January 28, 2020
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Churches to assemble 700 birthing and newborn kits for women in Haiti

Community Author: Dave Guthro, Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland
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WELLS — Parishioners at Holy Spirit Parish in Kennebunk (St. Martha Church) and Wells (St. Mary Church) are making a difference one person at a time through a massive undertaking called Operation Starfish, assisting Haitian women through the creation and donation of both newborn and birthing kits.

All are welcome to volunteer their time 9 a.m.-noon Saturday, May 11, at St. Mary Church, 236 Eldridge Road, as more than 300 birthing kits and 400 newborn kits are assembled.

In January and February, the Social Justice and Peace Commission at Holy Spirit Parish collected items as well as donations to purchase additional supplies.

Each of the birthing kits will include alcohol wipes, gauze pads, a nasal aspirator, soap, a scalpel, a plastic sheet, sanitary pads, underwear and medical gloves. Newborn kits will contain a washcloth, cloth diapers, pins, a changing pad, a receiving blanket and onesies. The kits will allow for clean and safe deliveries, essential to both mothers and infants.

Operation Starfish and its subsidiary ministries, “Fish4Hope” and “Stella Marina,” provide parishes around the country with the opportunity to assist the poor in Haiti. In 1998, the Rev. Richard Martin, then pastor of Nativity Catholic Church in Burke, Virginia, came up the idea to do something more substantial for the poor in Haiti.

“There’s an old tale about a boy at a beach who discovers thousands of starfish. One by one, he starts throwing them back into the ocean. He’s approached by a man who tells him it’s impossible to return them all to sea, there are too many,” said Margaret Hanrahan, who has assisted with Operation Starfish in Virginia for years. “He goes, ‘There are thousands and thousands here, how will you put them back in?’ and [the boy] goes, ‘I won’t, but I made a difference to that one.'”

For the poor in isolated regions of Haiti, childbirth is a dangerous process and can turn tragic very quickly for both mother and baby when a safe delivery is not possible.

“What is even more shocking is that to provide a woman a clean, safe delivery, it costs less than $2,” said Melinda Engelbrektsson of Operation Starfish.

Thanks to the efforts of parishioners at parishes like Holy Spirit in Kennebunk and Wells, thousands and thousands of kits have been assembled through the years and the Operation Starfish ministries have been able to expand its assistance, including the creation of 1,400 homes in ten Haitian villages thanks to a partnership with Food for the Poor, Inc.

For more information about the Operation Starfish initiative at Holy Spirit or the gathering on May 11, please contact Holy Spirit Parish at (207) 985-6252.