A letter from Mark Hare serving in the Dominican Republic and Haiti
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Jenny, Keila, Annika and I are back in the field! As we explained in the newsletter we sent by snail mail in July 2016, I am now serving mainly in the Dominican Republic with our partner here, the Dominican Evangelical Church (IED for its initials in Spanish). I am working as a team with Jenny on extending Community Health Evangelism (CHE) to new communities, which has been a priority of the IED since 2015. I will continue to serve in Haiti for ten to fifteen days every three months.
About a week ago, as part of our CHE work, Jenny and I visited a community called Jaquimeyes (Hok ee MAY yays) about 20 minutes from our home in Barahona. We met with the IED pastor, Rev. Alfreda and about ten women from the local church there. Jenny used a shawl that she had crocheted to explain how CHE works. She had used multi-colored yarn to make the shawl, so she explained that each color could represent a different aspect of our health. Blue, she said, could represent our spirituality, green could represent our physical well-being and red could represent our emotional well-being. She asked the women, “What would happen to the shawl if a hole appeared in the blue?” They said, “It would all unravel.” What would happen if there is a hole in the green part? “It would all unravel.” What would happen if there a hole appeared in the red part? “It would all unravel.” Jenny said, “That’s like us. We need all the colors woven together to be healthy. We need to have a healthy spiritual life, a healthy emotional life and we need to be healthy physically.” And that, she said, is what we do in CHE, we work with people so that they are in harmony physically, mentally and spiritually.
We have also been working with CHE trainers in Casandra, a mountainside neighborhood in Barahona. There we are helping them with an initiative proposed by two young women, Bellanira and Andreina, who also received CHE training in 2015 as part of the IED’s new focus on expanding the program. After finishing their training in June 2015, Bella and Andreina focused on hygiene and trash disposal in their community. Their next focus, in the step known in CHE as creating seed projects, is to focus on the importance of breastfeeding. Jenny and I have each gone twice with Bellanira and Andreina visiting house to house, surveying what people, especially mothers, know about breastfeeding and whether they themselves breastfeed/fed their own children. But first we asked my favorite question, “What do you love most about being a parent?” That question often instigated warm reminiscences that brought a glow to the mothers’ faces.
In Batey 7, where we have been working since 2012, the CHE committee is carrying out a Health Campaign, going house to house. In February of 2016, the Batey 7 committee coordinated a health screening that revealed close to half of their school-age children suffer from anemia and/or parasites. Now their goal is to improve the health of the children in the community. The committee developed recommendations to share with families based on their own experiences. Dust, for example, blows through the community most afternoons carrying parasites from various sources. They also identified water quality as an issue. For each cause identified, the committee proposed two or more solutions that families could employ. For the dust, they are asking families to carefully envelope the food until family members are ready to eat. For the poor water quality in the community, they are asking the adults to chlorinate their water, or boil it for at least five minutes. Eventually the committee hopes to do a second school screening, to see if this and additional actions have helped reduce the incidence of anemia and parasites, and also if the parameters of weight for age improve. The committee chose Jeremiah 33:6 as the impetus for their work:
“Nevertheless, I will bring health and healing to [the city]; I will heal my people and will let them enjoy abundant peace and security…” NIV
Cacique, like Casandra is a Barahona neighborhood of lower income families where there is an IED church with pastoral leadership focused on the community. There we are working with members of the church on a survey that asks individuals what kinds of things give them joy, what new things they would like to learn to do and what talents they have that they could use make their community better. Asking people about their joys and talents is new for Jenny and me. In Batey 7, for example, our first questions focused on the needs of the community. That led to very different kinds of information. Now, as we enter into new communities, we are focused on the richness of resources that the people are already bringing to the table—the Holy Spirit already present and accounted for.
Finally, to finish our news, in December we spent a week in Haiti. While Jenny, Keila and Annika visited with our colleague, Cindy Corell in Port au Prince, I took two of my nephews, Zachary and Seth Dobbelaer up into the mountains of Verettes to see yard garden work, check out a new ferro-cement cistern and see firsthand what Hurricane Matthew had done back in October. While the folk in the Verettes mountains did not receive the brunt of Hurricane Matthew’s devastating wind, they were inundated with the rain. A number of the mountain homes were heavily damaged, people lost much of their bean crops and they suffered the loss of many goats and chickens as well as some of their pigs. Still, it was encouraging to see corn from the harvest hung from palm trees, and in one community where there is a river that they use for irrigation, the people were planting their winter bean crop. The visit reminded me what a privilege it is to be a part of the work of the grassroots farmer organizations in Haiti, especially those that form the network known as FONDAMA, part of the Presbyterian Joining Hands program.
If you are already supporting us, please know we are so grateful. Your prayers, e-mails and cards help form a web of support that keeps us going through hard moments. Your financial contributions are, of course, what make our work possible. If you are not yet supporting our work or the work of another PC(USA) mission co-worker, please consider doing so. Without your presence in our lives, we cannot be present for the people here.
Mark, Jenny, Keila and Annika
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