Lighting Up My Corner

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By: Sara Al-Lamki, Young Champion of Maternal Health

This blog post was contributed by Sara Al-Lamki, 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.

The countdown to the end of the YC program looms ever closer, and the future is daunting and exciting all at once. We have all just returned from another inspiring YC meeting, this time in Accra, where we exchanged ideas, experiences, challenges, and our journey of figuring out the next phases in our lives. It was the perfect way to end our placement – with as much inspiration and vigor to change the world as we started, forgetting all the hardships we’ve endured, and finding solace in each others’ experiences. Still it is not quite over yet, and I’m trying to squeeze the very most out of the final 3 weeks left in Bali, and making sure that all loose ends are tied so I can leave knowing that I left a footprint, no matter how small.

April was a month of fundraisers and sending out the message of all the wonderful things YRS is doing out into the world, or Bali at least. I organized a small fundraiser in early April where we screened an Indonesian movie called “Perempun Punya Cerita”, a collection of 4 short films directed by different Indonesian female directors, about the challenges Indonesian women face day to day, covering controversial topics such as premarital sex, HIV, abortion and mail order brides. It is a brilliant movie, and never fails to get the dialogue rolling about issues that are unspoken in Indonesia, especially in the tourist haven of Bali. The response was amazing, and was the perfect introduction to the annual fundraiser, which was held a week later.

The annual fundraiser is a day for everyone to meet all the women that make YRS possible, to socialize, and get discreet Pap Smears. In addition, since we are located in a market where there is a small bazaar of high-priced donated items we held a raffle with 25 great prizes where tickets were sold far and wide, and my colleagues and I sold (or forced them to purchase) them to our friends and acquaintances. It was an extremely successful event, which rose over Rp 50 million (almost $6000). To western NGOs that may not sound like very much, but that is enough to cover the Pap Smear program for an entire two years, offering free services to 800+ women that will come in at that time. That is quite an accomplishment, and significantly more than what was raised last year. Hopefully we will raise even more in the years to come!

April also saw a whole new team of staff entering YRS, and I got to learn about how to recruit for an NGO. I discovered that even though people may seem eager, commitment is key. And, even though one candidate may seem more qualified, if they are not committed then there is no continuity to the clinic and that is important for familiarity and trust with patients but also for the growth of the NGO. It was surprisingly eye opening. It may all seem obvious, but it’s just as important to notice certain minute details that I wouldn’t have necessarily looked at before, and that could make them right or wrong for the job. Still, the new team is great, and though there are definitely challenges YRS still has to overcome, hopefully this new team will lead the way to achieving their goal of expanding to 8 other education centres by the end of the year.

For me, it was also a month of triumph – 15 weeks and 156 interviews later; I was done with my pregnancy habits and maternal health status survey. Dr. Fred Sai ended our Accra meetings with telling us to start slow, and to begin with just ‘lighting up your corner.’ I’m still a long way away of course. I still have to analyze the data and figure out what it all means, but it’s been a great ride, and the preliminary results are very promising. Just another reminder that my time in Bali is truly running out, but hopefully that my little contribution has begun to light up my little corner, and I can expand it to wherever my journeys take me next. It may take a while to light up the whole room, but I think I’m on the right track.