News Release

Church’s Donation Helps Build Nursing and Midwifery Development Center in Kurdistan

What started as a hope to establish a training room in a local Kurdistani hospital in the city of Erbil has developed, with the help of a donation from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and other benefactors, into a complete training center for nurses and midwives. The building, spanning three stories and 36,000 square feet, hosts clinical simulation labs, classrooms, conference space, administrative offices and an information and technology lab.

Eva Said, director of the Nursing and Midwifery Development Center (NMDC), imagined such a training building while teaching at a nursing college. She sat down with other nursing teachers and designed such a facility “just for fun,” since they couldn’t imagine that they might receive any support to build it.

She later said, “But that vision of a different, better reality has inspired us and made us look for ways to make it happen. Thanks to the amazing generosity of Latter-day Saints, that humble vision has come true.”

The construction of the building was completed in late 2023, and the opening ceremony took place in Erbil on January 21, 2024.

Dr. Saman Barzanji, minister of health for the Kurdistan Regional Government, and Mr. Omed Khoshnaw, Erbil’s governor, spoke at the event, praising the efforts of all the project’s donors.

Karen Phillips, a humanitarian representative for the Church of Jesus Christ, said of Eva Said, “It is amazing to see how one person’s idea to help newborns survive has grown from a rented room for training years ago to this new training center!”

Elder Roland J. Bäck, Second Counselor in the Middle East/Africa North Area Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who attended the ceremony, shared his feelings about the project: “It’s so great to see something that you remember being discussed in its early stages, now being completed. What a blessing this facility is for the people of Kurdistan,” he said.

During the opening ceremony, Boyce Fitzgerald, the Middle East/Africa North Area director of temporal affairs of the Church, addressed the audience: “Helping others is what makes us human. I have been to Kurdistan many times and have always been impressed by its people. We want to be helpful to the local community. We want to positively impact the lives of mothers and children. This is why after this project was presented to us the Church supported it. We felt this would save lives, create jobs and improve training. When we work together, we create a better future for everyone.”

The NMDC facility will allow as many as 7,000 nurses and midwives a year to be instructed in courses ranging from three hours to six weeks. Classrooms can hold 20 to 100 students, and a conference training room offers space for 300 people.

Carolyn Melby, vice chairperson of the center’s board, sees the importance of the training that will be offered. “Healthy people are the backbone of a successful and innovative society,” she said. “The opportunity to educate nurses to give lifesaving care to the people of Kurdistan is one of the Lord’s many ways of caring for His children and opening their hearts to His love and care.”

Most of the training at the center will focus on better birthing procedures, including help with newborns’ breathing, infant and mother care, infection-control training and injectable medication training.

Michele Calderon, chairperson of the center’s board, described her hopes for the future: “We hope that through the NMDC, great things will be brought to pass! We are deeply grateful for the generous support of the Church and appreciate our partnership to build the NMDC.”

Barbara Blackford, a board member, expressed her joy at the center’s completion: “I am thrilled to witness the realization of this vision in Erbil, Kurdistan. As someone involved with this project from the beginning, I’m thrilled to see how the capable team was able to overcome different obstacles and turn a dream into reality. As we celebrate the opening, I’m filled with gratitude for the collective effort that made this training center possible. I am confident that this center will not only provide hope but will also serve as an inspiring example of determination and collaboration.”

According to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ 2022 annual report, the Church’s humanitarian efforts worldwide included more than $1 billion in expenditures; 6.3 million hours volunteered; and 3,692 humanitarian projects in 190 countries and territories. These efforts aim to relieve suffering, foster self-reliance and provide service opportunities.

The Church’s humanitarian efforts worldwide help those in need regardless of race, religious affiliation, or nationality. This kind of assistance is possible because of generous donations from members of the Church.

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