One evening in 2011, after a day of plowing her family’s fields with a neighbor’s bull, Vivian Okoth* was leading the animal back to its owners. On the way, the bull charged her from behind, caught her with his horns, and threw her into the air. Vivian says all she remembers was waking on the rocky ground and sensing the bull rush at her again. As she was gored a second and third time, she screamed and the neighbors came to her rescue, somehow managing to distract the bull and pull him away.
I recall a story of a young teen girl we will call Sari. She sat perched quietly on a chair. The sun was setting outside the brothel in a small town on Thailand’s border with Malaysia. Sari’s long hair hung forward, shielding her face from view. The eldest of four children, with two disabled parents, she was from a small, poor hill-tribe area in Laos.
Last week, the Christian Alliance for Orphans held their annual gathering in Hendersonville, TN at Long Hollow Baptist Church. Some 2,500 participants who work with orphans and vulnerable children gathered to hear excellent speakers and artists. They also attended workshops to enhance their work within their nonprofit or their family, as parents or siblings.

May 1, 2015 | Fox News

Years ago, my mother-in-law introduced me to a simple prayer that has since become a way of life for me. On my last album, the song “Greet the Day” offers up this request:

“Lord, lead me to the ones I need.

And, to the ones who need me.”

I find that with this prayer, I am opening myself to new experiences, uncanny synchronicity, and what otherwise might seem mere coincidence. I find myself sitting with people who may need the talents and gifts unique to me, and then I find myself drawn to people who meet my need for wisdom or courage or joy.

Read the full article on Fox News.

April 29, 2015 | Health Affairs Blog

The Two Sides Of Cuban Health Care: High-Quality Primary Care …

These opportunities grow out of a special legacy in health care that spans the history of revolutionary Cuba. Free and universal health coverage, with high-quality primary care, has been fundamental to the Castro government’s legitimacy since its first years. It is a true entitlement, expected by the Cuban people, a positive right enshrined quite simply in Cuba’s 1976 Constitution: “Everyone has the right to health protection and care. The State guarantees this right.”

What started in the 1960s with a 750-doctor Rural Medical Service has grown into a network of more than 30,000 family doctors; across the country, each of five hundred “polyclinics” serves as a hub for twenty to forty neighborhood medical stations.After visiting Cuba in fall 2014, cardiovascular surgeon and former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist documented impressive primary care:

Patients are seen at least once a year, often in their home[.] Emergencies are addressed immediately. Chronic conditions are identified and managed early.

And this care is provided at no cost. In private conversation with one of the authors, Frist subsequently marveled that not only does the average individual Cuban have a primary physician, that person knows his or her physician by name. That is a fading reality in America, true for only a minority.

Read the full article on Health Affairs Blog.

April 29, 2015 | The Hill

Most Americans agree foreign aid helps improve our nation’s image globally and protects Americans’ health by preventing the spread of diseases.

In fact, it does more than that. Our comparatively small investment in foreign aid enhances national security by stabilizing weak states and helping to fight the causes of terrorism. It encourages economic development, opening new global markets for American business. And it supports our humanitarian goals and values, advancing peace and democracy.

Considering the benefits, the surprising truth is that the U.S. spends less than 1 percent of our budget on foreign aid, and that amount has been dwindling due to sequestration. At a time when we are faced with global unrest and budget cuts, we must make strategic investments in foreign aid programs that have a record of success. 

The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) is a prime example. An innovative and independent U.S. foreign aid agency created in 2004 by a bipartisan Congress, the MCC was structured to approach U.S. foreign assistance like a business. It has a singular mandate: systematically reduce poverty by fostering economic growth in the world’s best-governed poor countries. With only a small slice of the federal budget, from the beginning the MCC focused on investing wisely in the best programs to provide the most good for the most people.

The MCC lays the foundation for its success by demanding high standards for its potential partner countries. Each year, the MCC develops a scorecard for low- to middle-income countries based on their performance in three areas: just governance, economic freedom and investing in their citizens. At the end of this rigorous process, only about 30 percent of countries qualify to partner with the MCC. Of those, a select few are invited to develop program proposals for MCC-funded investments.

This process ensures that U.S. foreign assistance is effective and strategic and that it catalyzes reforms. The lives of people living in poverty globally are significantly improved, as countries pursue eligibility for MCC funding, knowing the MCC can suspend funding for sustained trends of dismal political and economic performance. For example, pro-democracy changes in Malawi, improved economic rights for women in Lesotho and business-friendly reforms in Georgia have all been prompted by governments working to establish their eligibility for MCC funds. The effect is so pronounced that a 2013 College of William and Mary global survey ranked the MCC’s scorecard as the most influential tool to incentivize policy reform around the world.

Through MCC grants, more than 148,000 farmers have been trained, $65 million in agricultural loans have been dispersed, and over 4,900 kilometers of roads are being designed and constructed. MCC aid is being used to strengthen weak economies, promote growth opportunities and raise the standard of living for the world’s most disadvantaged populations. 

Having served on the MCC’s board of directors, I have seen the success of this program’s accountability-driven approach. The Millennium Challenge Corporation is a program worthy of its funding.  It represents the best of foreign aid and plays a crucial role in our international diplomacy. As Congress continues to work on the fiscal 2016 budget, the Millennium Challenge Corporation deserves its full support.  

Frist served as a senator from 1995-2007 and as majority leader from 2003-2007.  He is a former Millenium Challenge Corporation board member.

This article originally appeared on The Hill

Emergent trauma surgery in Kenya is different. A 22-year-old male came to the operating theater area after having a tire explode in front of him as he was working on it. This is certainly not a safe practice, but it’s hard to argue with a young man doing what he can to make an honest living for himself and his family.

This Tuesday, Hope Through Healing Hands had the honor of welcoming the former Prime Minister of Haiti, Laurent Lamothe, to Nashville, Tennessee. Mr. Lamothe traveled to Nashville to speak at a LiveBeyond Fundraiser and to meet notable influentials in the music, faith, and nonprofit community who care deeply about the future of Haiti.

New York Times Bestselling author Rachel Held Evans reads her essay, "A Mama Knows," from THE MOTHER AND CHILD PROJECT.

In THE MOTHER AND CHILD PROJECT audiobook, Melinda Gates, Kay Warren, Tony Campolo, Christine Caine, and Senator William H. Frist, along with other inspirational leaders, cultural icons, political experts, academics, and service providers, provide a personal yet fact-based narrative exploring the plight of women and children living in extreme poverty in an effort to educate and inspire the church to speak up in support of maternal and child health issues in the developing world.

Read the full post on Harper Audio's SoundCloud account.

We believe that if we can help keep moms and children healthy worldwide, we can get at the nexus of many sustainable development goals. Moms can go back to work to combat extreme poverty; girls can stay in school to finish secondary school and potentially a university degree; we can promote gender equality, improve maternal and child health, and prevent mother to child transmission of HIV, to name a few outcomes.

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