After seeing a need for better medical care in Haiti, Middleham and St. Peter’s Episcopal Parish in Lusby is helping fund a school nurse position in one impoverished city.
Working in partnership with La Resurrection Episcopal Parish in Gros Morne, Haiti, and St. Martin’s Parish in Severna Park, the project will provide a nurse from the Gros Morne community for La Resurrection School, which is being rebuilt and serves about 800 students from kindergarten through grade 12, the Lusby church said in news release. Gros Morne is about 21 / 2 hours north of Port-au-Prince.
The nurse is expected to begin working at the school March 1, said Hugh Davies, a church member who took the lead on the project. The church is helping to interview candidates, he said, and is looking for a registered nurse.
The Rev. David Showers of Middleham and St. Peter’s said the need for health care that he saw on a Haiti church team visit in October was “both overwhelming and amazing. Folks there are living in one or two rooms with as many as 10 people in a house. There is no sewer system.”
Although it was the first trip church members took to Haiti, Davies said, they have helped with other relief efforts. Last year, members collected instruments to send to a music school that had to be rebuilt after last year’s earthquake,and also donated $3,000 in relief aid.
More than 80 percent of the population of Haiti lives in poverty, according to the CIA World Factbook. The 7.0 magnitude earthquake that devastated Haiti on Jan. 12, 2010, made access to health care even more of a challenge, because many health clinics were damaged or destroyed.
According to international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders, cholera is a major problem in Gros Morne.
Providing a nurse for La Resurrection School will help its students and their families, Showers said, because the nurse’s office will be a place the children to go with concerns. Also, because half of the student population is female and most of the schoolteachers are male, a female nurse would be an alternative for growing girls, he said.
Although most nurses in Haiti are women, Davies said, the candidate who is hired for the position need not be female, but he agrees with Showers that “it would really be good to have a woman to counsel other young women.”
The Middleham and St. Peter’s team includes Davies and his wife, Diane; physician Nancy Briggs; and Sandra Wilkins, a registered nurse. Davies said it is a follow-up venture to a program the church’s Sunday school students undertook in June, establishing a scholarship fund at La Resurrection.
“It’s the same school, but this is a much larger project,” Davies said. “We will help to underwrite the cost of [the nurse’s] salary, equipment and materials for her office.” The percent the Lusby parish will contribute is undecided.
The goal is to fund the nurse’s position for three years and then reevaluate where the project stands, he said.
“The ultimate goal is for the project to sustain itself locally,” Davies said. It is intended to help the school establish a strong working relationship with the local hospital and other local health resources, and extending awareness and access to community health resources to the students’ families, particularly their mothers. He said the school plans to accomplish this through increased parental and community involvement over time, at which point the church’s financial support would phase out.
Parents are willing to bear some of the costs, he said. The details are being worked out with La Resurrection and St. Martin’s.
“We’re working to set this up as a model that can be replicated in other places,” Davies said. “Very few other schools in Haiti have a school nurse. There’s just a profound need for medical help.”
Marcia Lane, executive director of the Haiti Nursing Foundation, said that she doesn’t have any statistics on how many schools in Haiti have a nurse but that nurses are a primary form of health care for Haitians. “Most people don’t even have access to health care,” she said.
“Very few, almost none [of Haiti’s schools] have a nurse,” she said. “There was one nurse per 10,000 people before the earthquake, and they tended to only be in cities.”
Davies said the project began when the church started looking at ways to help Haiti after the earthquake, during which the school sustained some damage, though that is not the only reason it is being rebuilt. It also has outgrown itself, Davies said. The new building will be able to hold the 1,000-student population the school plans to expand to soon, and it will add 10 classrooms.
The parents of La Resurrection students came up with the idea for a school nurse and “when we found out they’d asked for this, we thought it would be something good for us to do,” he said, adding that coordinating efforts among the parties involved and scheduling the initial trip to Haiti to begin meeting and interviewing candidates has been a lengthy process.
“We looked at an area where we could help the people help themselves,” Diane Davies said. “This is . . . being there to support them not only financially, but with knowledge, capability, emotionally — so they can do it themselves.”
Hugh said the parishioners plan traditional fundraising through community events such as dinners and by soliciting donations within the church to help raise money for the project, as well as reaching out for community support.
To learn how to provide support or get involved in the Haiti project, call members of the Lusby church’s Haiti School Nurse Committee at 410-326-4948 or contact Hugh Davies at 410-326-0370 or email@example.com.