Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Batey 7 Community Health Evangelism School Screening--February 2016

Yanirda Alcantara the end of January 2016, putting together kits for the students to
bring stool samples to the screening. Through the promotion and education of the 
committee, house by house, the committee was able to collect samples of more
than 90% of the students screened. About one-third had one or more types of parasites.
  From June 2015 through August 2016, Jenny, Keila, Annika and I (Mark) were in the States on home assignment, visiting churches and organizations (at least 60 presentations over six or seven months!), sharing the stories of God at work in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Now we are back in the Dominican Republic and both Jenny and I are focused on the Community Health Evangelism work here in Barahona and nearby municipalities.

For more information about CHE visit the home page: [What is CHE?].

In the States our focus was mainly on State-side activities. In addition to presentations to churches and community groups, Keila and Annika did a year in the public school in Amesville, Ohio [Amesville Elementary] we were also part of our local church's life, we gardened, we spent time with family and we caught up on medical issues.

In addition to the State-side actvities, Jenny worked with key members of the Batey 7 CHE committee, via skype and telephone, to set up a health screening for the 6 through 12-year-olds in Batey 7's public school. She started communicating with them in the fall of 2015, but the telephone wires & cell towers really started heating up the beginning of January. After a face to face visit the second week of January by our friend and mission work colleague, Ardell Graner [Ardell Graner], the committee accepted the challenge and began preparations.

The committee coordinated the work with the school administration, with the personnel of the Good Samaritan Clinic, with leaders in the Dominican Evangelical Church (IED for its initials in Spanish) and most importantly with the parents of the children. Arriving in the Dominican Republic January 26th, the Tuesday before the big event, I was able to spend a week with the committee, at the end of their preparations and for the first day of the actual monitoring. On Sunday, January 31st, a team from Westminster Presbyterian Church in Greenville, South Carolina [Westminster Presbyterian Church] joined the committee and began working out the details for each station that would collect some key piece of data from the students.

In addition to the teams from Batey 7 and Westminster PC, the monitoring was supplemented by the personnel from the clinic, two translators and a driver brought by the Westminster group, two pastors from IED in Santo Domingo, Ardell Graner, our Methodist mission worker colleague, two lab workers (brought by the committee, paid with funds from Westminster), and by Bellanir Matos, a volunteer from a CHE program in Barahona (Barrio Cassandra) who kept the children entertained while they progressed through the stations. Bella's sister, a nurse, also worked with the Committee, helping man the station that measured blood iron. Besides the team of 12-14 committee members and volunteers from Batey 7, there was alsoa crew of four or five community women who fed the team twice a day, starting at 7:30 AM and finishing around 4 or 5 PM.

It was a complex coordination that could have been a cacophony of randomly moving parts, but, by the grace of God, it was not. In the end, it was a joy for me to be part of it, although my crankiness after two previous weeks in Haiti and six intense days in Batey 7 was apparent to all. On Monday evening, February 1st, as I prepared to leave for Santo Domingo and the States the next day, the members of the Batey 7 committee came to thank me and wish me safe travel. They let me know that they truly appreciated my contributions,"... in spite of my many 'boches.'" My understanding is that "boches" (boe chase) are critical comments made in a rough or angry manner. They are not considered a good thing. The observation was helpful, especially as it came from individuals I trust and who have demonstrated that they trust me as well as Jenny. Besides giving me a heads up, it also clarified that the work was the true work of the Holy Spirit, weaving our efforts together for the glory of God in service to "the least of these."

The team continued to examine children on Tuesday and Wednesday, February 2nd and 3rd. In total, they screened over 200 students. On Thursday, the team met with the parents of the children who participated, handing out to each the individual results and sharing with them some observations about how the individual families can work to avoid problems such as the parasites found in about a third of the stool samples.

