A Month to Remember

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By: Faisal Siraj, Young Champion of Maternal Health

This blog post was contributed by Faisal Siraj, one of the fifteen Young Champions of Maternal Health chosen by Ashoka and the Maternal Health Task Force at EngenderHealth. He will be blogging about his experience every month, and you can learn more about him, the other Young Champions, and the program here.

April was a month full of a lot of challenges for me. The community awareness sessions and TBA association meetings were routine, but my visa extension, getting a reentry visa for Nigeria and at the end of the month an uncertain response about getting my Ghana visa made the month of April restless for me.

During the month we attended awareness sessions in the communities regarding healthy eating during pregnancy, the importance of keeping yourself clean during pregnancy, what kind of care is important during pregnancy, and where the right place is to get that care. We had meetings with the TBA associations regarding the training session because they had a few issues.  They were insisting on having training sessions in a big hotel or a conference room rather than the office and community. There are still issues we are trying to deal with.

The moment I got my reentry visa for Nigeria, I had firm hope that I would make it to Ghana, but then time Claire called me and said, “We tried a lot but seems like its not going to happen.” My reply was that I would keep my bag ready and hope that I would get it. I was so happy when Claire told me in the evening that they managed to get my Ghana visa. I am so thankful to all who struggled hard for my Ghana visa. I had mixed feelings, meeting everyone for the first time. I was a bit nervous, but the moment I saw the first Young Champion, Peris Wakesho, at Nigeria airport, I became relaxed.  She was friendly and knowledgeable. Meeting everyone in Ghana was one of the best moments of my life.

Overall the whole event was very well organized and everything was on time, hats off to Claire and Tiffany. Meeting Ann Blanc and Tim Thomas was a worthwhile experience where we had a chance to listen to them and share our experiences. Everything we experienced at the Ghana event was according to the needs of the Young Champions. Every presentation had at its core the benefit the Young Champions from every angle. Josaphine Nezrem and Kathryn Hall-Trujillo’s presentations inspired us by speaking about a way to keep ourselves strong, how to continue through the struggles, and how to make stronger bonds for pregnant women and nursing mothers. Hamadou Tidiane’s presentation on how to pitch your idea really helped me refine my idea.  As a result, I was selected for the Maternal Health Buzz Conference. Alice Emasu, had a very inspiring presentation and she advised us to keep our self like clean water because then every organization will want to drink (work with) from us. Bright Simons, Nana Twum-Daso and Martha Murdock had inspring presentations on pharmaceutical consumer’s safety, management of a project and management of resources. At the end we got a chance to see Fred Sai “the father of maternal health.”  He shared his life experiences with us and how he was drawn towards maternal health field. It was a very inspiring talk.

Overall it was a memorable event. We met for five days, but received enough love from everyone to last a  lifetime. Whenever I will be open my comments book I will never feel alone.  In fact, I am reading the book now and I am feeling like we are a single family based in different regions of the world but our main goal is same “To bring some change, for the humanity and for the future healthy nations of this world. Amen.”