Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Interesting article

Hi all,

I heard this newsbit this morning about how researchers used cell phone towers and to track population migration after the Haiti earthquake, also during the cholera outbreak at the end of 2010 (and into the current times).  

I found the original article.  What you can see from the attached photo is an arrow that I placed on the map, pointing to Pestel.   The size of the ball indicates the # of people who migrated from Port-au-Prince to Pestel just after the earthquake.

This indicates that 10,000 people migrated into Pestel after the earthquake.   

What our household survey indicated was that 1/2 the families surveyed took in, on average, about 4 people.   If there are 10,000 families (est) in Pestel, then 5000 families took in 20,000 people.   

So we'll split the difference and say 15,000

The article:

The newsbit:

Friday, August 26, 2011


Hi all,

I received verbal support from my Chair today regarding my request to submit a sabbatical proposal.  This is a big step!   That means he and my department of Family and Community Medicine will support a proposal that I put together.  

Now I need to refine and develop my proposal, then submit it by the end of December.

Thanks to all who were praying about this issue.  I see it as a potentially very big and important step forward.  There are still plenty of details and items to be worked out before I even submit the proposal.  

Vitamin A campaigns

Hi all,

I just double-checked my math with one of my colleagues, and so I'll share this with you:

A new article just came out that looked at all the evidence behind doing Vitamin A campaigns in places like Pestel  The results confirmed prior studies.  Well done research.

The article confirmed that by providing twice yearly Vitamin A (as we have been doing in Pestel since early 2010) we reduce child deaths (ages 6 months to 5 years) by 24%.   

I did the math this morning
That means through just the Vitamin A campaigns 180 children's lives are saved each year in Pestel!!!

And can you guess the cost to save each of those children's lives?    

$200 per life saved

That means, we spent $35,000 last year on the child campaigns.  And we did more than just provide Vitamin A with that money.  But if you divide 35,000 / 180  = $200.

Take-home:  we got fantastic bang-for-the-buck.  

And there are a lot more benefits to a lot more kids beyond even this.  Consider the # of kids who will retain their vision, have boosted immune systems, reduce episodes of diarrhea, and so forth.

But I certainly think that's well worth celebrating!!!

It is one thing to celebrate numbers and good results, but I'd also ask that you consider the impact on a family that did not lose their child last year because of this effort.

"Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord."   

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Tropical storm update

The tropical storm has turned into a hurricane.  
It was projected to drive straight over Haiti, but now it appears to have moved slightly to the north so that it is still going to affect Haiti, but not a direct hit on most of it.  

I remember one of the hurricanes last year...Gustav I think it was...that was making a bee-line for Haiti, and most specifically Pestel.   This was just when I was planning to travel to Pestel and had to cancel the trip.  
We had prayed about the hurricane also and we saw it take a sudden westward (leftward) shift out to sea in the hours before it was to pass over the area of Pestel.  

There was still significant crop and land damage throughout Pestel, but the reported loss of life was related to individuals who tried to cross a swollen, flooded-out road.  

I think we should marvel at these sorts of answers to prayer.  I'd be tempted to think it was such good luck, if I didn't see that God answer prayers in a multitude of ways.  

Prayer is not magic, though.  Prayer is aligning our hearts' desires with God's heart, our will with His.  Prayer is an appeal and a confession and a praise.  As Christ said when the worst of the "hurricanes" was rushing at his very life:  Not my will but Thine be done.

I don't think prayer is resignation, in the sense of 'giving up' or a sense of fatalism.  It is often instead a rest, and one that sometimes takes a good bit of energy on our part as we bring under discipline that which hinders us from resting in God.

Please pray for my mom.  She is in the hospital right now for an infection.  Many of you know that she just completed her chemotherapy, and while that was really hard on her body, we are so thankful that she's reached the end of it.  But it's been a very long season for her and for my dad.  

Monday, August 22, 2011

A few more updates

I'm passing this on to you in advance of it's official publication (in the monthly Slate Hill Church Hilltop Happenings) so that you can see some of the creative ideas people brought forward on the $10 fundraiser.   Pretty cool, huh?

