Art House America

Mother and Child Guatemala

At the turn of the millennium, the global HIV/AIDS emergency captured the attention of people in new, life-changing ways. Among these concerned citizens, a large number of Christian artists emerged, united in galvanizing evangelical Christians to rethink their care and concern for those who were suffering from HIV/AIDS, largely in Africa. There, HIV was hollowing out societies across the continent, leaving children stranded as orphans, with seemingly no end in sight. Over 6,500 people were dying daily. 

Many in the Christian faith community took the lead in sharing the story of HIV/AIDS in Africa: Franklin Graham, Bono, and Bill Frist, to name a few. Academic, non-profit, religious, and activist communities took a stand, and our government was empowered to fight the pandemic. Today, because of strong leadership, over 14 million people who suffer with HIV and AIDS now have access to anti-retro viral medications around the world with the legislation passed during the Bush Administration: the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the Global Fund.  

This is a great story. But history might have been different if artists had not chosen to play a role. Bono, Ashley Judd, Michael W. Smith, and other brilliant artists, actors, and writers stepped forward to lend their currency of fame and fresh perspective and language to the enormity of a global health issue for disease and extreme poverty. Their ability to translate the need to the larger population created a key moment for change. 

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In 2015, Hope Through Healing Hands pulled together a collection of writers and artists to focus on the issues of maternal, newborn, and child health in developing nations to educate and activate Americans to participate in saving lives. And we compiled a book to be released later this month: The Mother & Child Project: Raising Our Voices for Health and Hope (2015), echoing its sibling, The aWAKE Project: Uniting against the African AIDS Crisis (2002), is a clarion call from the academic, political, non-profit, and artist communities to join with one voice for women’s and children’s health around the world. 

At the heart of the book are the voices of the women themselves. Mihret Gebrehiwot writes from Ethiopia about how spacing her children has allowed her to go back to work, and Beryl writes from Kenya about how education on spacing her children has allowed her baby to survive and thrive. Kiren writes from India about her opportunity to finish college, and Dorine writes from Burundi about how family planning combats extreme poverty. 

These women all have one thing in common: healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies has allowed them to have healthier, happier lives. And in some cases, it has saved their lives. More than 289,000 women die every year because of complications from pregnancy or childbirth, with 85 percent of maternal deaths occurring in Africa and South Asia. We can change this; more than 80 percent of these deaths are preventable. Skilled care during labor, delivery, and up to 48 hours postpartum make lifesaving differences. If a woman in these regions can time her first pregnancy between the ages of 20 and 24, she is 10 times more likely to survive pregnancy and childbirth. And if she can space her pregnancies just three years apart, her baby is twice as likely to survive the newborn stage.

When Hope Through Healing Hands talks about healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies — or voluntary family planning — in the international context, we mean enabling women and couples to determine the number of pregnancies and their timing, and equipping women to use voluntary methods for preventing pregnancy, not including  abortion, that are harmonious with their values and beliefs. Healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies is also central to achieving other global health goals, such as combating hunger and improving the status of women and girls. Family planning is a key, often hidden engine for additional global health achievements.

The Mother & Child Project offers a Discussion Guide to help readers work through the questions that these statistics and values will naturally raise. The guide includes an appendix of ways that you can get involved: philanthropy, awareness, and advocacy. Please consider using one meeting with a book club or fellowship group, a morning coffee with friends, or a blog post to share the good information this guide has to offer. 

The role of the artist in society is unique. Unlike bankers, teachers, police officers, senators, doctors, or professors, artists stand at the margins of society and write poetry and prose rife with metaphor and images as a kind of prophetic voice, hopefully with a vision of truth and love. This vision can empower community, uplifting the vulnerable, and provide a newfound hope for a better life for all. The artist has the power to bend language to her will to get “between the lines” of poetry to allow what the Bible calls “true religion” to emerge. With this perspective, there is beauty, clarity, and pure advocacy. 

We need more artistic voices — bards, musicians, poets, and novelists standing at the margins to share the stories of some of the world’s most vulnerable: mothers and children. As a community of writers, readers, prophets, and activists for justice, we ask you to join us and this emerging chorus of voices to discuss and debate how you and your community can get involved with saving the lives of mothers and children around the world. Your voice can make a difference. Your perspective can make a difference. Keep writing. 

Jenny Eaton Dyer, Ph.D. is the Executive Director of Hope Through Healing Hands, a Nashville-based global health organization. There, she leads the Faith-Based Coalition for Healthy Mothers and Children Worldwide. She also teaches Global Health Politics and Policy as a Lecturer in the Department of Preventive Medicine at Vanderbilt School of Medicine. Dyer formerly served as the National Faith Outreach Director for the DATA Foundation and The ONE Campaign, Bono’s organization, from 2003-2008. She lives in Franklin, Tennessee, with her husband, John, and two boys, Rhys (7) and Oliver (4).

This blog was originally published in Art House America.

The Tennessean | March 10, 2015

Dr. Ian Crozier, who became the nation’s third Ebola patient, is coming to Nashville to speak at a Hope Through Healing Hands and Siloam Family Health Center fundraising event at 7:30 p.m. March 31 at Montgomery Bell Academy.

Sen. Bill Frist, the founder of HTHH, will lead a conversation with Crozier, emphasizing the globally connected world of today, especially in terms of health specifically for women and children.

“Through this event we will have an opportunity to raise financial support for a new generation of global health care heroes like Dr. Crozier, both at home and abroad,” Jenny Dyer, executive director for HTHH, said in a news release.

