Just days before Hurricane Matthew ripped through Haiti, Steve Taylor, Lipscomb’s filmmaker-in-residence in the College of Entertainment & the Arts, was among 12 state leaders including former U.S. Senate Majority leader Bill Frist, MD; founder and president of Thistle Farms Becca Stevens; and actor and author Kimberly Williams-Paisley; to tour Haiti focusing on humanitarian efforts supported by U.S. governmental funding.

Steve Taylor

Beginning Sept. 25 and ending Sept. 27, Hope Through Healing Hands, a Nashville-based global health organization, teamed up with CARE, a leading humanitarian organization fighting global poverty, to provide a learning tour to Haiti with faith-based influencers to see how vital U.S. investments and partnerships are in improving health outcomes for women as well as their families and communities.  

Within the three-day trip, delegates saw firsthand the role that U.S. investments play in building healthier, stronger and more resilient communities through health care services. These crucial health care services include pre- and post-natal care, nutrition counseling, healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies through family planning, and access to a variety of other health interventions, such as community health worker counseling and low-cost health insurance.

Since 1954, Haiti has worked to rebuild its country from Hurricane Hazel, as well as a massive 7.0 magnitude earthquake in 2010, which together killed over 300,000 people.

“Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, and the country can’t seem to catch a break,” said Taylor. “Barely a week had passed since we left before Hurricane Matthew struck Haiti with deadly force. As bad as things are, they would be so much worse if it wasn’t for assistance and partnerships with organizations like CARE, USAID and many others, including a lot of faith-based NGOs.”

During the trip, Taylor says the team visited a number of health clinics and hospitals throughout Port-au-Prince and the Central Plateau regions of Haiti. They also met with partner organizations from the U.S., such as Project Medishare and J/P HRO, as well as Haitian women and community health agents to learn more about the successes and challenges they may encounter.

“We toured everything from health clinics and hospitals to microfinance co-ops,” said Taylor. “It’s hard not to be overwhelmed with the needs in Haiti, but I like the fact that Senator Frist’s organization starts with the word Hope.”

They also spent time with CARE’s Village Savings and Loan Association program, which helps women save and generate money in hopes that they will one day use the funds to generate small businesses and critical health services for their families.

Taylor said he has enjoyed sharing his experience with his students at Lipscomb, especially his visit to a microfinance co-op.

“One of the most impactful visits was to a microfinance co-op made up of about a dozen poor women who pool their resources, loan each other small amounts of money at a low interest rate, then work as a group to help each other become self-sufficient and insure the loans get repaid,” said Taylor. “CARE has created over 40,000 of these Village Savings and Loans Associations throughout the developing world with over 1 million total members, and it’s having proven success.”

Taylor, who is a filmmaker, writer, producer and recording artist, was asked to be part of this trip because of his long activism and sustained interest in global health including HIV/AIDS, extreme poverty, and maternal and child health. He also had the opportunity to photograph and film the tour for public pieces that will be released within the coming months. 

“As a prominent thought leader in the Christian community, his voice and credibility on the issues provide a gravitas to inform and educate people of faith the critical importance of funding for vulnerable populations around the world,” said Jenny Dyer, executive director for Hope Through Healing Hands.

“This learning tour to Haiti provided the opportunity for the delegation to trace USAID funding to specific women and children who were beneficiaries of healthcare and vaccinations because of our tax dollars. These are critical, life-saving investments, which provide a foundation of care for millions. These investments are crucial to provide sustained efforts to mitigate the affects of disasters, like Hurricane Matthew.”

Other participants of CARE’s September 2016 Learning Tour to Haiti include: Jenny Dyer, executive director, Hope Through Healing Hands; Cathleen Falsani, religion journalist, columnist and author; Tracy Frist, wwner, Sinking Creek Farm; Jennifer Grant, writer; Rachael Leman, senior director of citizen advocacy, CARE USA; Jo Saxton, director, 3DM; Meredith Walker, producer/executive director of Amy Poehler's Smart Girls; Tom Walsh, Senior program officer, Global Policy and advocacy, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; Corinne Williams-Anderson, education management Professional/CARE USA Advocate; and Rita Wray, vice president, E3 Vanguard/CARE USA Advocate.

About CARE

Founded in 1945 with the creation of the CARE Package®, CARE is a leading humanitarian organization fighting global poverty. CARE places special focus on working alongside poor girls and women because, equipped with the proper resources, they have the power to lift whole families and entire communities out of poverty. Last year CARE worked in 90 countries and reached more than 72 million people around the world. For more information visit: www.care.org/.

About Hope Through Healing Hands

Hope Through Healing Hands is a nonprofit 501(c) 3 whose mission is to promote improved quality of life for citizens and communities around the world using health as a currency for peace. Through the prism of health diplomacy, Hope Through Healing Hands seeks sustainability through health care service and training. This includes efforts for maternal, newborn & child health; healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies; clean water; extreme poverty; emergency relief; and global disease such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. For more information visit: www.hopethroughhealinghands.org

This article originally appeared on Lipscomb.edu.