The Ambulance in the Parking Lot

By Fr. Rees Doughty, Pastor of St. Ann’s, Nyack, NY
“From the Pastor” letter
June 23, 2013

No, it’s neither the punch line to a bad joke, nor some pretentious independent film being produced in Nyack (a reasonable surmise since St. Ann’s School has been and will be the staging ground this year for a number of productions filmed in the village).

It is, rather, a vital part of a healthcare initiative happening in the Diocese of Sunyani, where many of the priests who have served Saint Ann’s Parish over the years, hail from.

A few years ago, I traveled with Dennis Lynch and the Giving to Ghana Foundation to Sunyani for the dedication of St. Matthew’s Clinic, which the foundation enabled through funds collected from, among others, generous parishioners of our parish.

Giving to Ghana began as an initiative by parishioners when Father Henry was pastor here and Father Joseph Domfeh was an associate to address the myriad sufferings our fellow Catholics in sub-Saharan Africa endure.

An early initiative was the provision in villages of clean drinking water through construction of wells to combat the horrid Guinea worm which still plagues many Africans.

St. Matthew’s Clinic is a hospital for maternity care. Ghana is counted among the top 100 countries with a high infant mortality rate. Estimates for 2013 placed it fortieth on the list, with forty infant deaths per 1,000 births. (By contrast, nearly six infants in a thousand will die in the U.S. this year). In 2010, approximately 350 mothers per 100,000 births died in childbirth (in the U.S. approximately 21 mothers died giving birth).

According to the World Health Organization, some 800 women die each day from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth, with 99% of all maternal deaths occurring in developing countries like Ghana.

When Bishop Matthew Gyamfi blessed the new clinic, he mentioned an associated concern: the need for some form of transportation to get pregnant women to the clinic.

I remember vividly the countless people, dressed in their Sunday best, walking miles to the Clinic for the dedication Mass we were celebrating. When a pregnant woman needed help, she often would turn to the parish priest (who often was traveling during the month to visit outlying missions) for help to get to a doctor or midwife. An ambulance would be a necessary piece of improving maternal care in the region.

And, so we have the ambulance in the parking lot! Obtained by the Giving to Ghana Foundation, this rebuilt and refitted ambulance will be shipped to Ghana as an expression of our Church’s desire to create a “culture of life” here in the United States and throughout the world.