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Health Ministries

Guests: CEO Marla Cautilli and board member Dr. Cynthia Rigby of Hand in Hand Ministries.
Season 13 Episode 12 Length 28:29 Premiere: 12/10/17

Health Ministries: Meeting the Unmet Needs at Home and Abroad

The phrase “think global, act local” has been a common call to action for organizations in all fields of service in hopes of summoning volunteer and funding efforts to address a particular social concern. In the public health field, there is no shortage of nonprofits devoted to aiding at-risk populations around the world. For one Louisville-based organization, it was a logical next step to take their initial successes providing housing, education, and health care in Latin America and apply their outreach to communities in need within the commonwealth.

In this episode of Kentucky Health, host Dr. Wayne Tuckson speaks with the CEO and a board member of the Louisville-based Hand in Hand Ministries, which has helped people in Latin America, eastern Kentucky, and Louisville gain independence and improve their quality of life and health by assisting with medical needs, housing, and education.

Marla Cautilli is the CEO of Hand in Hand, headquartered in west Louisville. Dr. Cynthia Rigby, MD is an OB-GYN and a board member of the nonprofit.

“Hand in Hand is a local nonprofit that was started back in 1999 by a priest and his brother, and it started with a trip to Jamaica,” says Cautilli. “The ordinary folks went and did some work for an orphanage there in Jamaica, and it had a profound effect on the people on that trip, looking after these kids living in poverty, and it was a way that people without a lot of money who couldn’t write a big check could do something that really made a difference for someone.”

That initial visit led to the creation of Hand in Hand, which today sends approximately 1,200 people a year on trips to Belize, Nicaragua, and eastern Kentucky. In 2017, Hand in Hand started a program in Louisville and moved their headquarters to the Portland neighborhood west of downtown as part of a revitalization project for the area.

Changing Views on Poverty, Fostering Relationships
Hand in Hand’s mission focuses on creating new volunteers and fostering a lifetime commitment to helping others and strengthening communities. “We get the volunteers involved in the work so they view poverty as a people thing, not as ‘other folks.’ We build relationships through that work, and that’s really how we do what we do, and it’s grown a lot over the years,” Cautilli says.

In the Latin American countries of Nicaragua and Belize, Hand in Hand has helped families and children rise out of poverty through housing and education programs that also strengthen public health. In Nicaragua, the primary mission is on education. Currently, the ministry is helping about 90 children receive a private school education. Their program has been in operation long enough to where now several students are in college, and one is in law school.

“In addition to going to school, we provide family counseling, meal support if needed, transportation, swimming lessons, English lessons, anything that’s going to help these kids move out of their neighborhoods where they’ve grown up, and actually have jobs as professionals,” Cautilli says.

Hand in Hand also collaborates with the Nicaraguan government to help build concrete houses as part of their education program, working alongside the future tenants in constructing the homes. Last summer, Cautilli says that she worked on building a house in Managua, the capital city, which was constructed at a higher elevation due to the city’s ground existing below sea level. Several in the tenant family, including children, had suffered with asthma when living in their former residence due to the excess moisture. Now, they will live healthier as the kids pursue their education.

Rigby became involved with Hand in Hand in 2011 after a colleague invited her on a volunteer trip. She works through the Greater Louisville Medical Society’s partnership with the ministry by offering her services to kids enrolled in the education program in Nicaragua.

“We got to visit the hospitals, we got to visit the families, we got to take care of them, we got to hear what obstacles they have,” Rigby says. “Health care is free in Nicaragua, but you have to spend a day sitting in a crowded waiting room and that means your home is not secure. So we talked about access, we talked about not having the resources to get ahead in the world, and we found out the value of education through this program, how the children in the program could actually have a chance to get out of the environment of extreme poverty and make a better life for themselves in Nicaragua.”

In Belize, Cautilli says Hand in Hand’s primary focus is on housing construction. Prospective residents in Belize sign a ten-year contract with the ministry – they own the land, but the ministry owns the house for the time span. The resident must stay involved with Hand in Hand through the duration of the contract and participate in community building, and after ten years they become the sole homeowners.

Hand in Hand also runs an HIV outreach clinic in Belize, focusing on children. Cautilli says that the country has the highest incidence rate of HIV/AIDS in central America, and that the ministry treats about 75-85 percent of all known HIV/AIDS cases in Belize involving children.

“We work alongside the ministry of health,” Cautilli explains. “They provide the ARVs (anti-retroviral drugs), we provide the nurses to make sure the kids are taking the ARVs. We’ve got money from The Global Fund that helps us with nutrition support – kids don’t want to take the meds if the meds make them feel sick, and if they get a little food in their stomach, they’ll take the meds. And so we provide care for those kids. We have an outreach center, and we start off with a pre-school daycare for kids.”

Cautilli says that their efforts have helped lessen the stigma of HIV/AIDS in Belize. This has led to more cases being identified since more people are to admit that they are afflicted, but also has led to much better treatment. “We and the ministry of health have been able to really elevate the awareness of the disease and stopping more of the mother-to-child transmission by giving the ARVs and trying to reduce that stigma about AIDS, so it’s working,” Cautilli says.

