When Global Ministries connected the members of the First Church of Christ Longmeadow, Massachusetts with a new group of some 50 pastors in Port-au-Prince in 1996, little did they realize that they were about to embark on a long and mutually satisfying journey....
When Global Ministries connected the members of the First Church of Christ Longmeadow, Massachusetts with a new group of some 50 pastors in Port-au-Prince in 1996, little did they realize that they were about to embark on a long and mutually satisfying journey. One of those church members, Dr. Mark Pohlman, made his first visit to CONASPEH’s (the National Spiritual Council of Churches) recently dedicated school in 1998 and has continued to visit the program since that date.
In those early years, FCC Longmeadow members saw CONASPEH add a medical clinic to the school which was initially staffed with a nurse and part-time doctor and sought opportunities to support the fledgling program. One way was to help with scholarship money for medical students sponsored by CONASPEH while another was to give money for the printing of 1,000 Creole copies of the book “Where There is No Doctor.”
It was during Executive Director, Patrick Villier’s, 2004 trip to the FCC Longmeadow that supportive church members learned of CONASPEH’s plan to start a nursing school the following year. Those with a medical background knew that such a vision would not be realized without monumental challenges and were therefore skeptical but when Patrick returned a year later to the Longmeadow church and said the nursing program was going “very well” they knew, as Dr. Pohlman stated, that the “train had left the station”.
Not wanting to be left behind, the Longmeadow group came on board and since that time has been involved in the medical program in countless ways: bringing nursing supplies, various teaching charts in French and English, medical dictionaries in Creole, French, Spanish and English and text books written in French. They have taught courses on rehydration, emergency care, sanitation and hand washing techniques, common infections, and the diagnosis of congenital dislocation of the hips in newborns. They have donated computers and nursing computer programs and have given nursing kits which included a stethoscope, blood pressure cuff, thermometer, tape measure, and a watch to graduating nurses.
While the Longmeadow group is one long-time partner with CONASPEH there are countless other teams and missionaries from the U.S. and Puerto Rico who have also brought so willingly their expertise, skills, resources and love-filled hearts to stand alongside this growing medical program. This was especially evident following the 2010 earthquake when many of CONASPEH’s nursing students were killed and medical doctors, nurses, trauma experts and nursing school professors made a commitment to rebuild CONASPEH’s nursing program.
It is very difficult for private nursing schools to compete financially with state supported programs in Haiti but despite this disadvantage Patrick Villier’s dream of seeing the Karen School of Nursing, named after long-time supporter Karen Yount, become an accredited, four-year baccalaureate program is becoming a reality. In a country that has no similar private program it seems to be a miracle in the making and we who live and work in this island nation know that miracles still happen…
Tim and Diane Fonderlin serve with the National Spiritual Council of Churches of Haiti (CONASPEH). Tim works as a sustainable community development and micro-credit consultant. Diane teaches at St. Andrew Theological Seminary as well as being a co-administrator of the seminary.