A World Apart

One of my fellow childbirth educators (actually a co-moderator on my independent childbirth educators email list) has recently come back from another trip to Sierra Leone. Her group is called Midwives on Missions of Service, and their goal is to reduce maternal and infant mortality by improving the standards of care pregnant women get.  They are currently focusing on Sierra Leone, which has the worst or among the worst rates of maternal and childhood mortality in the world.

Click here for the (very short) update on their most recent trip. Go read it and then come back.

If you want more a in-depth look at previous trips into Sierra Leone, you can click here.

I’ve explored much of the “Global Midwives” website, although it’s been several months ago, and I was deeply impressed by the depth of poverty and the paucity of infrastructure (like decent roads) and health care in Sierra Leone (nicknamed “Salone”). This latest update broadens my understanding even more. This is “the hungry season” in Salone. We don’t even know what that is! These women were going all day without food, not having enough food to bring with them to these classes.

Reading what it’s like in Salone is almost like looking into another world — I can only imagine what it would be like to actually be there. These Sierra Leoneans are illiterate and ignorant, but intelligent and eager to learn. They are excited about learning just the basics of health care, and putting into practice things they’ve learned about prenatal and postnatal care.

While some might denigrate these “Traditional Birth Attendants” or speak poorly of the ignorance that they still have, it is important to remember that even if these TBAs do not have the skill level attained by doctors, midwives, nurses, or any other trained health personnel in developed countries, the knowledge and education by MOMS staff is a huge improvement over what they had — which was essentially no knowledge whatsoever.

In the U.S. and other developed countries, we take for granted things like food, medicine, clean water, hospitals, paved roads, easily accessible transportation (most of us have our own cars, or there is safe, reliable public transportation), ambulances, etc. It would be easy for us to throw up our hands and say “It’s no use — what’s the point?” But these midwives are saying, “It’s a big job, we’d better roll up our sleeves and get to work!”

Remember “The Serenity Prayer”?

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.

These women may not be able to build good roads to make it easy for people to drive to the nearest health clinic or hospital (something which now takes many hours’ of walking, or perhaps even days); they may not be able to magically make food to grow, or make the water clean and safe; they may not be able to train these women to perform C-sections, but they are “changing the things they can.”

This work is worth supporting: you can donate money or things, or if you are qualified, you can volunteer to help their work.


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