Waiting to Take Off

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By: Onikepe Oluwadamilola Owolabi, Young Champion of Maternal Health

This blog post was contributed by Onikepe Oluwadamilola Owolabi, one of the fifteen Young Champions of Maternal Health chosen by Ashoka and the Maternal Health Task Force at EngenderHealth. She will be blogging about her experience every month, and you can learn more about her, the other Young Champions, and the program here.

It’s been 5 months into the Young Champions program, and it’s difficult to believe I’m more than halfway to the end of a journey which seems like it just started.

January has been a month of exploration for me, as I work on creating a model of sustainability for the community resource centers. I’m still taking baby steps, having meetings with as many people as possible, building possible collaborations we need to pull it off, studying all I can about different community-based health financing models and wanting so desperately to just start something. My patience has been tried by how much time it takes to actually take off, and I just can’t wait to eventually run the community survey to get a wide range of opinions. My mentor at SNEHA has been wonderful throughout this process—open to so many ideas, introducing me to people whom I can ask all kinds of technical questions, giving me space to express myself and genuinely believing I can help create something which will be valuable for the future of the resource centers.

On the 25th of January, SNEHA held her annual fundraiser with a concert featuring the renowned Ghazal singer Jagjit Singh. Seeing the attendance at the concert, hearing girls and women from our community speak about their experiences with SNEHA, watching the response of those who came and seeing Dr Armida Fernandez speak about the work we do in her comments of thanks reminded me again why we do what we do. I felt proud to be associated with everything; proud that so many people in so many ways come together to give women and children in these slums healthier lives.

With just 4 months ahead of me, I am perturbed about how I will accomplish the goals I have written down. Speaking to the other Young Champions has encouraged me tremendously, and every day I firmly tell myself that I will give this my best shot and get this model up and running before I leave.

Today I spent half of my day at one of our community resource centers, talking to our organizers who run the place. In a very informal discussion, my colleague and I bounced as many ideas of them as possible to see what they were most comfortable with as possible options for the sustainability plan. I was proud of their creativity. Proud that they’ve started some of the things we are thinking of and of their bravery to try new things in their communities. Spending time gave me the right kick—to ensure we start our process after all these discussions, not to be afraid of trying something new and, most importantly, not to be afraid of failing.