In another blog, we will hopefully present more of the results of the data collected from the school children. As Jenny and I are moving back into the work with Batey 7, as well as other communities in the area, we are working to focus the committee's attention on the information that came out of the screening as they shape their program. We remind them, not because they don't know, but in order that they don't forget, of their mission for their community:

"Develop a healthy community with dignity through the participation of the community in programs of hygiene, agriculture, sexual health, spirituality and the defense of the rights of children and adolescents." 

Luisa, Yanirda and Esperanza, all members of the committee, preparing the community room where the screening would take place. Saturday, January 30th.

Three of the women from Westminster Presbyterian Church, Greenville, SC participating in the worship time on Monday, February 1st, before the first class of children arrived. From left to right, Dr. Kimmie, Annie and Anne.

José García Aquino (left, green t-shirt), a member of the Batey 7 Committee, leads the group of 45-50 in singing during the devotions on Monday, February 1st, before the screening began.

Rev. Maria Bork (left), who serves a marginalized community north of Santo Domingo, asks Susan McClarty, group leader from Westminster Presbyterian Church, to read the Biblical text for the morning reflection.

Two of the women from Batey 7 preparing lunch for over 50 people.

Santa Medina, the pharmacist for the Good Samaritan Clinic. Santa coordinated a number of the details for the screening, including all of the details involved in the food preparation: menu, budget, food purchases, cooks, firewood, pots, plates, etc. etc. Juanito and I spent one whole day with Santa in Barahona purchasing the biggest items. Breakfast was a piece of bread and I don't remember what we finally ate for lunch.

Santo (left, red shirt) and Jhonni mind the gate, waiting for the first onslaught of students. In Batey 7, North Americans doing medical brigades usually mean anyone who wants can come and get a free examination and free vitamins afterwards. This made it imperative that we have folks who controlled the flow of people.

Bellanira Matos inventing games for students to play while they waited their turn to be screened.

Juan Baptiste, vice-president of the Batey 7 Committee, helping man the first station. In this station, the children handed over their stool samples and identifying documents.Juan and his team made sure that the forms were properly filled out and had as much of the information as possible. Then the child was assigned a code and the code was put on each form and on the stool sample. A runner took the samples with the appropriate form to the laboratory and Juan and his team sent the child on to the next station with a separate form.

Julio, left, was one of our runners. He helped get the students from the school to the clinic grounds, then he helped make sure each student made to each station. On the right, Yara fro Batey 7, a young woman who frequently helps with the work the Committee does, helps register a student.

The lab technicians. Miqueya (right) is a member of the IED church in the community of Cacique, where Jenny, Keila, Annika and I worship regularly. Jospha (middle) is a lab technician at the main public hospital in Barahona. Juan connected with her via his friendship with Bellanira. Josepha is a friend of Bella's sister. Yulisa, with child, is a member of the Batey 7 Committee who is studying laboratory science at the public university in Barahona. Miqueya, in addition to leading the laboratory team, returned on Thursday to talk with the parents about ways they could reduce their children's exposure to parasites.

In the lab examining samples for parasites.

The runners. From left to right, Annie, from Westminster and Maria, Julio, Nina and Esperanza, from Batey 7.

The team that measured height and weight of each student.

Measuring height. The values for height and weight were correlated with age and each child was given percentile scores for height/age and weight/age. While there is always wide ranges of scores because of genetics, very low scores are indicative of some time of health problem, very likely nutritional.

Dr. Kimmie (left) from Westmisnter PC and Eli, a translator from Barahona, manning the hemoglobin table. A quick pinch and a minute in the battery operated reader gave reliable readings of the children's hemoglobin status. Dr. Kimmie provided a number of recommendations for the work that made everything we did more effective. Together with Dr. Soraya, the doctor from Good Samaritan, she reviewed the results of each child and made notes for those who needed to come back for a face to face with Dr Soraya, or in some cases, at the big hospital.
Rev. Erasme (center) translating for José (left) during the opening worship. José and Erasme worked with Catherine from Westminster to enter all the data in an Excel file on a laptop that the Westminster team brought with them. They also scanned each of the two forms for 200+ children and printed an extra copy to hand out to the parent. The originals stayed with the personnel of the Good Samaritan Clinic.