Read the full article on The Tennessean.

Please join the CSIS Global Health Policy Center and Hope Through Healing Hands for an event to launch the new book, The Mother & Child Project: Raising Our Voices for Health and Hope, compiled by Hope Through Healing Hands and published by HarperCollins and Zondervan. This book brings together 47 notable contributors, including Melinda Gates, Kay Warren, and President Jimmy Carter, to raise awareness and promote advocacy for maternal, newborn, and child health worldwide, with a special emphasis on the importance of healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies.
Quetzaltenango, Guatemala – Manuala Tum, 25, cannot read or write. She lives in a dusty one-bedroom house with eight family members on just a few dollars a day. But that’s not stopping her from saving lives in her community.

For the last six months, she has been working with the global poverty-fighting organization CARE as a volunteer community health promoter. Her job is to help pregnant women prepare for the birth of their children. In Guatemala, where Manuala lives, pregnancy can be a death sentence: a mother there is five times more likely to die while giving birth than a mother in the United States.
NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE, March 4, 2015 – Ian Crozier, MD, a Vanderbilt-trained infectious diseases doctor who treated Ebola patients in West Africa before contracting and defeating the disease himself, is scheduled to speak at a fundraising event for Hope Through Healing Hands and Siloam Family Health Center on March 31 at Montgomery Bell Academy in Nashville, Tennessee.

Deployed by the World Health Organization, Dr. Crozier contracted Ebola while treating patients in Sierra Leone last summer and was the third—and the sickest—Ebola patient to be treated at Emory University.  Soon after evacuation to the United States, he became critically ill. On the verge of death, he received ground-breaking critical care in addition to an experimental Ebola drug and blood plasma from an Ebola survivor.  Dr. Crozier's identity was kept confidential until a New York Times feature story about him and his experience was published in December.

Sen. Bill Frist, Founder of Hope Through Healing Hands, will host a conversation with Dr. Crozier, emphasizing what a globally-connected world we live in, especially when it comes to matters of health – specifically for women and children.

"Through this event we will have an opportunity to raise financial support for a new generation of global health care heroes like Dr. Crozier, both at home and abroad," said Hope Through Healing Hands Executive Director Jenny Dyer, PhD.  To emphasize the local dimensions of global health, funds will also go to provide healthcare for with no other options, many of whom are immigrants or refugees served by Siloam Family Health Center.

"We are deeply grateful that Ian battled and overcame this deadly disease allowing us the opportunity to welcome him back to Nashville," added Siloam President and CEO Morgan Wills, MD, a longtime friend and former classmate of Dr. Crozier's at Vanderbilt School of Medicine.

Following a Patrons' Dinner at 6 p.m., the main event will begin at 7:30 p.m.  A reception for guests will follow at 9 p.m. Tickets are available online at or by contacting Katie Richards at [email protected]or 615-921-6114.

The event will take place at MBA's Paschall Theater, 4001 Harding Pike in Nashville.

Hope Through Healing Hands is a global health organization whose mission is to promote improved quality of life for citizens and communities around the world using health as a currency for peace.

Siloam Family Health Center is a nonprofit organization committed to helping Nashvillians "think globally and heal locally" as a frontline provider of charitable health care for all Nashvillians, especially immigrants and refugees.

EDITOR'S NOTE: If you have any questions about the event, or would like to attend, please contact: Melany Ethridge, (972) 267-1111, [email protected].

Tales From the Frontline Evite

The Washington Post | Feb. 23, 2015

At a health center here, a young woman is in the recovery room after a Caesarean section. A nurse takes the newborn to a table for cleanup. We (a group organized by the Center for Strategic and International Studies) are allowed to enter and see the child. But she starts struggling for breath. Three more nurses enter. One briefly applies bag-and-mask ventilation. Yet the infant’s breathing grows weaker and weaker as she turns a horrible shade of gray.

The suddenness of this little girl’s death, so soon after her welcome to the world, made it seem particularly cruel. To the nurses, however, it was hardly unusual. Later I was told that Tanzanian mothers often do not name their babies until long after birth, trying to avoid emotional attachment in a place where neonatal, infant and child mortality rates are so high.

I still don’t know what to make of the experience, except to pray for a woman and an innocent little soul and to realize that “neonatal mortality” is not something abstract. It happens in some room, on a table, under a heat lamp, where life’s best gift turns gray and cold.

Tanzania (along with much of the world) has made rapid progress in reducing child mortality — defined as children younger than 5. In one region I visited, rates have fallen by more than half during the past five years.

With the help of Gavi — the global vaccine alliance — vaccination rates in Tanzania are north of 90 percent, and new rotavirus and pneumococcal vaccines are arriving. Women walk and bicycle for miles to have their children vaccinated, while some American suburbanites engage in vaccine denialism. Tanzania’s vaccination rate for measles is higher than America’s. With the help of the President’s Malaria Initiative and the Global Fund, Tanzania is making progress against malaria, which is particularly dangerous for pregnant mothers and children younger than 5.

Read the full article on The Washington Post

I have come to Kijabe, Kenya with the help of the Hope Through Healing Hands with the goal of training local providers in the OR and ICU. My first days in Kenya have been uplifting, but I have been surprised at the case volume, severity, and complexity of the system here at AIC Kijabe Hospital.
This week, CARE is directing a congressional delegation to Guatemala including Rep. Diane Black (R-TN) and Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-NC), among other activists. The goal of our trip was to witness first-hand the lives of women and children across the nation in terms of health.

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