Maternal Health Task Force


World of Contrasts

This blog post was contributed by María Laura Casalegno, 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.

We live in a fascinating world, with so many cultures, so many landscapes, so many realities… sometimes these different realities can be very unfair…that’s why I think that we live in a world of contrasts…

I had the opportunity to travel to Guatemala in January. Guatemala is a developing country with a population of 16 million people, 60 percent of whom are poor or indigent. The situation in Guatemala is very sad and can be daunting but there is always a glimmer of hope…

In Guatemala I met Connie Vanderhyden, Jeri Pearson and her husband Marty Pearson, and Kim Dowat. Connie and Jeri are part of the organization Kickapoo Guatemalan Accompaniment Project (KGAP) and they have been working in Chacula community for over 17 years ago. The aim of the KGA Project is to work with ex-refugees from the Guatemalan civil war in developing strategies and tools to improve education and health in the community. Kim is a professional midwife and an ALSO Instructor from Wisconsin and she has been going to Chacula for six years. Last year she did workshops with traditional midwives and this year she repeated it. I was invited by her to participate in the workshops. We were training midwives in emergency management such as postpartum hemorrhage, shoulder dystocia and neonatal reanimation. The workshops were very interactive and we could see very positive outcomes from the past year. Some midwives told us their experiences and how they put in practice all they had learned in the workshops.

Working with Kim was amazing. Besides being very professional, she is also a very nice and funny person. We were talking about my idea for Ashoka’s Young Champions of Maternal Health Program and how to bring it into the field. She was very excited about it and now we are, also with Dr. Hall, developing the idea to make a pilot project in a rural community here in Mexico or Guatemala.

I’m very happy with my experience in Guatemala and I really admire what Kim, Connie and Jeri have been doing all these years. They are amazing and inspiring people. It’s nice to meet people like that—the kind of people that I want to have as an example.

After my visit to Guatemala, I traveled to Kansas City, Missouri. I was attending with Dr. Hall an International ALSO Board Meeting. They were three days of intensive work and it was great to see how the ALSO Program is being developed in other countries. We also participated in a one-day training of Care Team OB Program, a program that teaches some techniques to improve teamwork in hospitals and OB units.

The Meeting was very interesting and I learned a lot. I shared my experiences with other people and I have met some key people that could help in the research to measure the impact of ALSO Program that we are holding with Dr. Hall.

I went from the warm and sunny Guatemalan weather to the cold and cloudy winter in the U.S. I went from the land of mountains and volcanoes to the land of plain fields. I saw people growing coffee and beans and people raising cows. I saw people living in the worst conditions and people who have all their basic needs satisfied and more…

It is really difficult to understand how, still now, we have these unfair differences…how can be the world so indifferent to all this…

Categories: Maternal Health Young Champions of Maternal Health

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