Today the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations had the opportunity to host Dan and Elizabeth Turk, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) mission co-workers serving in Madagascar since 1994 at the invitation of the Church for Jesus Christ of Madagascar (FJKM). They met with a group of us and shared what they have been doing with PC(USA) partners to serve the population of Madagascar in its humanitarian efforts. Dan has a Ph.D. in Forestry from North Carolina State University, and Elizabeth a Master’s degree in Public Health from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Together they make a powerful team working with our partners to address health, environmental, and economic issues.
Their presentation showed how greatly needed this ministry is, as Madagascar is one of the poorest countries in the world with eighty-five percent of the population earning fewer than two dollars per day. This is partly due to the crisis in 2009 in which the existing government was overthrown in a coup d’état. Since then, the country has started on a path toward stability, normalcy, and reconciliation with elections taking place in late 2013.
Some of the Turks’ work goes to empowering the local population to meet their own economic needs and have access to basic human necessities. Many people do not have access to clean drinking water, so the death rate among children from diarrhea is significantly high. They help raise support for gravity fed water systems and other water advocacy. Since most people have to travel very far to get clean water, adults have less time to earn an income for their families; children also have less ability to continue education past middle school, so creating better and more widespread access to clean water has a profound effect on improving quality of life for the people in Madagascar.
Additionally, the Turks seek to improve access to food and sources of income by working toward the creation and propagation of plant life in Madagascar. Deforestation due to farming has devastating effects on the environment and wildlife and is not a sustainable means of production, so part of Dan’s work is to help local communities learn how to plant and sustain a variety of fruit trees that provide both a source of food and nutrients and a valuable source of income for many families who have little access to either.
Following the presentation, the Turks met with a few people who were interested in the Madagascar Mission Network, a network primarily focused on mission partnerships through congregations, presbyteries or synods. Network members come together to coordinate efforts, share best practices and develop strategies. If you would like more information about the Madagascar Mission Network, please contact Elizabeth Turk here.
The photo of Elizabeth and Dan Turk making their presentation is by Robert Arrington.