Sr. Bernie Kenny, MMM has lived and served in the Appalachian region of USA for many years. She lives in Clinchco, a small rural town in the corner of Virginia, close to the border of Kentucky. For many years, Bernie, a nurse practitioner, and midwife, ran a rural health service using a health wagon to reach the farthest and poorest of communities in the coal mining district of the state.
More recently she has been involved in parish ministry and shared with us both the joys of belonging to a multi-ethnic community and the sorrows inflicted by climate change effects which hit her area during 2022, as follows:
“Our parish is composed of people from many nations. Fr. Eric Bafour Assomah is from Ghana and we have Indian Missionaries of Charity who care for special needs children, working individually with each child. Last August, our communities were badly affected by floods. In a mountainous region like Appalachia, floods mean rushing water, devastation, and debris. Forty-four people died and 2,500 homes were destroyed. The Health Clinic in a nearby town, Isom, KY, was also destroyed. It received eight feet of mud and was inoperable from 28th July onwards. On 1st August, St. Mary’s Health Wagon, initiated by MMM, crossed State lines, and donated for one year an older vehicle to serve as a temporary Clinic. I am delighted to know that it is open seven days a week, not just Monday to Friday. The debris from the hurricane is still very evident in the area.
Last week I visited the Clinic and saw many clients coming with a variety of ailments, influenza, respiratory viruses, and Covid being the most common. There are high levels of stress and anxiety. Many families, who lost homes and vehicles, are living with relatives which leads to its own problems.
The local grocery store has a sign which states “Hope to open in Spring 2023.”
That is my hope too!”