Also, some really really really good news from Sisters Fidelis and Jo:  they have informed me that they are in the process now of building a guest house in Pestel!!   This is a really wonderful development and will really be a excellent expansion of the good work that has already been going on in Pestel for years!   I'm excited to see it!  From my perspective this provides a crucial element to the work moving forward.  The house is being built in the mountain village of Ferye where Sisters Fidelis and Jo both live.  
This is a video from 2008 of the property:
[I should probably make an updated version] 

What Did Slate Hill Do With Ten Bucks and a Talent?

The challenge: to turn ten dollars and a talent you have into resources for expanding the reign of God. During this summer, participants in Slate Hill: Mission in Motion, the intergenerational Christian education series, had the opportunity to invest time and talent into raising money to buy supplies to make solar food dryers, which will be used in Haiti to preserve food for sale at markets and for eating in the off season.  Designed by Johnny Zook and supported by Thriving Villages International, the nonprofit started by Ben and Jen Fredrick, a solar food dryer like the kind that will be built in Haiti sat at the front of the church throughout the summer as a reminder of where the ten-bucks-and-a-talent money was heading.

So what talents did people put to use to go along with the ten dollars? The following is not an exhaustive list, in part because the projects were just finishing up in late August and early September, but it includes at least some of the participants and the creative projects they did:

--Betty Zimmerman made purses and sold them at the Messiah Village gift store, with proceeds benefiting both the solar-dryer project and a Messiah Village fundraising project.

--Paul Sollenberger baked cookies and sold them at the Slate Hill rummage sale.

--Julie Zook made jewelry and sold it at various church functions.

--Lucy McAloose made packages of cookies to sell.

--Nancy Nisly and Janet Zimmerman sold whoopie pies and Nancy sold zucchini bread during coffee time.

--John Eby made greeting cards and Joyce Eby made mini-loaves of zucchini bread and pies to sell during coffee time.

--Lorraine Myers made blueberry and rhubarb jam and sold it at the Slate Hill rummage sale.

--Dave Haury baked four batches of butterhorn rolls and sold them during coffee time at church.

--Dottie Seitz made apple, strawberry-rhubarb, and blueberry pies and sold them to friends and family.

--Jeremy and Stacy Stoltzfus made pulled pork barbecue to sell at a kids' soccer game on August 21.

--Matt and Ben Fasick, Micah and Ellie Frederick, and Sam, Isaiah, and Henry Weaver Zercher bought additional refreshments to sell at the soccer game on August 21.

--Isaiah and Henry Weaver Zercher sold spinach and radishes from their garden to neighbors and grandparents.


Several people, like Dottie Seitz, reinvested their initial profits in order to produce more items. Dottie took the proceeds from sales of her first pies in order to buy supplies for future ones.  She says that when people heard that the profits would be used to make solar food dryers, they were eager to donate even more than she was asking for per pie. "People were very willing and glad to give to that," Dottie says. "My cousin gave me twenty-five dollars for one pie!"

Slate Hill: Mission in Motion was coordinated by the Evangelism, Peace, and Service Commission in cooperation and with support from the Christian Education Commission. Thanks to Luisa Miller for keeping attendance with the "passports" and to Rose Haury for making the Slate Hill: Mission in Motion banner.

-- submitted by Valerie Weaver-Zercher


Sunday, August 21, 2011

August news bits

Hi all,

During the summer months our church (Slate Hill Mennonite Church) has been featuring a different missions group after the church service.  As part of this missions in motion summer series, the coordinators put together a very clever fund-raiser.  They made $10 available to anyone who wanted to use his/her talents to try to raise more money for Thriving Villages.  Specifically, the funds will be used to help provide solar fruit dryers that Johnny Zook as developed for Pestel.   

I think the idea is fantastic, and is based on Jesus' parable of the talents.    I'll see about getting you a write-up of the different ways people used their gifts.  

One really creative way occurred today after church.  Several of the kids in our church have been planning a soccer game fund-raiser that happened after church today.  As part of that, some of the $10 was used to purchase drinks and food to sell at the soccer game.  