Building Outreach in Kentucky
Cautilli and Rigby are very excited about Hand in Hand’s recent expansion of services into their home city of Louisville. Rigby says that the Greater Louisville Medical Society is committed to supporting Hand in Hand through its missions committee. The GLMS also supports a variety of other nonprofits and funds medical scholarships, and many of Louisville’s medical service organizations use the Supplies Over Seas redistribution center. Supplies Over Seas started through the GLMS but is now independent, and assists many medical providers who do charity work abroad by supplying them with equipment that is left over from hospitals and clinics.

Rigby says that the GLMS has broadened its vision of service in recognition of the fact that improving public health means much more than just practicing medicine. “Over the past couple of years, the mission committee has grown – we’ve become a clearinghouse for organizations in the community who are looking to improve the overall health in the community, not necessarily in providing health care, but in involving physicians as advisors and participants,” she says.

To that end, Rigby and Cautilli have been involved in helping Hand in Hand help build up the Portland neighborhood in the aftermath of the ministry’s recent relocation there, in a similar fashion to the way Hand in Hand has helped to improve the quality of life in neighborhoods in Belize City and Managua.

“We made a commitment to try and make the entire city part of Louisville. Some neighborhoods are forgotten,” Rigby says. “So we’ve partnered with the city and mayor with some of the cleanup operations. We’ve got a space now in the headquarters that can be used for outreach. There’s an immersion project going on where groups come in and do neighborhood projects partnering with some of the other organizations.”

Cautilli reflects on a recent visit from a group who spent the weekend at Hand in Hand’s new headquarters in Portland. They worked with a family who had a bedroom closet with full mirror doors that had broken, posing a health hazard. The group replaced the mirrors and painted the bedroom, and then did a driving tour around west Louisville. They visited with another volunteer group who had just returned from Houston aiding hurricane relief, and attended a local church.

“We’re all a part of one community, one Louisville, and so what we hope to do is to bring people who may not normally go to Portland to come and see what is going on in the neighborhood and feel a part of it – to understand the challenges but also recognize that human beings are living there,” Cautilli says. “And that’s what we try and do everywhere we go.”

Hand in Hand’s ministry work in Eastern Kentucky is just as ambitious. The organization helps replace roofs, builds wheelchair accessible ramps, and operates an emergency food pantry that serves 30-40 families per month, Cautilli says. Recently, a group of students from Seneca High School organized a dental drive and collected toothbrushes, floss, and other supplies; they brought those supplies down to eastern Kentucky and distributed them at the food pantry.

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Kentucky Edition host Renee Shaw in a green dress with the logo superimposed over the image along with a CHECK SCHEDULE button.Kentucky Edition host Renee Shaw in a green dress with the set behind her and the logo superimposed over the image along with a CHECK SCHEDULE button.

Season 13 Episodes

Public Health in Kentucky

S13 E25 Length 29:24 Premiere Date 04/15/18

Pain Treatment in the Age of Opioid Addiction

S13 E24 Length 28:57 Premiere Date 04/08/18

The Louisville Health Equity Report

S13 E23 Length 28:09 Premiere Date 04/01/18

Smoking in Kentucky: Hidden Cost Obvious Impact

S13 E22 Length 28:54 Premiere Date 03/25/18

Kidney Function and Renal Disease

S13 E21 Length 28:32 Premiere Date 02/25/18

Brain Tumors

S13 E20 Length 28:44 Premiere Date 02/18/18

Gastroenterology and Motility

S13 E19 Length 27:37 Premiere Date 02/11/18

Many Years, Many Medicines, Many Problems

S13 E18 Length 28:38 Premiere Date 02/04/18

A Day in the Life of an Ophthalmologist

S13 E17 Length 27:32 Premiere Date 01/28/18

A Day in the Life of a Thoracic Surgeon

S13 E16 Length 27:27 Premiere Date 01/21/18

Incontinence and Female Sexual Dysfunction

S13 E15 Length 27:51 Premiere Date 01/14/18

Building Healthy Communities

S13 E14 Length 28:44 Premiere Date 01/07/18

Music and Medicine

S13 E13 Length 28:34 Premiere Date 12/17/17

Health Ministries

S13 E12 Length 28:29 Premiere Date 12/10/17

Preventing Heart Disease

S13 E11 Length 28:40 Premiere Date 11/19/17

Prostate Cancer

S13 E10 Length 28:42 Premiere Date 11/12/17

Skin Diseases and Conditions

S13 E9 Length 26:22 Premiere Date 11/05/17

Treating Drug Addiction

S13 E8 Length 28:12 Premiere Date 10/29/17

Importance of Anesthesia

S13 E7 Length 28:34 Premiere Date 10/22/17

Public Sanitation Infrastructure

S13 E6 Length 26:39 Premiere Date 10/15/17

Health and the Outdoors

S13 E5 Length 28:47 Premiere Date 10/08/17

Universal Health Insurance

S13 E4 Length 28:43 Premiere Date 10/01/17

Strategies for Quitting Tobacco

S13 E3 Length 26:38 Premiere Date 09/25/17

Rural Physicians' Perspectives

S13 E2 Length 26:53 Premiere Date 09/17/17

Health Care in Rural Kentucky

S13 E1 Length 27:38 Premiere Date 09/12/17

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