Yanirda (center), the president of the committee, introducing the School director, Wendy (right) to the Westminster PC group. Abner (left) from Barahona, translates.

Wendy, the school director for the Batey 7 public school meets the group from Westminster and thanks them for their support of the community's work.

Lina receives roofing from the Committee to help her and her family improve their roof. Five families received help with their roofs in 2015. The committee provided tin roofing sheets and nails. the families had to provide any wood and they had to find a carpenter who could help them. Westminster matched the funds collected by the Committee using raffles.

Youth from Batey 7 play basketball on the court they helped build, with the support of the Peace Corps, a program called Courts for Kids and the Batey 7 Health Committee.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Yard designs in team members' homes.

This past week I (Mark) started initiating the same process in Batey 7 that I have been following in Haiti with yard garden participants. Working with members of the team responsible for the clinic yard garden, we did a yard evaluation (50 points possible) then registered each person and finally, created a yard design showing the changes the participant and his family want to make.

The process takes time and we have some team members on vacation in Santo Domingo. We got four people registered and evaluated, but only three designs done.

A group of youth from Westminster Presbyterian Church in Greenville, South Carolina will be working with the youth from Batey 7 starting June 22nd, God spare life, to help them begin transforming their yards.

Here are the three designs we finished yesterday. Everything in red represents the changes that the family wants to make. Round circles in straight lines generally indicate where they will set up vegetable tires on benches. Long rectangles represent vegetable beds. The ones marked "moringa" will be planted to Moringa oleifera.

Yard design of Rubio and Clinton Paredes. The area to the left represents the changes for which Clinton and Rubio will be responsible. The set of circles to the far right represent fruit trees, vegetables and medicinal plants that the parents of Clinton & Rubio have already planted. The drainage that is a serious health issue for the batey lies directly behind the Paredes house. Clinton and Rubio made 22 points out of 50.

Yard design of José Aquino. José is the coordinator of the clinic yard garden team. His goal is to create a space in his yard that has some of everything that is in the clinic yard garden. José has nothing growing in his yard right now, so he made only 5 points out of 50 on his evaluation.

Yard design of Brayan Dotel. Brayan is one of the first people who helped get the yard garden started in the clinic. Then because of school and other factors, he dropped out. José has gotten him interested again and when we went to visit Brayan's yard, he had already cleaned out the area, prepared the soil and begun planting plantain rhizomes ("platanos" in the design). Brayan has separated the area with dirt walls in order to irrigate the space. Brayan made around 11 points on his yard evaluation.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Lessons on Community Development--a workshop to develop practical Christian Education Materials for Batey 7

"These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: "Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." Matthew 10: 5-6

The participants on Monday afternoon, after the first activity. From right to left (back row), Franklin, Leo, Esmiralda, Ambar, Maria Luisa, Clinton, Nayeli, Mark, Alberto, Meybi, Esperanza, José, Genesi, Yolanda, Santa. In front, Jenny, Annika, Keila, Ardell.

Wednesday, March 26th

Ardell Graner, Jenny and I arrived at Jenny and my home in Barahona at 9 PM, exhausted. We had just finished a workshop that Ardell had organized for us, training a group of thirteen youth from Batey 7 to develop Biblical-based lesson that will foster community development.

Ardell and her husband, Gordon Graner are mission workers who are also serving with the Evangelical Dominican Church (IED for its name in Spanish). Ardell and Gordon have been sent by the United Methodist Church (UMC). Ardell and Gordon came to the DR last April after serving for twenty-three years with UMC in Bolivia. Here is one web site: Gordon and Ardell. Here is another, with more details about their mission in the DR: Graner Family.  Jenny and I began the initial conversations with Ardell over six months ago. Our excitement for this idea was fostered by the work that Ardell led in Bolivia, working with young people who were responsible for Christian Education (Sunday School) in their respective churches.