It's really exciting for us to see people excited about participating in helping the people of Pestel.  And it's amazing to see young children coming up with creative ways to participate all on their own!  

A couple of weeks ago our church held a rummage sale.  Pat and Bill White put a tremendous amount of time and effort into this, and half the proceeds were donated to Thriving Villages!!   They raised over $800 for Thriving Villages!

I'll let you know how much the $10 fundraiser brought in.  I think the final total will come next week, or thereabouts.

This is really about allowing us to participate in the good work that God has laid out.  It's not and has never been compulsory.  In fact, you've probably seen a general lack of appeals for donations and so forth.  That's been intentional, and is our way of operating as we try to determine how best to navigate forward in God's will.   If people are compelled it is because the message is somehow ringing true in their lives.  

There are a couple of important items that we'd ask you consider praying about:

  • Tropical Storm Irene.  It's going to hit Haiti around Tuesday.  
    • A tropical storm can cause significant devastation, especially in a place like Haiti.  The word I received about the last tropical storm is that it did not appear to cause much damage.  That's based on limited info, but I also didn't see much in the news.
  • Political situation in Pestel.  Recently the new representative to the Haitian govt for Pestel died (gunshot).   An investigation is underway.  
  • Sabbatical.  I'm putting together a proposal to take a sabbatical next year (July 2012-June 2013).  I'll be meeting with my Chair this week to talk about it.


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A few items

Hi all,

I received an email back from Wings of Hope, the orphanage in PAP that had two children recently die.  The cause was cholera, and they've been able to stop the cholera and all are back to normal health now.   Thanks for your prayers!!

My friend Charles forwarded this new website to me, just released by the World Health Organization.  It's on Nutrition issues.   

What's encouraging to me to see is that their initial focus is on some of the areas that we're engaged in for Pestel:  
Vitamin A
Iron deficiency anemia

I was pleased to read this in particular:
In settings where the prevalence of anaemia in preschool or school-age children is 20% or higher, the WHO recommends the intermittent use of iron supplements as a public health intervention to prevent anaemia and improve the iron status among these children.

Pestel's anemia prevalence is 50%.  As part of our Anemia Campaign in Pestel we are trying the intermittent (weekly) dosing of iron in some Sections and comparing it to daily dosing of iron in other Sections.  

So the WHO site is good validation that we're on the right track!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Tropical storm Emily

Hi everyone

I've been watching a storm down in the Atlantic, and it appears that it will go over Haiti sometime tomorrow evening or Thursday morning

I've sent word to Dr. Seneque so that he can notify the workers to spread the word.   It does not appear to be a hurricane at this point.


Thriving Villages Blog

Monday, August 1, 2011

Pray for an orphanage in Haiti

Hi all,

In the past I have helped a couple of orphanages in PAP.  One of those orphanages is called Wings of Hope, and they provide care and love to about 30 or so handicapped and severely disabled kids.  Many have cerebral palsy and seizure disorders, and mental retardation.  A number of them are wheelchair bound, for example.   The orphanage is amazing.

Over the weekend, though, I received an email that 2 of their children had died.  Both inexplicably.  I knew both of them.   This morning I received another email, that I will share below.
I have emailed them back to see if there is anything I can do, and I will pass that along to you once I find out.  

Please pray for the community of Wings of Hope.   You may recall that they had to abandon their orphanage after the earthquake caused severe structural damage.  I blogged about this last year.  

--------------------- Email from Wings of Hope------------

Please keep the children of Wings of Hope, and their caregivers, in your prayers. Some others are now sick and we are doing everything we can for them physically and medically, but also know the value of surrounding them in prayer.

We do not know exactly what is causing this, but we are treating the symptoms with the best medical care we can. And surrounding them with prayer, tenderness and love.

This is a scary time for everyone — the children who are sick, the people who are caring for them, and the other children who wonder what is happening to their friends and who are frightened that they might be next.

Your support, friendship and love is what sustains us. Please stand with us now and surround everyone involved with your prayers.


Their website


Thriving Villages Blog