I can’t say that I ever really noticed mothers until I became one. For me motherhood is the hardest, most rewarding job I will ever have. I subscribe to the idea that it takes a village to raise children. Family, friends, and even perfect strangers, who lend a helping hand at just the right time, make motherhood easier, less isolated, better.
Global adventures, accompanied by my children, have made it clear to me that moms living in poverty need help. In 2009, I moved with my husband, one-year-old daughter and four-year-old son to work with trauma survivors at the Mae Tao Clinics on the Thai-Burma border. I taught trauma-sensitive yoga to Burmese refugees and amputees, many of whom were women.
That year in Thailand and Cambodia was amazing. I will forever remember family bike rides through rice paddies, diaper disasters in the shadow of ancient temples, my small kids making friends on the playground with local kids…
I will also never forget the women I met while there. They had no access to prenatal care, a skilled labor attendant or postnatal care. They opened my eyes to the reality that are not alone. Worldwide, as a consequence of inadequate maternal and infant healthcare, nearly 287,000 moms and 6.6 million kids under 5 die each year according to the WHO.
Six months after returning from Thailand, my desire to help other moms in need led me to travel to Uganda as a doula. Where I saw many more women in need and also learned about Clean Birth Kits, which can save lives at birth in resource-poor areas. The kits contain basic birthing supplies which, research has shown, prevent birth-related infection in mothers and babies.
When I returned from Uganda and researched global birth, I found that Laos, a country I had visited many times while living in Thailand, has among the highest rates of maternal and infant mortality in the world. Hoping to help, I contacted a non-profit in Salavan Province, southern Laos, and offered to donate AYZH CleanBirth Kits and fund training.
In November 2012, I traveled to remote Salavan Province. Dr. Nong, the founder of my partner non-profit, and I trained nurses in the use and distribution of Clean Birth Kits. The nurses were so impressive, asked intelligent questions and adapted the program to match the needs of their patients.
The nurses told me that, due to religious beliefs, women give birth alone in the forest, often with fatal consequences.
Thanks to the support of over 300 donors in the US and abroad, I returned to Salavan in July 2013, to train 12 more nurses and provide 1,000 AYZH Clean Birth Kits.
With the input of the nurses, we further developed a training for birth CleanBirth Volunteers. The Volunteers, women chosen from each village, attend trainings led by the local nurses and learn about Clean Birth Kits and safe birthing practices. The first training of eight volunteers was held this October and was a great success! Our hope is that CleanBirth Volunteers will become trusted, in-village oracles of safe birthing knowledge.
Please consider joining my mission. It’s easy to get involved. Just visit www.cleanbirth.org. Every $5 donation provides a mother with a birth kit and information about safe birth. Thanks for reading!
Kristyn Zalota is the founder of CleanBirth.org, a non-profit working to improve maternal and infant health in Laos. Currently living in New Haven, CT, US with her husband and two children, she holds an MA from Yale, is a DONA doula, and Lamaze educator. I’m always impressed by dedicated parents who also model empathy by volunteering, and so I asked her to tell me more about how she began her organization while raising her young children.
Click here to watch Kristyn talking about her project. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more, or connect with her on facebook, twitter, tumblr, or pinterest. Do you know a mom or dad with an amazing project that is modeling compassion and empathy? Share it with us in the comments so we can reach out to them!