Thursday, 11 March 2021

Seven things to know about a new Bethesda.

 1.  The design is almost finished! Last February the design team visited Haiti to begin work on the design of a new Bethesda. We are partnering with Engineering ministries International who sent a team of  civil, electrical and structural engineers. An awful lot of work went into the plans and now EMI have completed the electrical and civil engineering plans. 

Another member of the team was Kyle, the founder of August Green design.  As described on their website 'August Green is an award winning design studio. We work globally with our clients to find creative solutions for today's challenges.' 

Haiti has many challenges and designing a brand new medical center in Haiti has a many more challenges.  Kyle has put countless hours into designing an amazing medical center which will overcome many of the challenges. 

One of the big challenges is the climate.  Its hot and humid in the winter, and hotter and more humid in the summer. 

I have seen first hand how the humidity destroys things.  We had a little toddler booster seat for Joel and after about 18 months the straps just fell apart.  Anything with batteries stops working quickly because they get rusted.  The only real solution is to air condition all of your buildings.  However this is not only expensive to install but very expensive to run and just not feasible due to the cost. We will have some rooms air conditioned such as X ray, depot and lab but for the others Kyle has come up with specific design features to overcome some of the challenges.  



2. Wind speed and direction are important when designing a new facility.  When one of your goals as a designer is to keep a building cool without using air conditioning you study the climate including the wind direction and wind speed.  Using the information from wind will help you decide at what angle to position your building!! It has been amazing to watch the amount of work and detail Kyle has gone into to produce such an excellent design. 



3. The material you use matters.  Most buildings in Haiti are constructed with cement block and inside is hot, like really hot.  If you have been in a Haitian home or the PT room at Bethesda you will know what I am talking about.  Some days I leave work and the outside feels cool and that's usually 30C plus (90F)! You can imagine how hot it is inside. 

The new clinic will be built using earth block.  Earth block is a low cost material made of dirt, sand and cement.  It is mould resistant, fire proof, water proof, earthquake and hurricane proof.  It also has thermal properties and will keep our buildings cool.  I have been inside a home built with earthblock and it is a lot cooler inside than outside. 



4. You can use the sun to your advantage.  We will be switching to using solar electricity which will greatly cut down the cost of diesel for the generator.  It also means we can continue to have power if there are fuel shortages in Haiti, which is not uncommon.  The design will also use the sunlight as natural lighting inside the buildings which not only looks beautiful but is cost effective. 


5. Starting from scratch is hard and expensive When you build something in the west you just hook up to the local electricity and water supply.  This is not possible where we are in Haiti.  In the community where our new property is most people will get their water from a water pump and there is no electricity unless a person has a generator which would be highly unusual.  So we have to start from scratch.  I mean getting a fully functioning water system starts with digging a well and includes things like having a water tower, working out how much water we will use on a daily basis, how much waste water we will produce and what we are going to do with that. Thank goodness for civil engineers!


As mentioned above we will be switching over to solar electricity, but will still need batteries and a generator as back up and for those occasional days when the sun is not out.  As a medical facility with  a 24 hour emergency department, a maternity department, vaccinations (which need to be kept refrigerated) and X ray it is vital we have electricity 24 hours a day.  That might sound strange to you, because where you live why wouldn't you have electricity 24 hours a day!! But not all places in Haiti who do have electricity have access to it 24 hours a day. 

6. This is big for Northern Haiti 

1 in 14 children in Haiti die before they reach their 5th birthday.  Hard to get your head around that statistic but think about your child's / grandchild's pre school class. 

In Haiti there are 2.5 doctors for every 10,000 people.  26 in the US, 23 in Canada and 28 in the UK. (WHO) 

There is no question there is need for healthcare in Haiti. 

But building a new facility, do we really need to spend the money on that? 

Well, imagine you have had a stroke and you are brought to the local clinic, you can't even sit up in bed, never mind walk.  The hospital you go to is so hot and you can't roll over or get up to get cooled down.  Sometimes at night the electricity comes on and off and there is no bathroom on the 'ward'.  Yes your doctor is great, and the nurses are doing the best they can to take care of you but they simply don't have the facilities and resources to do so. 

What I just described is our current emergency department, a converted meeting room.  Meeting the need but not nearly well enough. 



Haiti has, unfortunately, suffered from a mediocre attitude from a lot of people.  The kind of phrases I have heard are things like....

'It's Haiti, it's just the way things are.'

 'Sure that's what people are used to.' 

'We just have to make do with what we have.' 

'Well, its better than nothing, isn't it?' 

I am sure I am guilty of saying some of these myself. And yes there are times when we have to make do, and yes there are times when something is better than nothing BUT with those ideas and mindset comes an attitude of second best, of it's not really good enough for me but it will be fine for Haiti. 

Maybe even part of the reason Haiti continues to struggle. 

BUT if we truly believe that each and every person is made in the image of God regardless of where they come from, what they are used to, what language they speak or how much money they have then they deserve to be treated so.

Now put that into the context of medical care.  Imagine the kind of place you would want to go to have your baby, to get your teeth cleaned, to have a blood test, to get an X ray and the list could go on and on. I'm pretty sure you would not choose to go to some of the medical facilities (including our current facility at Bethesda) that are available in Northern Haiti. 

So yes we are going to spend the money to build a brand new, up to date, fit for purpose Bethesda Medical Center.  Having excellent facilities and providing high quality care shows the people of Haiti that we care, that God cares,  that we see their suffering and that we believe they deserve better. 



Please don't get me wrong, this is not about having a beautiful building (although that is a plus).  This is about having a medical center which has been designed to be exactly that, a medical center.  Not a converted meeting room, or a facility with a room added on here and there over the years. A place which has proper waste disposal, good patient flow, security (important in Haiti), 24 hour electricity, running water in all the rooms and sufficient bathrooms. A place where women WANT to go and give birth,  a place where people WANT to take their elderly parent after having a stroke and a place where every room is clean and designed for the service being offered. 

And then when people come because of the facilities, because of the care, they meet our staff and then most importantly,  they hear the good news of the gospel. 

Having a medical center of this caliber is big for Northern Haiti.

7. You can be part of this amazing project and have your donation matched!

It's been a long road to get to this point, we had an eviction notice in 2018, long periods of political unrest in Haiti throughout 2018/19 then a worldwide pandemic in 2020.  I mean, you could not have even made that up. 

But God has been good and now we are ready to get to the exciting bit...actually building! 

Phase 1 of construction includes earthwork, security wall, water supply system, initial power generation and initial waste water management.  

We also have a $100,000 matching gift challenge currently running until 31st March.  That means ALL money raised before March 31st will be matched up to $100,000!! If we meet the match we will be well on the way to having enough funds to complete Phase 1 of construction. 


If you feel led to donate you can do so through the new BMC website or if you are in the UK, you can give through  OMS UK

If you have any questions about the construction or design or want to know more about the project please feel free to contact me and I would be more than happy to answer any questions you have. 

Sorry this was so long...the post started out as five things but there are so many exciting things happening it just expanded!! 



Colossians 3 v 23

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, 

as working for the Lord, not for human masters. 



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