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.