Bringing new supplies and preserving the memory of an Elmira resident and colleague, representatives of the Evangelical Missionary Church of Canada are back in Haiti this week, where the people are still trying to recover from a devastating 2010 earthquake.Despite the disaster that worsened the systemic poverty in the country, Haiti is getting back on its feet, says EMCC project manager Marilyn McIlroy. The Elmira nurse is helping to deliver medical packages to expectant mothers and will congratulate recently graduated birthing attendants as part of the latest trip down south.
“It’s always a moving experience going back to that place, but it’s awesome to know that the country of Haiti is moving forward and moving past that difficult situation. Lots of new projects have been happening: new universities, new hospitals have been built.”
Part of her trip will involve a memorial for her nursing colleague Yvonne Martin, who died in a Port-au-Prince guesthouse during the earthquake, less than two hours after the EMCC group that included McIlroy arrived in the country.
Arriving in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic Saturday, McIlroy will be travelling to the Haitian community of Gens de Nantes where the EMCC group will deliver 24 health kits to mothers and babies during a graduation ceremony for the community’s newly trained birthing attendants. They are traditionally the first line of aid for a pregnant woman in Haiti.
“We partnered with Health Partners International, which is a group out of Quebec. They are involved with putting together health packs and reaching out doing other medical projects,” said EMCC director of global initiatives Lou Geense.
These men and women have been attending to the region’s population of about 8,000 people for many years and have earned much respect and admiration in the community. Now they’ve had a chance to receive certification and formal training from a government-registered nurse in an effort to decrease infant mortality rates.
“It’s a country that has an oral tradition; it’s a country that passes information through stories. Even part of the learning is to sing songs to help the birthing assistants to remember good hygiene, the importance of nutrition, they learn by songs and rhythm rather than an overhead projector. It is part of the millennium goals that we are developing through the World Health Organization: looking at decreasing infant mortality around the globe by 2015,” McIlroy said.
The maternal health kits delivered at the ceremony by the EMCC visitors contain enough vitamins, gloves and other medical supplies to accommodate 15 mothers and their babies. From there such supplies will continue to be delivered by Health Partners International with the hope that eventually the Haitian government will take over the program.
Next, the EMCC group pays special homage at Wall’s International Guest House in Port au Prince, where Martin was killed. The owners will be receiving a plaque-mounted copy of a feature story about Martin written by the Observer in 2012 that will hang in the building. They are naming five rooms after the guests who died in the quake. The EMCC is also considering making a donation towards re-building the structure.
Geense added, “People like Yvonne continue to come forward to volunteer and to bring their expertise.”
“Yvonne’s memory lives on,” McIlroy said.