Put a Midwife on the Payroll

2.25.10: Another opportunity to help a sister out


Indulge me, will you? I feel like I’ve been in labor myself lately. I’m working on a fundraising project and it’s been a tougher job than I anticipated, primarily because everyone has already given generously to Haiti. And yet, the opportunities to help a sister out are endless and Haiti is but one of the many places in the world where women aren’t safe giving birth. This is another Labor of Love.

My fundraiser is for the Shanti Uganda Birth Center. I found out about this great organization from Sean Corne, the internationally celebrated yoga teacher and activist. You might know about her. She’s been blogging for Oprah.com lately about traveling to Uganda with a group of women as part of a Seva (yoga-talk for “service”) project sponsored by her foundation Off The Mat Into the World. These women have met Sean’s challenge to raise $20,000 through community involvement (no short cuts allowed - they can’t just write a check). Their prize? Two weeks of working with some of the most impoverished and underserved people in the world. One of the recipients of her foundation’s generosity is the Shanti Uganda Birth Center.

This birth center is being built from the ground up to provide prenatal care, birth services, post partum care, breastfeeding assistance, HIV/AIDS services and ongoing training for midwives and traditional birth attendants. Like the health clinics I blogged about last year in Peru, this birth center is virtually the only health care available for miles around. Currently, most Ugandan women deliver at home with traditional birth attendants (some trained, some inexperienced) and many die, as do their babies.

I read an article in the New York Times today about how some poorly trained or inexperienced traditional birth attendants lack the basic skills to help a newborn take his first breath or keep him warm enough to survive the first crucial hours of life. They mistake a baby who doesn’t cry right away (and lots of them don’t) as one that’s already dead. If they just knew that rubbing the baby’s back with a towel would stimulate it to breathe, the baby would live. They don’t know that drying baby off and placing it on Mom’s chest means it will not get dangerously cold. Seriously, this is basic stuff but it means the difference between life and death.

The Shanti Uganda Birth Center will be staffed by Ugandan midwives with top-of-the-line training. Part of their job will be to provide ongoing training and supplies to traditional birth attendants. They’ll be paid $300 per month each. That’s above-scale wages in Uganda. These midwives will care for the women and babies in their community and invest their wages back into their local economy. It’s a sustainable solution.

I volunteered to be their Midwife Sponsorship Coordinator and drum up the money to pay these four midwives for a year. That adds up to $14,400; not such a big sum. How am I going to meet this financial goal? I’ve sent out letters requesting donations to lots of American doctors and midwives asking them to “put a midwife on their payroll.” Additionally, this weekend, I’m throwing a Baby Shower for Uganda. Instead of bringing diapers and Onesies, I’m asking guests to bring their checkbooks and toss a donation in the jar. It’s a collaborative effort and I’m touched by how many soft-hearted sweeties are helping me put this fundraising shindig together. Want to join us? Log on to Shanti Uganda “Sponsor a Midwife” and kick in what you can.

I’ve been asked a dozen times lately, “So many people here in the US need help. Why should we help women on the other side of the world?” My answer: “Because we can.” I’ll add the wisdom of a 3-year old to this. When asked, “what do you like better, Cake or pie?” he answered, “Cake and pie.” “How about puppies or kitties?” He answered, “Puppies and kitties.” His point? Why choose either/or when you could have both? There’s no need to choose between helping women at home or in the global community. There’s plenty of poverty to go around. Choose both. Donate your time and money to local and global charities. There’s enough for everybody.

Jeanne Faulkner, R.N., lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and five children. Got a question for Jeanne? E-mail it to labornurse@fitpregnancy.com and it may be answered in a future blog post.

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