Silver Maples resident Ruth Barnard, Ph.D., retired from the University of Michigan School of Nursing faculty in 2000. An active member of First Presbyterian Church in Ann Arbor, Ruth’s pastor approached her shortly after with an important question: “Could a school of nursing be built in Haiti?” Ruth replied, “Sure!” His next question required a bit more thought: “Will you lead the effort?” After much prayerful consideration, Ruth agreed.
One month after 9-11, Ruth traveled to Haiti to learn about the country’s healthcare needs. “I knew it was important that the people of Haiti take pride and ownership of the school. It needed to be ‘theirs,’” Ruth explains. She soon learned there were three times more doctors than nurses in Haiti; in the U.S., that ratio is reversed. There were few educational opportunities for young women, and still fewer training options for nurses. Ruth immediately saw how important this new nursing school would be.
“Haiti needed educated nurses,” says Ruth who envisioned the school as a four-year BSN program. The nursing school became part of the Episcopal University of Haiti and, on January 10, 2005, opened its doors with 36 students enrolled in its first class.
“I’m so thankful to God that the right people came along to serve this project,” says Ruth. One of those people was The Cedars of Dexter resident, Margie Van Meter, also a retired nurse from the University of Michigan, who has shared her expertise as a tireless volunteer on the project. “It’s a project that is dear to my heart,” says Margie.
Both Ruth and Margie have lost count of their many visits to Haiti and continue to serve on the Haiti Nursing Foundation Board of Directors. In January 2015, the school celebrated its 10th anniversary and saw its total number of graduates reach 100 nursing professionals; 95 are helping improve healthcare in their country.
“God prepared me for something like this,” says Ruth. “Retirement is the best time to do something to make a difference.”