During his recent visit to Thomazeau, Haiti, College of Pharmacy Dean Phil Johnston visited villages with LiveBeyond workers and a Belmont delegation to aid and dispense medications to a woman in postpartum, a father with high blood pressure, a small boy with worms and a man with a hip injury. The most powerful experience of them all was when a man who received medical attention sang a Christian hymn in Creole as his Voodoo-practicing neighbors gathered around and listened.
“It was like watching a Bible story about caring for the least of these,” Johnston said.
He, along with College of Health Sciences & Nursing Dean Cathy Taylor and Nursing Assistant Professor Robin Cobb, visited LiveBeyond’s base in Haiti last week to identify areas of student mission participation and to flush out unique partnerships between the University and the nonprofit organization that would allow Belmont students to provide medical and educational resources as well as business development to the ailing Caribbean country. Founded by retired trauma surgeon David Vanderpool, LiveBeyond moved its headquarters in May into Belmont’s Facilities Management Services building at the corner of 15th and Delmar avenues. The organization’s 64-acre Haitian base encompasses medical care, nutrition, maternal health, orphan care, education development, community development and infrastructure, agriculture and demonstration farms, clean water projects and community outreach visits to those with special needs and disabilities in a region 25 miles northeast of Port Au Prince, Haiti.
“We certainly were able to get a great flavor for the compound and the vision for what is there now and the vision for what is planned,” said Taylor, who co-hosted a convocation-credit forum to share more about the team’s experiences at noon Feb. 19 in McWhorter Hall room 114.
“Our goal is to have a regular loop of students and faculty who are not only performing service mission work but really practicing and working with patients to deliver care and to train folks who live there,” Taylor said. She believes it is important for the University to focus on the opportunity to live out its complimentary mission with LiveBeyond that is focused on service through training professionally and working in an environment that allows students to practice while living and sharing their faith. “There are many lessons to be learned from this experience. Cultural contributors to health care and health beliefs are remarkably different and that would be a powerful experience for our students.”
The deans said they foresee credit-bearing courses for Belmont students in Haiti. A general education elective is already planned for this Maymester. A pharmacy elective on cultural enrichment and development where students learn culture, policies and medical language before working in-house at hospitals abroad alongside doctors, nurses, anesthesiologists and business managers to gain interprofessional experience could begin as early as this fall.
“This is about understanding your place in the world is to serve God and serve others. To go anywhere and understand how to incorporate it in your profession as a pharmacist who sees the world,” Johnston said.
LiveBeyond’s mission parallels the University’s Christian roots and provides care in a country where the indigent are outcast “so that others can Live Beyond disease, hunger, poverty and despair.”
A second Belmont delegation made the same trip to Thomazeau, Haiti on Feb. 20 with Associate Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies & Global Education Mimi Barnard, School of Religion Dean Darrell Gwaltney, College of Arts & Sciences Dean Bryce Sullivan, Associate Dean of Students Becky Spurlock and Ministry Adviser and Liberal Studies Program Adjunct Instructor Martha Minardi.
Since Barnard oversees Belmont’s study abroad programs her discussions centered on future trips including spring break in 2015. Gwaltney plans to work on a training program for the Haitian pastors of Thomazeau, Haiti on the LiveBeyond campus. Sullivan discussed possible research and study abroad opportunities for College of Arts and Sciences faculty and students with Vanderpool. Minardi made detailed plans for a 2014 Maymester trip to Haiti already fully enrolled.
“Belmont education professors have already made a number of trips to Grand Guave, Haiti to provide professional development training for teachers and educational administrators. With our formal relationship with LiveBeyond, Belmont will be able to help develop and provide research support for an educational program that will serve the Thomazeau people,” Sullivan said. There are plans for an orphanage, primary and secondary school on the Thomazeau campus.
“There are more than 15,000 non-governmental organizations in Haiti, but most look at a single aspect rather than finding a way to develop sustainable programs that involve Haitians directly in finding solutions. Belmont and LiveBeyond believe that our partnership will allow Belmont students and the Nashville community to help develop a sustainable future for Haiti. Our students come to Belmont to find ways to engage and transform our world. Partnerships like the one between Belmont and LiveBeyond allow that to happen by bringing the reality of our world to campus and allowing them to find a way to make a difference for those with the greatest need,” said Provost Thomas Burns.