Every minute a woman dies of complications related to pregnancy and childbirth. Ninety-nine percent of these deaths occur in developing nations. For every woman who dies in childbirth, another 30 women incur injuries and infections, which are often preventable. (Source)
I was 23 and ready to change the world when I first landed in Nepal. It was the year 2000 and the whole earth seemed to yearn to write a fresh story for the fresh millennium. Flying into a new place is always exciting, but when you see the Himalayas growing larger through the tiny plane window as you come in for a landing on top of the world (literally), there’s a whole new kind of thrill that takes over.
A few months before, I had traded in my respectable corporate job and high heels for a backpack, a few maxi skirts, and some hiking shoes, and even though I had never been to this part of Asia before, I stepped off the plane feeling a sense of home.
The people in this nation were foreign to me – their language, their food, the way traffic jammed for hours because a (holy) cow was sleeping in the middle of the road and couldn’t be disturbed. And yet there was something familiar about this land nestled at the bottom of the towering mountains – something that had been born out of prayer during the months prior as I had made it a practice to rise at 5am five days a week and pray for this nation and the people that lived here.
It was a monumental stretch for me—getting up early for prayer—as I’m not naturally a morning person or one given to prolonged, focused prayer. But through those early morning hours of solitude and reflection I connected with something greater than myself and it created room in my heart for these people I had yet to meet.
By the time I landed in Kathmandu I felt like she and I were already friends.
Along with a handful of other idealistic twenty-somethings, I spent the next couple of months working in schools and orphanages alongside locals and long-term expat workers and with each day of sleeves rolled high and rice and dhal scooped up with my fingers at meal times I fell more in love (and in like) with the people housed within this ancient landscape.
It’s been over a decade since my last trip to Nepal, but the people continue to hold a special place in my heart. It was there among them that I first felt challenged and even called to give my life to work among developing nations. And it was there that I first learned I could not only travel and see the world for the pure love and joy of it, but also give back something of myself at the same time.
Love A Mama in Nepal this Mother’s Day
Recently I received an email from a woman who found the work of us here at the Love A Mama Community as she searched online for others working to empower girls and women. Cara, founder of Mia Amicas Globally, is linked with the BlinkNow Foundation, OdaKids, and Dining for Women – all of which work with girls and women in Nepal – and she wondered if we might help resource Nepali women with clean birth kits. I had been wavering with how to focus the 2014 Love A Mama Mother’s Day drive and, after several emails back and forth and an hour-long skype conversation, I knew that this was the connection I had been waiting for.
As a young 23-year-old in Nepal all those years ago, maternal health was far from my mind. I have no recollection of learning about birthing conditions or hospitals or even the health care in general, but as I began to read about the women in today’s civil war torn Nepal, it quickly became clear to me that clean birth kits could make a life-saving difference, especially in the remote, outlying areas of this nation tucked away under the heights of the Himalayas.
Ninety percent of women in Nepal give birth at home without assistance from a health care worker. Each day twelve of those women don’t live through birth. (Source)
In conjunction with critical education about clean delivery practices, clean birth kits—though not the solution—offer an important part of the solution to seeing maternal death rates decreased. Clean birth kits have also been found to reduce neonatal mortality by 48% in a recent study of 20,000 home births in rural areas of India, Nepal, and Bangladesh. (Source)
This Mother’s Day, won’t you consider reaching out to mothers around the world who don’t have access to safe birthing conditions like we do? Imagine yourself in her shoes:
- As her belly swells she’s not deliberating over which color to paint the nursery; she’s simply hoping that this birth will not take her life.
- She’s not frustrated over a 30 minute wait in her OBGYN or midwife’s waiting room; she’s praying that she’ll be there to feed and care for her new baby when he arrives (not to mention her other children as well).
- She’s not obsessing about who will bring her breakfast in bed or fresh cut flowers or a gift wrapped with a pretty bow this Mother’s Day; she’s dreaming about life beyond the dirty birthing room floor and grappling with the realities of life and death as she and her baby teeter on the edge of the unknown.
There are three ways you can get involved this Mother’s Day:
1. Make clean birth kits. Gather a few friends, your church or service group, or a mom’s group to make clean birth kits for the women of Nepal. A clean birth kit is simple, but it truly can mark the difference between life and death for a woman unable to receive care or reach a medical facility in time. Each clean birth kit will cost you $2-3 dollars to put together, depending on how many you make at a time. (For all the details and where to send them, please see the Love A Mama clean birth kit FAQs. You can also watch a video about how to make clean birth kits.) Birth kits for Nepal will be received the entire month of May.
2. Be an advocate. Link to this post through your social media channels or blog and help spread awareness about how clean birth kits can help save the lives of mothers in the developing world. (Please use the hashtag #LoveAMama. You can also use #cleanbirthkits and #maternalhealth if you can sneak them in there.)
3. Give. Although I’d far rather you put your hand to making the kits yourself, you may not be able to at this time but would still like to contribute. Donate here toward supplies and we will put together kits on your behalf. (Donations will go toward supplies and distribution costs, and are not tax-deductible.)
Thank you for your heart to Love A Mama in Nepal.
Women across the world are making a difference in the lives of our sisters in areas where maternal health is fragile at best – one clean birth kit, one solar suitcase, one heart and smile at a time. Together as we link arms (with each other and across borders) we’re creating opportunities for a generation of change. We’re creating opportunities for life.
Please let me know in the comments how you plan to get involved! Let’s do this.
- Love A Mama’s clean birth kit FAQ page if you want to make kits.
- Love A Mama’s landing page and links to projects and stories from years past.
- Love A Mama’s Clean Birth Kits pinterest board showcasing nearly 80 blogs that have participated in past campaigns. (Please let me know if you notice yours hasn’t been included.) See also: Love A Mama: Maternal Health in Developing Nations pinterest board for more projects and resources.
- BlinkNow Foundation, Oda Kids, Dining for Women, Mia Amicas Globally – all of which will have a role in the distribution of the clean birth kits in Nepal.
A brief history of the Love A Mama Community:
2011 | Since our first Love A Mama Mother’s Day Drive in 2011 (Bloggers for Birth Kits), the Love A Mama community has rallied over 10,000 clean birth kits for distribution in the developing world, mostly to rural Papua New Guinea where maternal death rates are a staggering 1 in 7.
2012 | In 2012 we began Project Baby Bilum providing several villages in the Western Province of PNG with baby slings so that mothers can carry their nursing infants with them when gathering food. This project was sparked by a little girl named Umi that I met who, at 8 weeks old, was literally starving to death because her mother had to leave her behind with a carer (often older siblings) in order to gather food for the rest of her family.
2012 | Also in 2012 we stocked two midwife supply backpacks for the YWAM Medical Ship and provided many maternal health education resources to further train local village birth attendants and upskill local health care workers in PNG. (Details can be found here.)
2013 | The 2013 Love A Mama Mothers Day Drive rallied around The Sunshine Project, which provided an aid post/regional clinic in PNG with a solar powered maternal health suitcase to help their local midwife safely deliver babies through the night in an area where there is no power and no access to emergency medical evacuation. Previously she was delivering babies 4-5 babies per month by flashlight and had never had the joy of using a doppler on expecting mothers during her 30 year career as a midwife.