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King University News :: King Nursing Professors Explore Sustainable Partnership Opportunities in Haiti

Two of King’s Nursing professors, Associate Professor Amy Knowles and Lecturer Cecily Strang, recently traveled to Haiti to explore potential sustainable partnership opportunities.   The trip, sponsored by King’s Peeke School of Christian Mission in partnership with the Medical Benevolence Foundation (MBF), took place May 26 to June 1.  MBF has supported healing ministries in more than 100 hospitals and clinics throughout the world since 1963. 

“Our trip to Haiti was a vision trip to see how King as well as other universities and churches might partner with MBF to serve and provide support of their mission in Haiti,” said Knowles.  “After spending time in the local schools, hospitals, clinics, and nursing schools, we observed a variety of different opportunities in which King and other organizations could partner with MBF on sustainable projects with a common goal of helping the Haitians to help themselves.” 

Knowles and Strang were accompanied on the trip by several MBF board members who were life-long missionaries as well as several nursing faculty from other schools. 

“It was truly a fruitful trip,” commented Knowles.  “We were blessed to be accompanied by such a diverse group of people, all coming together with a common purpose in mind – sustainable partnerships for the Haitian people.”  

While in Haiti, the group primarily stayed about one and a half hours from Port-au-Prince at Hospital St. Croix in Léogâne, the epicenter for the earthquake that hit Haiti in January, 2010.  According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the quake registered a magnitude 7.0 on the Richter scale.  Official estimates reported on the USGS website state 316,000 people were killed, 300,000 injured, 1.3 million displaced, 97,294 houses destroyed and 188,383 damaged in the Port-au-Prince area and in much of southern Haiti.  The casualties included at least four people killed by a local tsunami in the Petit Paradis area near Léogâne.  Tsunami waves were also reported at Jacmél, Les Cayes, Petit Goave, Leogane, Luly and Anse a Galets. 

Knowles said, “There have been significant strides over the past few years throughout the region.  Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the world.  In some ways, they have made tremendous advancements in their recovery efforts since 2010, but in others, Haiti still has a long way to go.  The country does not yet have the infrastructure to implement improvements quickly.  One of the most fascinating things about the Haitian people is their resilience and their ability to overcome.” 

In addition to spending time at the hospital, Knowles and Strang also visited with the dean of the nursing school at the Faculté des Sciences Infirmières de l’Université Episcopale d’Haïti (Faculty of Nursing Science of the Episcopal University of Haiti or FSIL).  FSIL is one of the only four-year BSN nursing schools in Haiti.  “This opportunity definitely allowed us to gain a better understanding and perspective about nursing school in Haiti,” commented Knowles. 

The group also spent time at a few local clinics in local villages including clinics at Darbonne and Jacmél. Jacmél’s clinic is largely based on the U.S. health model. 

“We also spent time with missionary Marc Hare, who does work supporting sustainable agriculture in Haiti,” said Knowles.  “We participated in an in-service discussing biochar, an alternative way of making charcoal.” 

“Because the majority of my time in mission work has been in Kenya, East Africa, I kept comparing my past experiences to my Haitian experience,” said Strang.  “I was continually amazed at the likenesses, just on a much smaller scale: lots of people, very poor people; large markets with any daily item you could imagine, from dried fish to cooked rice to plastic toys; over-crowded busses carrying people, goats and chickens; school children all wearing uniforms; clinics filled with sickness; yet, many smiling faces.  As Amy said, the people are resilient.  During our experience, the earthquake was the point of reference for every conversation about the past, present, or future.  Although Haiti has received intense relief efforts over the past three years, the base fact still stands: Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.  There are abundant physical and spiritual needs and therefore abundant opportunities for King to work beside these very needy, yet resilient, hopeful people.” 

After returning from Haiti, Knowles and Strang have been developing lists of potential opportunities for ways King could partner with MBF.  “We are looking at it from a broad, holistic perspective,” said Knowles.  “One avenue, since Cecily and I both look at it from the nursing perspective, is the possibility of sending medical mission teams to Haiti.  Another option is having nursing students to travel to Haiti to gain clinical hours.  There are also other opportunities for students and faculty, university wide.  Both in the hospitals and the clinics, there are abundant needs in areas of staff development, education, administration, and library services.  There are also opportunities for students to work with Marc Hare’s sustainable agriculture program.” 

“The Peeke School of Christian (PSCM) mission and Chaplain's Office coordinate various national and international student mission trips each year,” said The Rev. Dr. Fred Foy Strang, Chaplain, professor of Missions and Philosophy Religion, and dean of the Peeke School for Christian Mission for King University.  “I was particularly interested in finding a regular service area for our outstanding nursing students and faculty that would not only provide helps to the underserved, but also assist our students and faculty in expanding their knowledge base and understanding of global health and ministry needs.  Wherever King University serves in mission we make a significant impact and further our mission of transforming culture in Christ.  I will be meeting with Amy, Cecily, the School of Nursing leadership, and our PSCM staff to formulate a plan to engage us with the underserved in Haiti.”

Many organizations will go to Haiti to provide help, but leave without providing the Haitians with the knowledge of how to perform these same tasks themselves.  There is great value in the development of partnerships where the Haitians learn skills, and, ultimately can continue the work themselves.  

Knowles summed it up by saying, “Sustainability is the key to any partnership in Haiti.  The dean of the nursing school we visited had a saying I loved.  ‘No more fish.  Don’t bring us fish; teach us how to fish.’” 

For more information on King’s Peeke School of Christian Mission, visit http://peeke.king.edu or contact the Rev. Dr. Fred Foy Strang at ffstrang@king.edu

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