Young Champions: Secrets Revealed!

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By: Dr. Ann Blanc, Director, MHTF; Tim Thomas, Senior Advisor, MHTF

Over the nine months of their internships, the Young Champions of Maternal Health have forged a steadfast bond. Facebook has been their friend, and they’re not letting go of the strong network they’ve formed. They’ve gotten to know lots about each other, and we learned a little more about them during the Future Forum in Accra last week.

Anna Dion needed to end her Young Championship a bit early to go back to Canada where she’s about to have her first baby so she didn’t make the Future Forum. The skype-powered baby-shower that her peers held for her in Accra was downright heartwarming.

Carolina Damasio from Brazil presented her project at the MHTF Delhi conference last fall in Portuguese because she didn’t speak English well enough; she presented in Accra in fluent English. An American pilot may have had something to do with that!

Martha Fikre Adenew learned some profound lessons about cross-cultural communication while working with her mentor ‘Mama Kat’ Hall-Trujillo in the rural southern United States – a far cry from her native Ethiopia.

Seth Cochran, who came into the program with lots of business experience, has invested his own money to help eradicate obstetric fistula. He’s more than ready to get others to ante up now.

No fewer than 2 Young Champions are headed to Oxford University in the fall to begin work on their PhDs: Julianne Parker will explore fistula survival and Onikepe Oluwadamilola Owolabi will use her full scholarship to further her medical studies.

Sara al-Lamki from Oman is not only a burgeoning maternal health expert, but she seems to be a linguist as well: in addition to her native Arabic, she speaks French, English and Kiswahili fluently.

Yeabsira Mehari has ties to the Ethiopian business community, which she’s going to tap for her work with reintegration of fistula survivors.

Zubaida Bai‘s clean birth kits are not only locally manufactured, inexpensive, and biodegradable but they double as fashionable purses!

Peris Wakesho isn’t leaving her adolescence behind: she’s taking it with her as she works to develop psychosocial support for teen Kenyans facing pregnancy.

Hellen Mammeja Kotlolo, a South African midwife, is building quite a resume as a spokesperson on t.v. and radio, which she plans to exploit to promote and finance her project.

Faatimaa Ahmadi from Iran brought her young son along with her to Uganda, and had the privilege of witnessing first hand the many differences and similarities between his life and that of his playmates. A true cultural exchange.

While we were in Accra, a group at Tulane University held their first fundraiser for Egwaoje Ifeyinwa Madu‘s project to work with young mothers in Nigeria!

Faisal Siraj broke his leg helping his neighbors during the terrible floods in Pakistan last year, so he missed the first YC meeting in Delhi. When he got to Accra, the Young Champions brought him easily into the fold and they promptly dubbed him ‘the movie star!’

Maria Laura Casalegno is suffering an embarrassment of riches – will she return to Argentina to finish her medical degree or stay in Mexico with her mentor who has offered her a job?

Stay tuned to the MHTF Blog to see what happens to this intriguing group of young maternal health professionals!