World Vision

Pregnancy and Maternal Health Care: New Zealand & Zambia

January 25, 2016

I’m in my third trimester and as we prepare for the arrival of our first child I started thinking about what the experience of other women in different countries would be. I’ve seen so many expectant mum’s preparing for their little one’s arrival with the most gorgeous clothing, toys and things. I’m no exception, though we have kept everything to a bare minimum. We have a place for the little one to sleep (a cot), a Moses basket that’s by my writing desk so I can keep an eye on baby as I work, and a few clothes, two soft toys that were gifts, a natural baby body wash and books that Patrick and I have collected over the years. We still need to get nappies and a few other bits and pieces but for the most part we’re going to get things as and when we need them. As I sat sorting out items for my hospital bag I made a mental note to find out what the experience of women in developing countries might look like.

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As a World Vision Australia Blog Ambassador I’m lucky to be able to reach out to a team of knowledgeable and hard-working people with questions like these. Today, I want to share with you the experience of some pregnant women in Zambia and the one nurse, Agnes, the only health care provider for 15,000 people. She works in a clinic that doesn’t have electricity, only one delivery bed – and is without a simple ultrasound machine. World Vision is currently completing a new clinic next door to the clinic where Agnes works. The new clinic will have brand new rooms, solar electricity, piped water and housing for staff.

Like my appointments with my doctor and midwife, Agnes checks the blood pressure and weight of the pregnant ladies but unlike my doctor and midwife, Agnes has been on-call all the time – twenty-four hours a day, seven days a weeks for ten years. Agnes is 56 years old and can barely muster a smile for her patients. She’s in need of more –  more staff, more medicine, more space, more everything. This temporary clinic has three rooms – one for delivering babies, one in which to examine patients and another to store medicine.

This is where many of women who see Agnes will deliver their babies, a delivery room with just one bed.

A sharp contrast to the sterile, contemporary room in which I’ll have my baby. My midwife and I spoke about the importance of single rooms for mum’s and the impact that this has on rest, recovery and of course bonding with your baby. Those considerations simply wouldn’t be possible for Agnes and her patients.

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Even more confronting is what I, a woman in New Zealand am preparing to take to the hospital, and what a woman in Zambia is preparing. The centre can’t always provide these items for women, nor can they offer women accommodation after birth, it becomes vital that the women come prepared with their own supplies. This includes a razor blade which will be used to cut the umbilical cord.

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Here’s what my list looks like, it appears completely indulgent and I’m slightly ashamed that I have it this ‘easy’.

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This is Hellen, she’s 26 years old, she’s had three children (six, four and two years old). She almost had her two year old at the clinic but did not arrive on time. She lives far from the hospital and due to the distance, she ended up delivering on the way. Hellen had her baby in the grass, “I was scared the whole time, I think I’’ll start off earlier. I won’’t wait for labour pains to start. I’’ve heard about this clinic (a modern new one World Vision is building across the street). It will have more facilities. Delivery will be better. I feel very happy and excited. You know you will have everything you need to have a baby. This clinic will have power.””

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Felistus has a different story, she’s 28 years old and had a tough pregnancy. All nurse Agnes had to examine Felistus with was a basic stethoscope, a thermometer, and a scale to weigh and measure. Without an ultrasound machine there was no way for nurse Agnes to know that Felistus was carrying twins! Felistus walked to the clinic, as most people do, ““I was almost ready to deliver, but there was someone in the bed.” They quickly moved the woman who had just delivered. Before they put me on the bed I was frightened. There was a lot of blood already from the previous delivery.” ” It was dark, and without electricity Agnes lit a candle, holding it in one hand, she prepared to catch the baby with the other.

Her first son was born and then Agnes said, “Ah, there is another.” Felistus was not prepared for two children,  ““I only had clothes for one.”” With no running water at the clinic, Felistus had to wash up in a public toilet (a latrine). With no running water, there is only a hole in the ground to use when relieving oneself. Winson, Felistus husband says he understands that “this could have been the end of my wife’s life. And my sons.” In his spare time, he makes bricks for the new clinic, ” “If I am asked to do anything, I will give myself to help build that clinic.”

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all images courtesy of Jon Warren/World Vision

And this is the new clinic that World Vision is currently rebuilding. The new clinic will have brand new delivery suites, electricity, water, more staff and medical supplies. It will truly help change the experiences of women like Agnes, Hellen and Felistus. I so desperately wanted  to get involved and help so I’ve teamed up with World Vision Australia through Vision Sisters to help raise money to fund safe birthing kits and maternal health supplies to hospitals all over Uganda and other parts of Africa. Patrick and I aren’t having a baby shower for our little one and aren’t putting up a wishlist of items we’d like but we’d love if people wanted to celebrate this time in our life with us that they would contribute to my Vision Sisters fund. Our little one is already being born into a privileged world and lifestyle and it would mean so much to us if you would contribute to this fund instead.

Please feel free to share this story and the link to my Visions Sisters fund page. Thank you all so much for your continued support and generosity. I hope together we can make a contribution towards this effort.

Shopping For The Hard To Shop For

December 8, 2015

This past week Patrick and I have had conversations at length about those hard to shop for people. I’m sure we all have them in our lives. Perhaps it’s not that they’re hard to shop for, they might already have everything they need or have specific values about where they shop from and while you respect that, you’re not quite ready to shell out $150 on an organic cotton t-shirt for them. Instead of spending time and energy browsing stores and wasting money I wanted to share an alternative: giving a gift that’s not a gift! As many of you may know this year I became a World Vision Blog Ambassador and I’m excited to share with you these gifts that give twice, and really just keep giving.

