March 31, 2015 | Christianity Today

For more than a decade, God has taken me on a journey. A journey in which I had to walk by faith not by sight. I didn’t know where God was leading me, and I wasn’t sure I was ready to follow. But I did. I followed God to corners of the world I never imagined I would ever visit: places like Cambodia, Mozambique, and Rwanda. God called me out of my insulated suburban life in Southern California, opening my eyes to the painful reality of those in the most dire of circumstances—orphans, those living with HIV and AIDS, and those in extreme poverty.

Read the full article on Christianity Today.

Last week, on Tuesday, March 26, the Center for Strategic and International Studies and Hope Through Healing Hands partnered to launch the first celebration of The Mother & Child Project: Raising Our Voices for Health and Hope, set to release March 31, 2015.
HarperCollins Christian Publisher, Zondervan Publishing, and Hope Through Healing Hands held a private reception with contributors, media, and friends on Wednesday evening, March 25, 2015 at the 21Club in New York City to celebrate the launch of The Mother & Child Project: Raising Our Voices for Health and Hope.

Hope Through Healing Hands is pleased to announce we'll be sponsoring a Global Health Forum at Florida International University on Thursday, April 9 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Former Senate Majority Leader and Hope Through Healing Hands Founder and Chairman Senator Bill Frist, M.D. is a featured guest speaker and will be joined by panelists Jenny Eaton Dyer, Hope Through Healing Hands Executive Director, and Porter Kyle Delaney, Hope Through Healing Hands Senior Advisor.
I have the most unlikely, unforgettable personal story about The Mother and Child Project: Raising Our Voices for Health and Hope, compiled by Hope Through Healing Hands, that I am a bit wild to tell you, but that will have to wait now till the thermometer co-operates — but you have to read these stories from people like Melinda Gates, Kay Warren, Bill Frist, Kimberly Williams Paisley, Michael W. Smith, Christine Caine, and more so that people of faith understand why it’s important to get involved.
"This well-organized, well-written, and well-meaning collection of essays, compiled by a global health promotion agency, provides an overview of problems that affect women and families in the developing world. It analyzes issues associated with lack of family planning and demonstrates benefits to women and societies that have access to it, arguing that mothers and maternal health are one key to strong families, communities, and nations." Read the full article on Publishers Weekly.

One Way Forward in Ending Modern Slavery: Healthy Timing and Spacing of Pregnancies

By Jenny Eaton Dyer and Austin Choi-Fitzpatrick

Mar 18 2015

Huffington Post | March 18, 2015

Last month, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, chaired by Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), held a hearing entitled, "Ending Modern Slavery: What is the Best Way Forward?" We are at an opportune moment to look at the broad range of issues we must address in order to achieve the Committee's goal. Among them are the health needs of women and children worldwide, including the need for healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies.

The best estimates suggest almost 30 million people are held against their will through force, fraud or coercion, and paid little to nothing -- contemporary slavery. Millions set out in the hopes of finding a better life, only to find themselves (or their children) trapped in conditions of forced labor or prostitution. In India alone, millions -- including entire families for generations -- suffer as bonded laborers at the bottom of the caste system.

Organizations around the world are doing heroic work to bring these injustices to an end. Among the compelling witnesses at the hearing was Gary Haugen, CEO of International Justice Mission (IJM). IJM's extraordinary frontline work to end the crime of slavery is focused on law enforcement to bring slavery to an end. Through this it seeks to influence the behavior of perpetrators, attempting to adjust the economic risk calculus that comes into play when one individual pays money for the use of another. Other organizations such as Free the Slaves operate through community empowerment models.

We support the work of these groups. Small groups of citizens (and voters) have been the backbone of the antislavery movement since its inception more than 200 years ago. The world has changed, and so too have some forms of exploitation -- formal ownership, for example, is out, but disposability and control are in. What has grown, however, is the power of individuals committed to change.

In order to end slavery, many things must change. It is inarguable that poverty breeds the vulnerability that slavery and trafficking thrive on, especially in the developing world. A necessary, though not sufficient, condition to achieve an end to slavery is an end to the extreme poverty that blocks access to education and basic resources.

Mothers with many children wonder which of their children will be denied access to education. School might be free, but shoes, books and food often conspire against parents' best intentions. Desperate times lead to desperate measures, as some parents question whether their children will have better life alternatives if they simply offer them to orphanages, or to families who will care for the child in exchange for work, such as restaveks in Haiti.

Of course, most of the global poor avoid slavery. Yet the horrible truth is that some parents cannot see an alternative for the survival of their family than for themselves or their children to take steps that put them at risk of slavery. People in this situation are easy prey for exploiters.

Complementing other essential efforts, another element of "the best way forward" to end slavery has not been fully appreciated: strengthening health for mothers and children, including healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies.

Hope Through Healing Hands, founded and chaired by Senator Bill Frist, MD, has launched a Faith-Based Coalition for Healthy Mothers and Children Worldwide to listen to, educate, and activate faith leaders across sectors in the U.S. The Coalition includes pastors, authors, artists, academic and nonprofit leaders, bringing their leadership to bear on maternal, newborn, and child health. In particular, we view healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies as a nexus issue for global health today.

When girls are married in their early teen years and immediately pressured to become pregnant, there are serious health risks to both mother and any child she bears at such a young age. And when mothers in nations with poor nutrition and health systems become pregnant too soon (less than 2.5 years) after their previous birth, the health impact on both mother and child can be devastating. What's more, both scenarios can also limit education and life opportunities for both mother and child - which in turn can lead to the tragic scenarios of slavery.

There are over 220 million women around the world who say they want to delay their next pregnancy until a more opportune time, but they don't have the education, or the access to contraceptives or fertility-awareness methods, to do so.

One way our Faith-Based Coalition supports these women is by championing the protection of the U.S. programs for global maternal, newborn and child health, including healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies. Family Planning 2020, a global partnership of more than 20 governments that work with civil society, multi-lateral organizations, and private sector, and others, is leading the drive to get 120 million additional women access to these resources by 2020, so they can time and space their pregnancies in the way they consider best for their families.

When we empower women and couples with the ability to plan their families well, good things follow. Young women (including married ones) can stay in school rather than leaving due to an early pregnancy. Healthy mothers can go back to work to support their families, helping to avoid hunger and extreme poverty. Children can stay in school, improving their long-term outlook, rather than being looked to for immediate income for family survival.

With strong support from the U.S., family planning is one critical, yet overlooked, component to breaking the cycle of extreme poverty in developing nations worldwide. And by interrupting that cycle, America contributes toward the ambitious goal of ending modern slavery as well.

Let's recognize support for U.S. programs for global maternal, newborn and child health and family planning today as an important step in combatting slavery tomorrow.

Austin Choi-Fitzpatrick, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of Political Sociology at the School of Public Policy at Central European University.

Jenny Eaton Dyer, Ph.D. is the Executive Director of Hope Through Healing Hands. She also teaches Global Health Politics and Policy as a Lecturer in the Department of Preventive Medicine at Vanderbilt School of Medicine.

Originally published in the Huffington Post.

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. 

* * *

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.

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