The objective of the workshop was to come away with two things. One of these was for us to have written materials that the young volunteers carry out their work visiting homes in Batey 7. We needed educational materials that reflect the cultural, economic and social experience of the people of Batey 7. The other thing we hoped for was to have a cadre of youth who are serious in their commitment to a fundamental and integrated transformation of their community--who want to be part of something bigger than themselves. This team would need to be the hands and feet to carry out the program of development developed by the Community Development Committee and the Counsel for Community Health and Development (see previous blog).

Jenny writes: "As Ardell, Mark and I were planning for this workshop, we wondered if these youth would be able to write about their lives and their relationship with God clearly. There were able. We wondered if they would be able to present it in front of others, even if they could write it. They did present it, in role play after role play."

In Matthew 10:5-9. Jesus sends his disciples not to exotic lands where the language is different (!), but to their own people. He sends them without gold or silver, with only the power and knowledge that he shared with them, which he commands them to share freely, just as they had freely received. In the final ceremony Wednesday night, we asked the youth to respond to that challenge. Were they willing to take their new knowledge and capacities to their neighbors, to share with them transformational messages? The youth responded, "YES!" We asked them if they truly believed that what they have within them is more valuable than silver and gold. Again they responded, "Yes!"

Jenny writes, "In closing, I invite you to read and reflect with us on the passage from Matthew....How often have we believed that wealth and material goods will resolve poverty and afflictions? How often have we come into a community like Batey 7 and told them what is best for them? Stop with us for a moment. Let's listen to our brothers and sisters. They have all the wisdom from their community to create a new reality."

Here are more of the photos:

Ardell began the workshop Monday afternoon in a clown suit, with no introduction and no talking, throwing rubber balls in the air. Eventually, one by one, participants began playing, too. Ardell explained when they were done that the point of that games was that this workshop is not about one person talking and others listening. It is about everyone participating, it is about having fun, about sharing and about being creative.

All of the participants put their hand prints on a large cotton cloth, signed them and drew something unique in the center of each print. We were all in this together and each of has something special that only we can offer.

Mark (left) working with (from left to right) Clinton, Genesi and Meybi on defining the problem of the legal judgement 0168/13 in the DR, which called into question the citizenship of thousands of Dominicans born to person of Haitian descent.

Still the first day, the youth in groups of three wrote down their understanding of each of ten issues that the Counsel for Community Health and Development has identified  of primary importance for the community. After a couple of rough starts, the youth did an amazing job of explaining to us what each of those issues means and why they are important in the community.

The issues are:
1) The community's environment
2) The right to be recognized as citizens and to have legal documents
3) Sexual health and education
4) The rights of children and adolescents
5) Hygiene
6) Employment
7) Self-esteem
8) Adequate housing
9) Agriculture
10) Spirituality

Three times a day we ate together in the center's dining hall. The center where we held the workshop was in Batey 9, about five miles down a dirt and gravel road from Batey 7. Our host was Pastor William from Batey 9's evangelical church of Christ. It is an excellent resource.

Tuesday morning, Ardell started the day with a powerful devotional that started with the participants decorating each one their own small clay pot.

Alberto decorating his pot.

After the youth finished decorating, we took a hammer and cracked the pots, as Ardell shared with them the pain that often comes from living. We are often broken by life's sorrows.

Nayeli piecing back her pot. Christ came to heal the world. As broken as we are, God desires and is ready to make us whole.

Meybi and Maria Luisa working to put their pots back together.

Ardell working with Nayeli to "heal" her pot.

Some of the broken pots.

Getting down to the nitty gritty. From left to right (behind), Clinton, Alberto, Ambar and Yulis work on developing a Biblical-based lesson agriculture that speaks to the situation in Batey 7. The three visitors in front of the group were part of a visiting delegation from First Presbyterian Church of Muncie, Indiana.

