A beautiful gift that gives twice. Sounds like a wonderful Mother’s Day gift, right? Why not honor your mom this year by equipping a young Indian midwifery student to empower women within her own rural community?
Note: If you don’t want to read the “how” and “why” all of this came about, then skip down by headers to see the section on how to get involved.
Imagine a state with a population of more than 25 million. Now imagine there are only 18 obstetricians/gynecologists to serve the entire population. Oh, and keep in mind that they only live in the largest regional center (of course) and that women in rural areas have ZERO access to care, leaving the OB/GYNs to primarily serve the wealthy and elite.
Let me present this data another way for you: These numbers would translate roughly into having about 17 OB/GYNs in ALL OF AUSTRALIA. (Yes, Australia’s entire population is smaller than the state in central India where we’re focusing.)
Got that perspective in your head? This is the state of maternal health care in rural India. And this is the reason the Love A Mama Community is going there this Mother’s Day.
A wake up call to an alternate reality
Motherhood has introduced me to the most joyous elation, the deepest sense of pride, accomplishment, and wonder, the most excruciating heartbreak, and the truest version of myself.
As Mother’s Day was approaching four years ago I was a toddler wrangling, newly pregnant, and overwhelmed freshman mom missing my husband while he served on the YWAM Australia Medical Ship in Papua New Guinea (PNG) for a few weeks. I was irritated, tired, and feeling alone.
Who was going to give me a break for Mother’s Day? Who would make me breakfast in bed? Sweep my floors? Buy me flowers? My self-pity was palpable as I wished Ryan back home to pamper me and give me the recognition I ‘deserved.’
It was in this state of navel-gazing that a shocking statistic quickened to my heart when I heard it: 1 in 7 women in rural PNG don’t survive childbirth. I thought of six of my mom friends and myself, trying to imagine one of us missing from playgroup because she died giving birth. (It was nearly impossible to dream of—an experience so far removed from my reality in Australia.)
I felt ashamed when I realized I was lamenting about fresh cut flowers while my sisters in our neighboring nation were wondering if they’d live to see their child’s first steps. Never before was it so easy to recognize my own sense of entitlement and the privilege I was usually blind to.
When women grab hold of a cause
Bloggers for Birth Kits (which has evolved into the Love A Mama Community) was born out of my pity party turned wake-up call in that moment—a little action step to combat my own entitlement. I put out a call in this space hoping to rally 300 clean birth kits by the end of the year. . . and by the end of the week readers had given 2000 birth kits in celebration of their moms, wives, daughters, and other influential women in their lives.
The response floored me.
What I’ve learned since then is that women love to rally to a cause if you give them a connecting point and a tangle way they can lend their time, skills, or finance.
A little perspective on global maternal health
Since becoming a mom I’ve been pregnant five times and have two beautiful children on earth to show for it. Even though not all of my pregnancies have gone the way I would have hoped, I can give thanks that I’ve never once had to worry about losing my life during childbirth or wonder if the medical professionals around me would be capable of intervening should something go drastically wrong.
Unfortunately millions of women around the world can’t say the same. The World Health Organization estimates that one woman dies in childbirth every minute, most of which are in developing nations. There are a variety of reasons for this, but numbers don’t lie: in areas where trained birth attendants and/or medical facilities are available, the incidence of maternal mortality plummets. Maternal health education and clean birth supplies (simple, inexpensive clean birth kits that fit into a ziplock bag) can also significantly reduce the incidence of life-threatening infections. (My friend who gave birth outside in the mud can attest.)
Look what you’ve done already
Perhaps I stumbled into this passion for maternal health by “accident,” but I’m so glad my selfishness landed me somewhere useful where my eyes would be opened wide.
Over the last four Love A Mama Mother’s Day Drives, you have raised over 13,000 clean birth kits, which have been distributed through health initiatives in Papua New Guinea, Nepal, India, the Pacific Islands, Togo, Uganda, and several other African nations.
We’ve been able to resource midwives and health centers with dopplers, training materials for up-skilling birth attendants, community education materials for pregnancy, birth, and postpartum health, medical supplies, and a solar-powered suitcase so that midwives at a regional health center in PNG no longer have to deliver nighttime babies by flashlight. I’m so proud of the way women (and men!) have rallied each year to make a difference in the lives of mothers and babies in the developing world. This is a beautiful and good work that I am so grateful to be a part of.
I honestly can’t think of a better way to honor mothers worldwide than resourcing and up-skilling mothers and women’s health workers in areas where resources are scant.
