It is hard to believe that it has been nearly a year since the tragic earthquake in Haiti, which struck January 12, 2010. The outpouring of assistance from United Methodist churches and congregations from all over the Conference was heartfelt and generous. Of course, the news cameras and our attention moved on long ago – which is only natural – but for Decatur-based Global Health Action (GHA), Haiti is always front page news.
Global Health Action has been working in Haiti for 30 years, providing community health and development programs that primarily serve poor rural families. One long-time GHA program selects and trains community health workers (CHWs) to serve as the first line of health promotion and care in their own communities. Another program trains goat farmers and provides them with a pregnant goat, a sustainable source of nutrition and income for years to come.
GHA also works to reduce maternal and infant mortality in Haiti – the highest in the western hemisphere – by training and supporting CHWs and traditional birth attendants, by educating communities at many levels, and by helping build the capacity of local systems and providers to care for the population.
GHA believes in giving people knowledge and skills and letting them do for themselves.Sometimes it is the little things that make the biggest difference.
Girija Sankar, GHA Program Manager, returned from a recent trip to Haiti and excitedly reported that the young people of Petit-Goave know how to properly wash their hands. Not a big deal? Well, in the isolated rural areas, with a largely uneducated population, and limited access to clean water, knowledge of good hygiene and proper sanitation can literally save lives. With a threatening epidemic in Haiti of cholera, a water- and waste-borne bacterial disease, Ms. Sankar’s trip confirmed that GHA’s previous training in Petit-Goave, which had targeted mothers, religious leaders, and traditional healers, as well as youth clubs, was still effective.
Training leaders, strengthening communities, and saving lives: that’s what this United Methodist-supported organization is striving for in Haiti.
GHA’s mission partners include the Methodist Church of Haiti (l’Eglise Méthodiste d’Haïti) and UMCOR, and though an independent international health and development organization, Global Health Action’s connections to the United Methodist Church are deep and broad. For example, many of you may be familiar with Miss Virginia Proctor, United Methodist Woman, GHA co-founder and champion, and self-proclaimed “Goat Lady,” who is still going strong at 92!
The GHA Board of Directors also includes leaders like Bishop Bev Jones and current AMRY District Superintendent Jim Cantrell.
With the 2011-2012 UMW Geographic Mission Study focus on Haiti, it is nice to know that United Methodists in North Georgia have a local source for additional information, perspectives, and impact stories.
For more information about Global Health Action’s mission and work, not only in Haiti but in Africa, China, and here at home, visit them on-line at www.globalhealthaction. org.