Thursday, November 04, 2010

Medical initiative is announced for Haiti; island braces for storm.

A tent encampment in Haiti, following the earthquake
One of the tent encampments that sprung up in Haiti following the January earthquake that devastated the nation. The island is currently bracing for a storm, Tropical Storm Tomas that may turn into a hurricane before hitting later this week--even as millions still live in tent cities and makeshift shelters on the street. A hurricane warning is active for Haiti and parts of the Dominican Republic, with up to 10 inches of rain expected. Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

A new Church of the Brethren medical initiative is in the early stages of development for Haiti. Members of the Brethren Disaster Ministries medical team sent to Haiti in March to serve survivors of the Jan. 12 earthquake have been reaching out to others in the denomination with experience in Haiti, in order to develop a more comprehensive approach to medical needs there.

The intention for the new initiative is to hire Haitian medical professionals to help develop the plan. It will likely begin as a one-year pilot project serving five different communities where Eglise des Freres Haitiens (the Haitian Church of the Brethren) already has a church presence.

The medical operation will be mobile, operating out of the back of a large van or small bus. The same communities will be visited each week, in order to establish relationships between caregiver and patients. Haitian staff, once hired, will be charged with the task of learning about other medical initiatives in those communities such as clinics, hospitals, or community health organizations, and nurturing mutually beneficial connections to existing programs.

The Church of the Brethren’s Haiti mission coordinator Ludovic St. Fleur, and Brethren Disaster Ministries Haiti response coordinator Jeff Boshart plan to travel to Haiti on Nov. 5 for several days of meetings with Haitian church leaders and others, including the head of IMA World Health's Haiti operations.

The announcement of the new medical initiative comes at a time when Haiti is struggling through an outbreak of cholera, noted Jay Wittmeyer, executive director of Global Mission Partnerships. At least one member of Eglise des Freres Haitiens has died of cholera. Wittmeyer asked for prayer for those affected by the cholera outbreak, and noted that other ongoing efforts by the Brethren will help support health for the Haitian people such as the building of wells and water collection systems alongside the rebuilding of homes and churches destroyed by the earthquake.

A Benefit Dinner on Nov. 6 at McPherson (Kan.) Church of the Brethren will raise "seed money" for the initiative. The menu will feature Ethiopian and Ghanian food. Funds to support the new medical initiative in Haiti can be sent to the Emerging Global Mission Fund, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120.

For more information contact Jeff Boshart at or call the Global Mission Partnerships office at 800-323-8039.

In other news from Haiti, the island is bracing for Tropical Storm Tomas, which is predicted to hit late this week. As of today, a hurricane warning has been issued, with five to ten inches of rain expected in Haiti and parts of the Dominican Republic.

In Haiti, the storm threatens a nation still struggling with cholera and the earthquake devastation that has made millions homeless. Those in tent cities and make-shift shelters on the streets will be particularly vulnerable to the high winds and strong rains of a tropical storm.

Boshart reported that at least three Brethren churches in the Port-au-Prince area are planning to open their worship buildings as community shelters during the storm. Also timely as the storm approaches was a food distribution for Brethren communities in the Port-au-Prince neighborhoods of Marin and Croix des Bouquets, and the mountain village of Tonm Gato.

Church World Service (CWS) said yesterday it is "pre-positioning" aid as Tomas threatens. The agency is planning for a response in Haiti and the DR. The aid being prepared in advance of the storm includes about 10,000 tarps and a sizeable stock of hygiene kits.

For more see an interview with Roy Winter, executive director of Brethren Disaster Ministries, by Disaster News Network at

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