Imagine the scene. A scheduled meeting takes place with 12 community representatives. Such is the concern about the issues at hand that by the end of the meeting there are over 400 people in attendance. All have just heard by word of mouth that an important meeting is taking place and they want their voice to be heard. This was exactly the situation when the Projects Team in The Salvation Army Kenya East Territory met with 12 members of The Salvation Army from Maiani, Kenya in 2013 to discuss the possibility of developing a local health center. By the end of the meeting, many of the 400 community members present were voicing their own story of the problems of poor access to health care through speeches, drama and song and giving their wholehearted support to building the clinic.
Four years ago I worked in Port au Prince Haiti as the Project Officer for The Salvation Army. It had been a couple years since the earthquake hit in 2010, so there was plenty of reconstruction and development underway. One of the areas where The Salvation Army had a large presence was on a compound in Delmas 2, a very poor part of the city that was heavily affected by the earthquake. All of The Salvation Army’s buildings here were damaged and unsafe to use.
We embarked on a number of projects to reconstruct a brand new school, Corps Community Center, church, hospital, clinic and four new houses for the officers stationed at these facilities. By the time I left in 2014, progress was still underway, but the compound was a construction site so it was hard to envision what it would look like when it was eventually finished.
Jessica Horwood, Technical Advisor, The Salvation Army World Service Office
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With a staff of six, the clinic is run by the local Salvation Army Corps and serves the community by providing accessible, basic healthcare within a Christian setting. In the first four months of operation, it has served 1000 new patients. A number of babies have also been safely delivered in this health facility, close to their new families.
In a short space of time, Maiani Clinic has already become a visible demonstration of integrated community-focused health care, which is very much part of The Salvation Army’s mission around the world through its reach of 318 hospitals and clinics. Placing the Maiani Clinic within The Salvation Army compound, alongside The Salvation Army’s primary school and secondary school for girls gives the Army a unique ministry of holistic healing. It also advances its mission to be an agent of change in people’s lives and within the community.
As the clinic grows, plans are already underway to develop a much wider community health program, which will give the local Salvation Army an even greater chance to develop deeper relationships with the community members they serve. In the words of one community member, “This is a true place of healing.”
Hurricane Matthew inflicted devastating effects on Haiti, particularly in the south of the country. Post- hurricane assessments revealed extensive damage to crops, trees, livestock and fisheries, as well as to infrastructure. In its wake, 1.4 million Haitians were left in need of humanitarian assistance with more than 800,000 in need of urgent food assistance.
Despite damage to The Salvation Army’s infrastructure in Haiti, including damage to many Salvation Army schools, officers and employees reacted quickly, working through their corps, schools and clinics to serve those in need in 30 communities with food, water, and shelter. During initial response, more than 800 people in emergency shelters were met with cooked meals for several days, followed by the provision of rice, beans, oil, and corn to approximately 4,000 people.
Family farming is the primary food source for most Haitians. Across Haiti, Hurricane Matthew not only eliminated 90% of the most recent harvest, but compromised the upcoming planting season and the country’s ability to feed itself. In response, The Salvation Army is setting up emergency distributions of seeds and farming tools to ensure disaster-affected families and farmers can grow vegetables to restore their livelihoods and feed their communities in the months to come.
The hurricane also exacerbated the issue of cholera, which the country has been dealing with since the 2010 earthquake, reaching an estimated 5,800 people thus far. An extensive cholera prevention program of The Salvation Army, supported by The Salvation Army World Service Office (SAWSO) is ramping up in Fond-des-Negres which involves training 30 community health workers who will work in 60 different locations. Responsibilities will be to share information and instruction regarding hygiene, cleaning and how to deal with any suspected cases of cholera. Prevention kits will be distributed to 2,500 of the most vulnerable households. The next phase will be to construct and operate a cholera treatment unit to safely look after any cholera patients in the area.
In addition to cholera prevention, other long-term response plans include programs for livelihoods restoration; continuing food provisions; ongoing temporary housing; and housing reconstruction.
Programs such as these are made possible by the generosity of American donors. The Salvation Army has set up a designated fund where 100 percent of gifts go to relief efforts in Haiti. To give, visit salar.my/Matthew.
This past July I began working at The Salvation Army World Service Office (SAWSO), and was tasked with overseeing some of SAWSO’s projects in Haiti. In October, I made my first visit to the region so I was able to see how the work has developed over the years since I had left in 2014. At last, all the construction at Delmas 2 was completed! Major Rae Doliber of The Salvation Army Caribbean Territory was filled with pride as she took me on a tour of the new hospital, which was fully staffed and operating. Kids were running around the new school, so happy not to be in a makeshift building on a construction site anymore. It was such a joy to finally see the final product after years of anticipation and hard work.
Unfortunately, Hurricane Matthew struck the southern peninsula of Haiti during the week I was visiting. Many of the schools, homes and Corps Community Centers that had been constructed in the years following the earthquake were once again damaged, even though they had been built to withstand hurricane winds. Making matters worse, many of the livelihoods of the communities where we worked were destroyed. The heavy wind and rainfalls wiped away the harvests of many farmers in the areas, leaving families and communities food insecure and dependent on imported food aid.
I was glad to be there during that time of crisis and to see how quickly The Salvation Army in Haiti mobilized to act upon the issues at hand. The local officers wasted no time in getting food and water out to the victims and counseling to those who had lost everything. It was reminiscent of the days and years following the 2010 earthquake. Agricultural programs of The Salvation Army are now in the works that will restore family farming, cholera prevention efforts are underway, and ongoing food and housing provisions will be continue to be offered.
Despite the devastation that we see over and over again in Haiti, the spirit of Haitians and The Salvation Army in Haiti is stronger than ever. The heartfelt support of donors is what bolsters this type of resilience, and is what has made our 66-year presence in the country possible. I’m so proud to work for an organization that not only serves communities in their time of immediate need, but exists as an integral member of the community to bring its neighbors to full healing and restoration. And I want to say thank you to all Salvation Army supporters who make this necessary work possible.
Following much prayer, hard work and financial support from many, including The Salvation Army World Service Office (SAWSO), The Salvation Army worked with the community to develop a new clinic. The actual construction of the building was not difficult, but wiring electricity to the structure proved difficult and time-consuming.
Perseverance paid off when in June, 2016 the dream was realized and what would be named “Maiani Clinic” was opened. The clinic is one of the best equipped in the whole county, with funding for the equipment provided by SAWSO. After just a few months in operation, it is proving a much-needed service in an area that suffers poverty and drought.
The subsequent community conversations and research revealed the nearest clinic to the Maiani Salvation Army Corps (community center) was 13 miles away. For some this meant a walk or motor-bike taxi ride of over 18 miles, which was proving problematic, expensive, and sometimes fatal when it came to addressing serious health concerns.
A number of particularly tragic stories of pregnant women with complications in birth having to get on the back of a motorbike and traverse the roads with devastating consequence heightened the realization of the need for the clinic. This was a community with an above average mortality rate within the area and a below average coverage of immunizations for children. It was a community crying out for justice and healing.