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A chance conversation opens the door to making a difference for children in Zambia

Visitation High School student Katie Connors in Zambia. The St. Kate's community will have the chance to learn how they can advance child welfare in Zambia at a Dec. 2 event.
Visitation High School student Katie Connors in Zambia. The St. Kate's community will have the chance to learn how they can advance child welfare in Zambia at a Dec. 2 event.
Photo of Katie Conners taken by Dana Johnson, MD.

Little did Mary Hearst know that a chance conversation in Minneapolis would connect her with children in the African country of Zambia and inspire her to link them with the St. Catherine University community.

Hearst, program director for the Public Health program at St. Kate’s, is spearheading an informal reception and brainstorming session, “Zambia: A Forum on Child Health and Welfare.” The event will be held Monday, Dec. 2, 5-7 p.m. in the Rauenhorst Ballroom, in Coeur de Catherine. She hopes faculty, students and staff will take advantage of the hospitality and discover, what Hearst describes as, “an exciting and unexpected opportunity.” 

She envisions internships, international service learning projects and other curriculum-based opportunities where students and faculty could have rich learning experiences as they enhance and support the work of the Dominican Sisters.

While at a Medical Advisory Board meeting for the Portland, Oregon-based SPOON Foundation, Hearst, had that chance conversation with University of Minnesota Neonatology Professor and Physician Dana Johnson, MD, about a trip he’d taken to Zambia with students from Visitation High School as part of a school-sponsored service-learning trip.

They traveled to the St. Anthony Children’s Village, an orphanage where most of the children are infected with the HIV virus.  St. Anthony is among several ministries, including a school and clinics, operated by the Dominican Sisters in Zambia.

In addition to his responsibilities in the U of M’s pediatric neonatology department, Johnson is also the founder of the International Adoption Clinic at the U of M. 

“Dana said, ‘St. Kate’s should get involved in this,’” says Hearst. She agreed to join Johnson at a lunch with Phillip Goldman, founder and president of Maestral International LLC.

Maestral International works with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and other agencies globally to facilitate strategic, comprehensive and adequately resourced approaches to promote child welfare, particularly for children who are at risk of being abandoned or exploited.

Listening to Goldman describe his organization’s efforts to assist the Dominican Sisters’ ministries to improve the health of children in Zambia through the Dominican Sisters’ ministries, Hearst remembers thinking “as someone in public health—this is a no brainer."

“There’s a real opportunity to support the well-being of these children,” says Hearst.

Hearst says the forum will give the campus community a number of opportunities:

  1. To learn more about the challenges and issues facing children and families in Zambia,
  2. To become engaged in stateside support efforts, including those at nearby Visitation High School, and
  3. To travel to Zambia and become engaged in support efforts.  

Both Phillip Goldman and Dana Johnson will share their personal experiences and organizational efforts in Zambia at the Dec. 2 forum. The event is free and open to the campus community and the public.

Nov. 25, 2013 by Julie Michener

See also: Catholic Identity, Faculty, Healthcare, Social Justice, Students