Each lesson had to include a greeting, a prayer, a testimony from the participants' personal experience, a Biblical reference and a reflection based on that reference.

Clinton, Alberto, Yulis and Ambar doing a role play, visiting a household to share the lesson about agriculture.

After everyone had completed their devotional, they presented them in role plays. Mark represented the family in this first exercise, as the agricultural group presented their theme. In all of the rest, the youth themselves became the person or persons in the house receiving the volunteers and sharing the lesson.

Alberto, putting together one of the Biblical-based lessons. After the first set of lessons, created by the youth in groups of four, they did a second set of lessons, working in pairs. Finally, each participant had to write their own lesson.

The youth presented in role playing all of the lessons developed in groups of four and those put together in pairs. Time ran out for the final set of lessons and we did not role play those during this workshop.

 We broke up the intensity needed for writing the lessons by playing games. This one was called "Shark." One person is the shark and "eats" all of the players by pulling out a ribbon tucked into their clothing. José, who is already a leader in the community, particularly among the youth, led the games.

José washing Yolanda's feet as part of a Biblical-based lesson that Jenny provided on hygiene. Jenny elicited from the group a list of important hygiene practices, then finished with the story of Jesus washing his disciples' feet. She noted that in that time, it was part of the local hygiene to wash your feet before entering someone's house, and the wealthy often had a special servant who was responsible for doing that. But Jesus' changed the dynamic when he washed his disciples' feet.

Clinton working on a special art project, yet another way for the youth to express how God was touching their hearts in the workshop.

Yulis with her chocolate drink, as part of the Feast of Agape that Jenny led, one of the traditions of the Moravian church, where she is a member in Nicaragua. The Feast was part of the closing ceremony which included a commitment, spoken together, to share their new skills in Batey 7.

Ardell and Yulis.

Jenny writes, "During the two and a half days of the workshop, we were responsible for thirteen young people between the ages of thirteen and nineteen. And we didn't know them very well. But during the workshop, we exchanged laughs and we played games together. And we discovered and were sometimes surprised by their gifts." Most importantly, we became friends.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

A New Committee in Batey 7

A shot of the drainage ditch to the northeast of Batey 7. The community is entirely surrounded by sugarcane fields which are cut periodically by deep drainage ditches to assure that the land, which is extremely flat, maintains its productivity. This particular drainage is within a few feet of the last row of houses and is a breeding ground for mosquitoes and, whenever it rains, a receptacle for human waste.

New committees are not something Jenny or I (Mark) would normally get excited about.

But this one was different. This past February, Jenny participated as an observer in the formation of the "Consejo de Desarrollo y Salud Comunitaria" (The Counsel for Community Health and Development) in Batey 7.

This new group came about when the Community Development Committee (CDC) invited Batey 7's Youth Group for Development Club (Club Juvenil de Desarrollo) to a joint meeting. The CDC is the group with which Jenny and I have been working using the strategies we are learning from CHE (Community Health Evangelism). The second week of February Jenny arrived at the afternoon meeting with newsprint, markers and masking tape, but she assured the joint group that her only role would be to help write what people were saying.

As they talked, participants shared the goals and activities of their respective groups.  One thing they discovered was that both groups have identified the malignant drainage ditch as one of the priority  problems for Batey 7. But even more than that, the participants felt that they could work better together. So they set a date to meet again, and February 27th, they created the Counsel for Community Health and Development, with the executive committee made up of an equal number of representatives from each original group.

Each committee will continue to exist and work on their own agendas. But every two weeks, the executive committee of the counsel is scheduled to meet to discuss the points they have in common.

Neither Jenny nor I know for sure what will come of this, but coming as we do from two different Reformed traditions (Moravian & Presbyterian) and two different professions (health & agriculture), we really do believe the PC(USA) World Mission philosophy that we work better together. We think this new development has to be a good thing--adults with their experience and maturity working together with the youth, with their energy and vision. Pray with us for this new initiative, that it may become a powerful engine for transformation.

