UMCOR’s Shannon Trilli and Patricia Magyar with Brisas Del Mar health post staff, the local health board, and the tree planted over Rev. Clinton Rabb’s ashes.
Shannon Trilli, UMCOR
By Julia Kayser*
February 1, 2013—The Clinton Rabb Health Post is painted bright orange and blue, so it stands out among the dirt roads of tiny Brisas del Mar, Colombia.
“When you walk in, you’re in a little reception area. It smells quite crisp and antiseptic,” comments Patricia Magyar, of the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). Ten certifications are proudly displayed on the wall. Beyond that, there is an exam room, a labor and delivery room (also used for minor surgery), a dental office, a room for overnight stays, a bathroom, and a storage room. To the left of the main building is a small pharmacy.
The clinic is named for the Rev. Clinton Rabb, former head of Mission Volunteers, who cared deeply about this project but didn’t live to see it completed because of injuries he sustained during the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. Today, some of Rabb’s ashes are interred in Brisas del Mar. His brother, Robert Rabb, oversaw the completion of the project with funding from UMCOR, Global Ministries, and the Methodist Church of Colombia. Local community members did most of the construction, collaborating with international volunteers.
On the day when the clinic first opened in March of 2011, two hundred patients were seen. Although Brisas del Mar is named for its gentle sea breezes, this community has been brutalized by paramilitaries. The government has found 42 mass graves in their municipality. By 2011 the worst of the violence had stopped, but people were still desperate for care. Until the clinic was built, the nearest health center was 14 miles of rough roads away.
Today, the clinic sees about 375 patients each month. The only doctor, Cyndi Justina Contreras Pino, works there five days a week. Her support team is a nurse, a pharmacist, an administrator, a janitor, a part-time lab technician, and a dentist who comes once a week. Contreras Pino rides a motorcycle to nearby villages every Wednesday so she can treat people who are too sick to walk to the health post.
The local community continues to provide labor and leadership. “They’ve met us more than halfway,” says Magyar, who with UMCOR Global Health Director Shannon Trilli, visited Brisas del Mar last month. UMCOR’s support for the Clinton Rabb Health Post is its first Hospital Revitalization effort in Latin America; a wide network of such programs is found in Africa.
In addition to keeping the clinic clean and in good repair, the community has built two guest houses for international work teams and added an open-air community center to the back of the building. That space is for classes, events, and meetings of the local health board.
This health board is comprised of two elected members from each of the six villages the health post serves. All of them “take responsibility to make the clinic a very safe place for people to come for medical care,” says Magyar. Members of the local health board report regularly to the national health board and the Methodist Church of Colombia.
The Brisas del Mar community has built, sustained, and protected their health post. They have a strong sense of ownership. “We see the incredible commitment of the local people,” says Magyar, “and that’s how we know this clinic is here to stay.”
All they need now is funding to keep the doors open. This is an opportunity for partner churches in the US to make a big impact. Consider a donation to Hospital Revitalization, UMCOR Advance #982168 to support this program and others like it.
*Julia Kayser is a writer and a regular contributor to www.umcor.org