A year ago, Dr. Lisa Eichelberger, dean of the College of Health, and several other nursing professors took students to Haiti for a study abroad trip focused on public health.
The annual trip had been started by former professor Dr. Jennell Charles, who had taken 14 students to the country in 2014 to work in the Bill Rice Clinic to do maternal infant medical outreach.
The students conducted clinical work in the villages of Trou Jacques on La Gonave Island, where access to medical care is scarce.
The trip offered a lesson in caring for the most needy, but it also revealed a little known Clayton State connection.
This was Eichelberger’s first trip to Haiti. After taking a bumpy ride up the mountain in an open-air vehicle, Eichelberger and the group came upon the white church. It was unbearably hot, and more than 40 parishioners were in the middle of a church service singing hymns.
At the end of the service, the pastor thanked Charles for her work in helping the people on the mountain.
Afterward, the group headed to lunch with the pastor of the church during which Eichelberger inquired why the pastor gave thanks to Charles.
The pastor shared that a foundational slab had been built 20 years prior and was left there after a group who promised to build a church could not finish the project.
Charles and her husband, who was the senior pastor of Central Presbyterian Church in downtown Atlanta, had visited Haiti and Trou Jacques several times with their church group.
The couple were actively involved in the work of La Gonave Haiti Partners, a non-profit organization that seeks to address the needs of the Haitian people in the areas of medical care, public health, water, education and child and maternal nutrition.