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Local nurse keeps close to Haiti

Trains birth attendants, raising money for family to build a home

submitted photo/Yuri
Since the catastrophic earthquake in January 2010, Baystate Franklin Medical Center nurse Alison Childs has taken 12 trips to Haiti to help people, like this child, overcome poverty and improve their health care.

submitted photo/Yuri Since the catastrophic earthquake in January 2010, Baystate Franklin Medical Center nurse Alison Childs has taken 12 trips to Haiti to help people, like this child, overcome poverty and improve their health care.

GREENFIELD — Less than one month after the January 2010 earthquake that displaced and killed hundreds of thousands of Haitians, a Baystate Franklin Medical Center nurse joined the relief effort to help provide medical assistance to the country’s poor people.

It was the first trip of many for Alison Childs, a 49-year-old Northampton resident and 13-year Baystate Franklin employee. She returned to the country this month for the 12th time in the past three years — to oversee a medical clinic she directs and to train birth attendants on proper and safe childbirth techniques.

On her trip this month, Childs trained 14 birth attendants — increasing the total number to 72.

They’re women who enter the field either because it’s a family tradition, they believe it’s their calling or were prompted to do so in a dream, said Childs. As a result, most lack formal training and basic resources like gloves, soap and medical supplies.

In addition to training the women and equipping them with proper tools, Childs is working to ramp up the clinic’s birth data collection. She wants there to be a better system for the birth attendants to report new births.

During her trips to Haiti — which she takes during vacation time from her nursing job — Childs has formed a relationship with the Pierre family, who live in the capital city Port-au-Prince. She is the namesake and godmother to the youngest Pierre child and is using some of her own money to buy the Pierres a quarter-acre parcel of land and to construct them a new home.

The land and the house, which each costs about $8,000, will allow the Pierres to have their first permanent home in years.

Fundraising efforts by congregational churches in Conway, Hadley and Shelburne and Longmeadow High School have helped Childs pay off more than half of the costs already. The next fundraiser is a tag and food sale this Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the First Congregational Church of Hadley.

The country is seeing some progress, said Childs, especially after the May 2011 presidential election of Michel Martelly. Many residents have moved out of tent cities into permanent homes, the airport was cleaned up and schools were built.

But still, she said, the country’s poverty is at a level below anything many United States residents have seen.

“There’s a complete lack of septic systems in many areas,” said Childs. “A lot of people are still living on less than $1 or $2 a day. There’s not a lot of jobs.”

Ipswich-based non-profit organization Partners in Development — which helps fight poverty in Haiti and Guatemala and organizes trips there — runs the medical clinic that Childs coordinates. It’s located in northern Port-au-Prince.

She presented on the clinic’s recent work at a “Unite for Sight” conference at Yale last month.

You can reach Chris Shores at:
cshores@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261, ext. 264

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