Advocacy Group, MHA Team Up To Create Birthing Kits For Haiti

Members of both the United Christian Advocacy Network and the Mental Health Association gathered together Friday morning to create 50 birthing kits to send with missionaries to Haiti. Pictured from left are Jennifer Diamond, Amanda Penhollow, Samantha Sargent, Joshua Crist, Charlie Hodges, Joe Anderson and Benny Karlson. P-J photo by Katrina Fuller

A Ziploc bag filled with small items may not seem like much, but to a pregnant woman in Haiti, it means life.

Early Friday morning, members of the United Christian Advocacy Network and the Mental Health Association gathered to create birthing kits to send with missionaries to Haiti.

The simple kits are stored in plastic storage bags and contain a plastic sheet for the woman to lay on, a delivery blanket, three strings to tie off the umbilical cord, a razor blade to cut the umbilical cord, a bar of soap and rubber gloves.

According to estimates by the United Nations Population Fund and other partner UN agencies, a pregnant woman in Haiti has a 1 in 80 chance of dying either during child birth or pregnancy, and the infant mortality rate is 59 deaths for every 1,000 live births.

“These little kits provide at least a semi-sanitary birthing opportunity to cut way back on infection,” said Charlie Hodges, Bemus Point United Methodist Church and Christ First UMC coordinator of mission and outreach. “These kits save the lives of babies and mothers.”

Hodges was on hand to help build the kits along with MHA members.

“You can see the enthusiasm of everyone participating (here),” he said. “I think people inherently like to help other people, and when we give people the opportunity to help other people, they step up. This is a really good opportunity for people from the Mental Health Association to step up, dive in and be part of a project.”

The collaborative building effort helped to create 50 birthing kits which will be sent with missionaries next week to Haiti.

Hodges said there have been many similar mission trips to Haiti over the years through Allegany Regional Missions. He said they asked the members of the MHA to help create the kits because it is a labor-intensive process.

“We’re working on a school down there, but when we go, the missionaries there ask us to bring these kinds of things just so we can help out,” Hodges said. “The Zonta Club also provides them for us, but we had some extra luggage space this time, so we thought this would be a good project to get the people at the Mental Health Association to get outside of themselves, think of other people and offer some hope to people in Haiti.”

The trip is sponsored by the Bemus Point United Methodist Church and the Christ First United Methodist Church. Nineteen mission workers will be going on the trip. Some participants are from the Lakewood Baptist Church and the Sherman Community Church.

“It’s a multi-church effort,” Hodges said.

Samantha Sargent, a volunteer kit builder, said she enjoyed building the kits because she loves children and is glad to help. Sargent said she also enjoys doing good works with the Mental Health Association.

“I came down here about 10 months ago, and this place literally saved my life,” Sargent said, adding she has been clean for 10 months. “Anything I can help them with, I have done … I run groups now and I’m taking peer advocacy classes to become a recovery coach, so it’s amazing to me to do stuff like this. I never would have thought in a million years I would be doing something like this and helping someone.”

She said the MHA and UCAN have helped so many people in a variety of ways, and the kits are just one way they are continuing to do so.

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