Baylor Missions Takes Inaugural Medical Mission Trip to Haiti, Launches Partnership with Promise for Haiti
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WACO, Texas (April 25, 2016) – During spring break, a team of 12 Baylor University pre-med students and two faculty members chose to use their time off and their gifts and expertise to serve others during an inaugural healthcare mission trip to Haiti.
Marty Harvill, Ph.D., senior lecturer of biology, and Jane Harvill, Ph.D., professor of statistical science, took a team of students to Pignon, Haiti, to work with Promise for Haiti, a Christian mission organization with a vision to serve the people of central Haiti in the name of Jesus and empower them through healthcare and education.
“Everyone has a gift to give, and it may not be monetary, it may not be intellectual, but everyone has something to offer,” said Jane Harvill about the students’ takeaways from the trip. “To see them really ponder how they were going to be open about their faith when we got home, how they could change the world for the better, that was the best lesson they could’ve learned.”
The team worked with the Hospital Bienfaisance of Pignon under the leadership of Dr. Omer Shedd, president of the board of Promise for Haiti, on the facility’s needs. Those needs included an inventory system to prevent medicine and medical supplies from expiring and to make those they did have easier to find. Inventory numbers also were needed to help Promise for Haiti have clear information for potential donors about pressing needs and how they can help.
Over the course of the week, the team helped organize more than 14,000 items into 230 different categories. They provided training for the hospital staff on inventory software so they could easily locate specific items and expiration dates and enter new items into the system.
“Before we set up the inventory system, the hospital would place their supplies on any empty shelf they could find. They had no way to track how many supplies they had left and did not know when supplies were running low,” said Mary Taylor Tillman, a junior biology major from Aledo, Texas, who went on the trip. “If they ran out of something for a surgery, they simply could not perform that possibly life-saving surgery. I hope the inventory system will alleviate this problem and help save lives by ensuring they are able to track what is running low and reorder before a problem arises.”
The team also worked with Promise for Haiti’s Healthcare Partners program, through which a $500 gift from a sponsor can support an entire family’s medical care for a year. In addition to meeting routine and emergency medical needs, from check-ups to surgeries, Healthcare Partners makes it a point to provide the more than 100 families it serves with meals along with important information about nutrition. The Baylor team visited with several of the families from throughout the community who are part of the program.
“My absolute favorite part of the trip was traveling with a man named Jean-Robert, the coordinator for Promise for Haiti, to meet with families who benefit from the Healthcare Partners program,” said Lexi Westberg, a junior biology major from Bend, Oregon. “These were the poorest people in the areas surrounding Pignon. One of the families we met was a woman and her five young children. The first thing she asked us after receiving her food was if it was okay for her to share the food with her neighbors because they were hungry, too. The people there had the most godly and generous spirits of anyone I have ever met.”
“For every one of these families, there is a story,” said Jane Harvill. She recounted the people the team had met and the many homes they were invited into, explaining how they were captivated by the generosity of people who had so little. Overall, the team was able to provide food for and visit with 15 different families.
“One of our trip verses was Philippians 4:13, ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.’ A lot of people take that verse out of context. It doesn’t mean we can do anything, but rather, it’s about being content in all circumstances because of Christ,” she said. “Watching these students understand that, as they saw these people living in houses made of sticks and mud who are in love with the Lord and rely on Him fully believe ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,’ that’s what the verse truly means. It means I can live in a house that’s falling down before my eyes because God’s watching over me and He’s with me.”
The team also visited two of the nine schools in which Promise for Haiti has established child sponsorship programs. Sponsors donate $100 to pay for a child’s year of education. While there, they took photos of and documented information about the children to develop packets for their sponsors. They also helped the children write thank-you letters to their sponsors.
Another purpose of the trip was to allow students to shadow surgical procedures. During the team’s time in Pignon, a contingent of U.S. physicians was visiting the hospital to perform multiple surgeries. Students were allowed to shadow the doctors and observe surgeries, as well as administer basic healthcare procedures, such as temperatures and blood pressure readings.
“We are praying we can continue to serve this area and mission through follow-up trips in the upcoming years,” said Holly Widick, assistant director for missions.
The Harvills are hoping the partnership with Promise for Haiti will continue for a long time. They already are planning on traveling back to Pignon next year with students over spring break, and many students on the trip expressed an interest in returning next year.
“I would love to go back to Haiti next year to continue what we started in the hospital and to be able to be with people and hear their stories,” Westberg said. “A lot of the people we talked to asked us not to forget them and to tell our friends about the people we met once we returned home. I would love to go back next year and tell them in person that I kept my promises, that people at Baylor and back home know about all of the friends I met in Haiti.”
“My trip to Haiti was an eye-opening experience. I had never seen extreme poverty like they have in Pignon,” Tillman said. “It opened my heart to serving the global community. I plan on going back to Haiti next spring break and I hope helping Hospital Bienfaisance is something I can continue throughout my life.”
by Bethany Harper, student newswriter, (254) 710-6805
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