Bill and Melinda Gates released their annual letter yesterday, making predictions, setting goals, and issuing challenges for the next 15 years. 

They believe that the next 15 years will be particularly transformational for world's poorest:"The lives of people in poor countries will improve faster in the next 15 years than at any other time in history. And their lives will improve more than anyone else's."

They highlight four areas of change in their letter. They are all worth reading, but the number one area of attention is health, specifically children's health. Child mortality has been falling dramatically, but newborn mortality hasn't enjoyed the steep decline other groups have, and maternal deaths are still far too common in some countries.

More than 287,000 women die annually from complications during pregnancy or childbirth leaving more than 1 million children motherless. Many of the youngest of those children won’t survive. Hope Through Healing Hands advocates for maternal, newborn, and child health with a special emphasis on  healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies.

Bill and Melinda Gates are betting on major breakthroughs in the next 15 years. We agree that we should be able to accomplish astounding things by 2030. But for mothers and babies, the future is even closer. If 120 million women get access to family planning resources, 3 million fewer babies will die in their first year of life by 2020, and 200,000 fewer women and girls will die in childbirth.

It will be a radical change. Will you join us?

Hope Through Healing Hands is thrilled to be a sponsor of the IF:Gathering in Austin, Texas. This year we will be hosting a luncheon between sessions on Saturday, February 7. IF:Gathering attendees can register for the luncheon here.  Today, HTHH’s executive director, Jenny Dyer, is sharing her story at Unleash, the IF:Gathering blog.  

Years ago, I read Tony Campolo’s quote that “there are over 2,000 scriptures that call us to respond to the poor.” Bono, the founder of ONE and of the band U2, likes to re-state this often, believing that this, in fact, is the drive of the Scriptures: to help those in poverty. “To whom much is given, much is required.” (Luke 12:48). They make a compelling case.

With this knowledge and argument in hand, I left a potential career in academia to pursue one in advocacy. I had been trained to teach Greek, the New Testament, and psychology of religion. Instead, I was called to use that knowledge as a platform to live out “the drive of the Scriptures”: to love our neighbors as ourselves.

I pursued the work of promoting awareness, education, and advocacy about the pandemic of HIV and AIDS in Africa and extreme poverty. My job was to engage church leaders across the United States in these complicated issues at the turn of the millennium. Today, I continue to do this work, engaging the church on behalf of some of the world’s poorest, for a spectrum of global health issues, including maternal, newborn, and child health.

Last year, I had the opportunity to meet Miheret Gebrehiwot. Miheret shared her story with us from her health post in the village of Gemed Kebele, in the Tigray province of Ethiopia. Lithe, poised, and with grace, she divulged in her native language of Amharic that she had been a child bride.

At 11 years old, Miheret had been expected to leave school and begin a life as a wife and mother. Over 50% of girls in northern Ethiopia are married by the age of 15. By 16, she was pregnant. And teen pregnancies can so often lead to health complications, education derailment, and ultimately, systemic poverty. Miheret shared that she was lucky. Her mother provided childcare for her children, and she was able to pursue a career as a health extension worker (HEW) and teach other young women how they can better care for themselves, their children, and their families. Because of young, committed women like Miheret, over 30% of women in Ethiopia now have access to information and services to make better decisions of when and how many children they wish to have.

I’m proud to say that Miheret’s story will be published in the upcoming book, The Mother & Child Project: Raising Our Voices for Health and Hope (Zondervan March, 2015). Miheret’s story and the stories of other women in developing nations around the world lay the foundation for the book. 46 other authors join this chorus of voices from across American sectors of society: artists, authors, actors, pastors, academic leaders, and nonprofit leaders join together to share their passion for maternal and child health.

More than 220 million women around the world who want to avoid pregnancy do not have access to the necessary education and resources that would enable them to do so. This is a critical issue. If women can “time” their first pregnancy until their early twenties, they are twice as likely to survive pregnancy and birth complications. And if they can “space” their pregnancies just three years apart, newborns are healthier and twice as likely to survive infancy. Healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies saves lives.

Maternal, newborn, and child health sit at the nexus of global health issues, influencing so many other challenges: extreme poverty, hunger, universal education, gender equality, and prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS. Studies show that maternal and child health may have more impact than any other global health issue today. The ripple effect improves the lives of families, communities, societies, and nations.

My job is to advocate for these women, children, and families. In Proverbs 31, King Lemuel’s mother instructs him in his ruling (Proverbs 31: 8-9):

Speak out for those who cannot speak,? for the rights of all the destitute.?

Speak out, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy

Advocacy is providing a voice for those who cannot speak. It is fighting for the marginalized, disenfranchised, and the oppressed.

There is so much we can do, beyond simply giving out of our pocketbook. We can offer our time, our attention, and our voice. We can be the change we want to see in the world. Just a few hundred voices of committed advocates across the U.S. can change the course of legislation to protect funding for U.S. programs that support the lives of women and children and families around the world. Women with stories just like Miheret. Please join us in lending your voice for maternal, newborn, and child health today.

Jenny Dyer

Originally at Unleash:


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Since last week, we’ve been busy with meeting more people and being exposed to a project that we’ll be working on while we’re in the Dominican Republic. Last Wednesday we attended a forum on preventing youth violence and delinquency in West Santo Domingo.
On the 10th of October I attended a Mass that was held in honor of individuals suffering from mental illness as it was World Mental Health Day. This was my first Mass held in Spanish, and additionally, it was held in the first cathedral in the Americas. The experience was really incredible.
Before arriving in Santo Domingo, I had to attend a pre-departure orientation that revolved around my experience, personal and professional expectations, and various rules and advice for the experience. Once I arrived in Santo Domingo, my preceptor, Teresa, took Milca and I out for lunch before heading to the office for their weekly Monday meeting.
How time flies, it is hard to believe my days in Munsieville will come to an end soon. We come and help building the new home every weekend (everyone was volunteering, so progress is slow, but tent and food are provided, so the family who lost their home is fine), today, the house is finally done, and I feel so happy and think it is a privilege to help people who live in shack. It is amazing that, with such limited resource, we build a high quality house in the shack with passion and faith.
There was an exciting activity going on throughout the whole week! It is called Munzy Kids Holiday Club. This five-day long event gathered nearly 200 children from kids in the community, most of them are from shack area like Mshenguville and Mayibuye. Without education background of leadership, our Thoughtful Path director Betty, a local woman, is naturally an excellent leader.

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