile techniques, and provide them with a delivery kit. The nurses encourage women to give birth at the nearest birthing center where care is better than home deliveries, whenever possible.
Community Medication Dispensaries have been set up by the Community Development Team in a number of outlying villages. This consists of a locked cabinet with typical over-the-counter medications for treatment of common, non-life-threatening disorders. An individual in the village is chosen to attend a two-day seminar where they learn what they should use the medications for and learn to recognize when someone is too ill and needs to receive medical care at a distant medical center. People who receive a medication pay a minimal fee so it can be restocked.
Clean water is scarce in Haiti, and contaminated water is one of the leading causes of death in young children and the elderly because of diarrheal diseases and dehydration. The Community Development Team has been active in setting up sources of clean water in villages where there are L’Eglise des Freres Haitien congregations. In these villages, people sometimes have to travel for miles to find water, and even then it is not clean. By using a variety of techniques including cisterns to hold rainwater, purifying the water through filters, capped springs, well drilling, and reverse osmosis desalination, pure water has been provided to an ever-growing number of communities. Villagers are most appreciative for the reliable clean water nearby. These water supplies are shared with everyone in the community, not simply church members.
The most recent project by the Community Development Team has been the building of latrines. There are villages which have not one latrine. Villagers who have no access to a latrine simply go in the bush, which readily spreads disease by insect vectors or by contaminating water sources. An available latrine prevents these dangers. Latrines that have been built have been readily accepted by the villagers and should help to prevent the spread of disease.
Unrest in Haiti as well as COVID-19 have made the holding of clinics less predictable in the past year, but the Haiti Medical Project has been successfully making progress in providing medical care, clean water, and preventative health measures to many individuals.
In the past, some congregations have made commitments of varying amounts to the Haiti Medical Project and collected the money as part of their congregational ministries. Some congregations have held fundraising activities, such as meals, a Sunday school offering, or a class project. We are thankful for the generous support of the Royer Foundation in the past seven years. The project also receives support from Project Piti Pami, which pays for several Mobile Medical Clinics each year.
At the current time, a Mobile Medical Clinic that provides evaluation and care for an average of 165 patients costs $2,200 per clinic. Clean water can be provided to a village for about $14,000, unless it involves desalination, in which case the price doubles. A latrine can be built, with the help of local labor, for $600. The 15 full- and part-time employees of the Community Development Team receive a combined annual salary totaling $113,600.
For additional information or to contact a resource person to help organize a fundraising meal for the Haiti Medical Project, contact Paul and Sandy Brubaker at email@example.com or 717-665-3466.
–– Paul E Brubaker is a volunteer interpreter for the Haiti Medical Project and a member of Elizabethtown (Pa.) Church of the Brethren.
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