Kelvin (right, in black and white shirt), the assistant coordinator for the youth group, explains some of the goals and objectives of Batey 7's youth group.

Participants in the joint meeting of the Community Development Committee and the Youth for Development Club when they formed a new initiative, the Counsel for Community Health and Development.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Triunfadores de Jardineria de Batey 7--The Triumphant Gardeners of Batey 7

Part of the work Mark has been doing to support Jenny's work in Batey 7 and the Good Samaritan Clinic is a yard garden project, working with a group of youth to develop the space in the clinic complex. Mark started with this work in May 2012. Here are some pictures. Photos by Hypatia Bent, Mark Hare and Susan McLarty, all rights reserved.

The yard design that the crew put together last year. Buildings, in blue, or sometimes yellow, are (from left to right), the IED church, the kitchen and store room (bottom center), the clinic itself and the future house for an on-site doctor (upper right). Odd-shaped blue's are existing vegetation. Green are things we planned. The small rounds are vegetable tires. The curved area behind the clinic is what is called a "mandala" and was planned as a medicinal plant space. Moringa tree beds are near the coconut in the bottom right hand corner. The sun rises in the upper right hand corner of the complex and generally sets in the lower left.

Preparing vegetable tires. Juanito, with machete, is the leader of the Triumphant Gardeners. Juanito has also been the stable member of the group, which has changed membership completely in the 17 months since we started. The current team seems to be excited about what they are accomplishing and they have become reliable workers. As a result, the garden work is taking off.

Malabar spinach growing out of the vegetable tires planted along the side of the kitchen/storehouse. Unlike temperate spinach, Malabar spinach likes hot weather and heavy rains. The hot weather is no problem and the heavy rains  are provided by the team members.

Mark (behind), Juanito and a friend looking at an amaranth seedbed in one of the tires. Team members have harvested cherry tomatoes, eggplant, amaranth and green peppers from the tires, along with a lot of the spinach.


Leo, one of the staunch team members, watering the Malabar spinach. The crew had three watering cans (two provided by the Westminster group), but all three are broken. Watering cans are one of those things that are easy to find in Haiti but hard to come by in the DR.

Batey 7 team members with a folks from a visiting work brigade, after four days of building the Mandala behind the clinic. The work brigade came from Westminster Presbyterian Church in Greenville, South Carolina.

Westminster PC group and Batey 7 team members. And Mark (in back, center).

Mandala. The center is planted with lemongrass, aloe and basil.We are still working on finding sources of medicinal plants to fill all of the mandala beds, so in the meantime the team is using the space for vegetables such as eggplant.

Tree bags planted with moringa seeds in a rooftop tree nursery. Mark and Clinton are covering the bags with banana leaves to maintain humidity while the seeds sprout.

Leo watering three beds of moringa trees, transplanted from the rooftop tree nursery about three months prior to this picture, taken in August 2013. The rooftop tree nursery worked extremely well.

Moringa trees produce highly edible and highly nutritional leaves that can be cooked like spinach, included in salads or used in stews and soups, or cooked together with rice or cornmeal dishes. The mature leaves can be dried and pulverized and added to foods as a nutritional supplement. Moringa leaves are very high in beta carotene, iron and calcium. When the fresh leaves are used, they are also very high in Vitamin C. Moringa leaves also provides a significant of protein that has all of the necessary enzymes. Roots, bark and flowers also have medicinal values. The young seed pods can be eaten cooked and the mature seeds can be processed for oil. Crushed seeds are also used as a natural flocculating agent for clarifying dirty water as the first part of treatment.

The Batey 7 team has a lot of work left to do to make their plan a reality, but they are moving forward, and that is very exciting, especially considering that Mark can only spend, on average, two days a month with them.