This blog post was contributed by Martha Fikre Adenew, 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.
After wrapping up the last operational year in March, the second phase the Birthing Project New Orleans in collaboration with Kellogg Foundation was started in April. Since the Mississippi projects were included, we had to travel to the rural part of USA where one of the Birthing Project USA is operating.
Anguilla Birthing Project is one of the Mississippi Delta’s Birthing Projects which was started in January 2010. The project is coordinated by a community elder, Ms. Emma Cooper-Harris, the project includes a sister-friend component like the other Birthing Projects. The objective of the trip was to perform an evaluation of last year’s project and to find ways to move to the next phase by introducing new ideas which were very important to the community. We were doing community organizing to bring different people and organizations on board to make greater achievement on the future project.
All the different members of the communitiy from local schools, the health department and WIC office were all very welcoming and willing to form a partnership. One of the reasons for the positive response was the presence of the coordinator who they all know very well and respected. The big lesson from this trip was when we want to implement a program in any community, we have to first be accepted by the community. We need to show the face of a person who is very well known and influential in the community. In our context, especially in rural areas, it is important to include people such as community and religious leaders in our work. In addition, if we need the participation and involvement of the community in our projects, rather than telling them what to do we have to approach it in a way that the community takes the project and modifes it in their own way.
At the end of April, it was of course very exciting because of the Future Forum of Young Champions. I was eager to meet the Young Champions again in Accra and I was very happy to spend time with them. It was a great opportunity to meet different amazing people whom I have learned a lot from. Talking with Young Champions and listening to the other professionals’ presentations was very inspirational which only escalated my passion to work on maternal health.