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Haiti: Nursing Outside The Comfort Zone


How does a “normal” American nurse go from a suburban neonatal unit to leading one of the most exemplary medical missions projects in the world? Cindy Obenhaus, RN – a keynote speaker at this May’s Exploring Medical Missions Conference – says that the process was gradual and increasingly compelling. Cindy’s first medical mission to Haiti was in 1987, where she was thrust into the harsh realities of living as most Haitians do: without running water, electricity or security. But Cindy was nevertheless inspired by the vision of caring for some of the most neglected people on earth. For the next fifteen years she continued going back to Haiti for two weeks at a time, assisting in mobile clinics, vaccinating, and providing care for sick children.


In 2002, Cindy and her team also began providing medical education by teaching neonatal resuscitation and management of obstetrical complications to Haitian nurses and medical students. As they became more exposed to the health care system they were struck by the fact that most medical care in Haiti was substandard in quality, too expensive for people to afford, and too far away from those who needed it most.


In response, Cindy and a coalition of Kansas City area churches, foundations, physicians, pastors and volunteers developed a vision for a new birthing center. Unlike other health facilities, it would be first-world quality, free to patients, and located in an unserved area. The Maison de Naissance – French for “Birthing Home” – opened in 2004. Since that time over 600 mothers have given birth, with only two infant deaths – a small fraction of the national average.


Cindy continues to lead Maison de Naissance and is animated about her experience. “As a Christian, I’m called to go out into the world to step out of my comfort zone. The result is that I’m hopefully more compassionate and more understanding of people who are different than me. Being uncomfortable is good. That’s where you’ll find opportunities to both serve and to grow as a person. Go ahead: Get uncomfortable!”

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