Introducing the NEW Love A Mama Midwifery Scholarship
This year, in addition to supplying clean birth kits in rural India (our current target location), you and I are going to send a young Indian woman to be formally trained as a nurse/midwife. As part of her scholarship, she has signed a contract to return to her rural community* and serve as a regional midwife and community nurse for a minimum of three years upon graduation. She’ll not only provide vital health care services, but will multiply essential maternal health education and train up other community-based village birth attendants to join her.
Meet Jerina, future nurse-midwife:
“Hi, my name is Jerina. I am living in an area of India that is home to the RSS, which is a Hindu fanatic group. I am 21 years old and I desire to pursue a career to help and serve people. I completed my 12th grade a year back… and [have been] working at a school to try and save up enough money to begin nursing [when] I heard about the scholarship and applied. I believe as I complete my course of Nursing/Midwifery, I would be able to serve people in the needy areas and glorify God. Once again thank you for this opportunity, please continue to keep me in prayers.” —Jerina, midwifery scholarship applicant in central India
What’s the investment?
You guys, I am so incredibly excited about this initiative. Not only will we empower a young, marginalized woman with higher education—hello, life changing opportunity—but she will then be able to turn around and empower countless women in her region to have safer births in an area where there is currently no medical facility. THIS IS HUGE.
To complete a three-year bachelor of nursing and midwifery degree in India it will cost just over $7000 USD. This covers the entire cost of the degree as well as her student housing and all the study materials needed.
Our goal with this year’s Mother’s Day drive is that we can finance the first year of her scholarship. Together we’re going to raise $2000.
In partnership with Sparrow International
To pull off this scholarship program we’re partnering with an organization called Sparrow International Group, which is jointly led by an Indian couple and an Australian couple. Sparrow currently runs nine education centers throughout villages in rural India, not only providing education for children, but providing job training and employment for local teachers. With an initial focus on education, Sparrow is expanding its community develop initiatives to help local people gain access to health care, train community health workers, and multiply health education throughout the region where maternal and infant mortality is even higher than the national average for India.
“Investing in maternal health is always a good idea. My dream is that women everywhere would have the privilege of peace during the birthing process, knowing their baby has the very best chance of being born healthy and that they themselves will survive labour. At the moment too many women and babies are dying during childbirth; they need regular people like ourselves to stand up and say enough is enough and do everything in our power to see these statistics changed during our lifetime. We are talking about real mothers and real babies that deserve every chance at a full life.” —Alana Blasé, Sparrow International Group
2015 Love A Mama Mother’s Day Drive giving options:
1 | 2015 Love A Mama Midwifery Scholarship
Help us reach our initial goal of $2000 by making a donation ($10 minimum) to the Love A Mama Midwifery Scholarship in honor of your mom, grandmother, wife, etc. We will send you a personalized card that you can print and give to her, explaining the donation was made on her behalf. (Donate here and make sure to include your mom’s name and YOUR email address within the “notes” section. Please note: it’s very important this is done correctly if you’d like to receive a card for her. To receive a card before Mother’s Day, donations must be made no later than May 8, 2015.)
2 | Assemble Clean Birth Kits
Gather together your sisters, your moms group, or your girls night out friends and assemble clean birth kits for distribution in rural Indian villages where there is no access to medical facilities. (For all the details for making kits, including what you need to know about contents and postage, please see our clean birth kits FAQ page. You can also see a video for how to assemble the kits here or simply read instructions here.)
3 | Share on Social Media
If you are a blogger, facebooker, IGer, podcaster, tweeter, Tumblerer, or whatever 🙂 please consider sharing about our Love A Mama Mother’s Day Drive and gift opportunities—especially our NEW midwifery scholarship. Please make sure to use the hashtag #loveamama!
You guys, I’m SO EXCITED. I cannot think of a better way to multiply a practical, life-giving, tangible hope to these women than by training and releasing a professional midwife into the heart of their community. We’ll start with Jerina. . . and then go from there.
Happy Mother’s Day to you and yours.
P.S. We plan to visit the region in October and hold a training seminar for women who want to be trained as village birth attendants, as well as give maternal health education focused on prenatal, birth, and postpartum care (and distribute clean birth kits of course!). If you are a birth professional or maternal health educator that is interested in helping develop training materials or if you are interested in potentially joining our small team, please email me and we’ll talk more.
*We have chosen not to disclose the specific location in central India where Sparrow is working because of the militant group in the area and the potential security risks for the local Sparrow workers on the ground. Thanks for understanding.