Dr. Jeannie Haggerty is an epidemiologist in Montréal, Québec, and a member of a Global Partner church. She served on the World Vision Board of Directors from 2009-2017. Born and raised in Bolivia, she did her undergraduate and graduate degrees in Canada, where she met her husband. Click here to read the first of this two-part series.
Megan: Dr. Jeannie, you were a member of our World Vision Canada Board, but your involvement extends beyond that. You also attend an Anglican church in Montreal who is now a Global Partner with us. Tell us a bit about that.
Dr. Jeannie: I brought the idea forward because I thought it would be interesting for our church to focus on a specific region. We already had a missionary focus in the region of Honduras, so we decided to go with that. That was around 2012 or 2013.
Our church is really small, and it’s taken a while for us to get moving with our partnership. When I first introduced the idea that we would invest our energies into one single place, I also asked the question, “How many of you currently sponsor a World Vision child?” I would say that probably 80% of the congregation raised their hand.
Megan: That’s incredible!
Dr. Jeannie: Yes, so we already had a highly saturated congregation, but now it’s picking up pace. Now when congregation members’ sponsored children or communities graduate, they will sponsor a new child in our Area Development Project in Honduras.
When our friend Cynthia visited the community in Honduras we took videos and sent gifts to them. All of that just creates this link, so now when pray for Honduras, we pray for it with a whole new understanding. It’s so nice to have this common project that’s not only about the organization of World Vision, but allows us to focus on what’s happening in one area of the world.
And I have to say, World Vision has been really helpful in providing us detailed reports about what they do and what their relationship is with churches.
In the future, one thing that we’d like to do is to consider a specific partnership with a church that is involved in our community in Honduras, so that we can pray for them also as a congregation in addition to the kids we sponsor in the community.
Megan: What specific transformations or projects in your community have stood out to you?
Dr. Jeannie: Probably the biggest challenge that the community is working towards is trying to create a counter culture to the drug culture in Honduras.
So many children are afraid to play after school. Normal childhood activities like that and walking to school are constrained by the fact that there’s such a strong presence of drugs in the community.
World Vision and the churches there have been working to create a culture where youth can feel safe and begin to think about other activities.
Megan: You’ve spent a lot of your life working to help others. You’re an epidemiologist, which is a very intriguing title, but one that not many of us are familiar with. What does being an epidemiologist entail, and how has it influenced your view of World Vision’s work?
Dr. Jeannie: As an epidemiologist, I deal with interventions that will help the health of the population, as opposed to interventions that affect the health of an individual. I was of course very interested by the World Vision programs that addressed the whole population’s health.
For instance, one of the absolute jewels in World Vision’s crown is their approach to nutrition. They identify, within poor communities, mothers who are managing to feed their children well, and then learn from those mothers and reproduce those practices.
In this way they are able to have an impact on the community, with the community’s own resources, rather than having to bring in new resources to address the problems of nutrition. You could almost call it an infectious model, in that you find a source of good behaviour, and you start to infect the community with that goodness.
Megan: I’ve never heard of a positive infection!
Dr. Jeannie: Yes, we always think of infection as something bad that is spread, but World Vision has found ways of identifying positive practices to spread.
Megan: Dr. Jeannie, thank you so much for all you’ve done for the children we work with. I’m wondering- what is next for your involvement with World Vision?
Dr. Jeannie: We’re hoping to be a part of the Team World Vision run. I’ve got a couple partners at church who are going to start training with me. But we’re waiting for the snow to disappear!