For $5 you could gift a child a set of pencils, the most basic of learning tools, so they may begin to create the future they want.

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For $15 you can help protect a family from mosquito-borne diseases by providing them with mosquito nets.

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For $25 you could save a child from dying from polio, tetanus and tuberculousis. Your gift would buy childhood immunisation.

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The Details 

You have a few options when it comes to these cards.

Printed cards | You’ll receive a gift card and envelope through the post. The order is processed and posted within 4 business days. World Vision asks that you order your printed cards by Friday 11 December to ensure they arrive in time for Christmas.

E-cards | For those of us, like me, who have bright ideas at the last possible moment! These are great for delivery anywhere in the world and allow you to add a personalised message.

Print your own | Another quick and easy option. You’ll get a link to download and print your own card.

You can view the complete World Vision Gift Guide here for a variety of gifts that would work for any budget. I look forward to sharing more of the work that World Vision engages in and my experience with them in the new year. You can also view my older World Vision posts here.

The Importance of Child-Friendly Spaces

November 23, 2015

My research work and interests have taken me down the path of child-friendly spaces.  Earlier this month I gave a presentation on the importance of child spaces for children in Fiji and also had an article published in Mai Life magazine on how necessary third spaces are for children. Spaces for children, that are child-friendly, collaborative and engaged can make a difference across a variety of contexts. Three such contexts include children who are not in school, children in conflict zones and children in areas affected by natural disasters.

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Children’s Reading Space, Levuka, Fiji (photo credit: Levuka Community Centre)

Children Out of School and Home. In Fiji, there appears to be two main spaces in which children live their childhoods: the home, with their family and the school. All other activities tied to childhood like sports, friendship circles, religious activities and so on are tied heavily to the home and the school. Yet not all children go to school. With so much focus on developing childhoods around the home and school we forget about children who aren’t living their childhoods in either of these spaces. Take for instance children on the streets. Third, or alternative spaces (to the home and school), such as the children’s reading room we support provide another space that children can access.

Child Friendly Space Amani-5 years CFS in "AL Marej Tented Settlements" "I'm trying to build a room- It reminds me of my room in our house in Syria. This is the only place that makes me happy- there's a lot of toys here."

5 year old Amani at a World Vision child-friendly space in the “AL Marej Tented Settlements”. Amani explains, “I’m trying to build a room. It reminds me of my room in our house in Syria. This is the only place that makes me happy – there’s a lot of toys here.” (photo credit: Ralph Baydoun, World Vision) 

Children in Conflict Areas. While I have no direct experience working with children in conflict areas, as a World Vision Blog Ambassador I am aware of the work World Vision does with children in these areas. There are children in countries like South Sudan, Syria and Gaza who live in environments where they experience extreme conflict or are refugees. World Vision psychosocial specialist Alison Schafer explains, “it is a common misconception that young children do not understand stressful or violent events and so are not as affected as adults. Their young minds process much more than is often credited.” Children simply experience events (conflict, poverty, natural disasters) differently to adults.

Children learn songs and dance at World Vision's Child-Friendly Space in Binu community. Summary: Following severe flooding that swept through the Guadalcanal Plains, Solomon Islands, in early April 2014 World Vision established 10 Women-Friendly Spaces (WFS) to provide privacy and support to more than 1,200 women. Child-Friendly Spaces (CFS) were established alongside WFS to allow women to enjoy the WFS knowing their children are having fun close by. More than 900 children are benefitting from the CFSs, which provide a safe place where children can regain a sense of normalcy and participate in early childhood education activities. See updates on WVRelief.

Children learning songs and dances at World Vision’s Child-Friendly Space in the Binu community, Solomon Islands (photo credit: Suzanne Wargo, World Vision)

Children in Areas Affected by Natural Disasters. As a Pacific Islander I’m well aware of the consequences of natural disasters on communities. Cyclone Pam in Vanuatu significantly affected the country, especially children. Following the severe flooding that affected the Guadalcanal Plains in the Solomon Islands in April 2014, World Vision established Child-Friendly Spaces where over 900 children benefited from a space where they could regain a sense of normalcy and participate in early childhood education activities.

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Child-friendly space, Nepal. (photo credit: World Vision)

World Vision’s response during the Nepal earthquake included child-friendly spaces that catered to both the immediate emotional and practical needs of children. Protected spaces like these help children come to terms with their loss and offer a place of calm amidst the chaos.

These spaces allow children to play and learn where regardless of their lived realities (be it out of school children, refugees or children’s whose lives have been changed by natural disasters) they can just be children. Some of these spaces have the additional purpose of educating children and raising awareness about issues like education, hygiene and sanitation. All within an environment that is safe and inclusive, often in direct contrast to their everyday lives. As adults we’re easily able to access alternative spaces and communities like coffee shops, sporting groups, religious organisations independently. Children on the other hand cannot and rely on organisations like World Vision to provide them with access to alternative spaces of play, learning and childhoods.

You can help support World Vision’s child-friendly spaces and work with children by helping World Vision with toys and gifts for children and early learning for indigenous children.

You can find more of my posts for World Vision here.

World Food Day 2015 with World Vision

October 14, 2015

October 16th is World Food Day and I’m thrilled to let you know that World Vision is partnering with the United Nations World Food Programme through the 40 Hour Famine Channels. The partnership means that for every dollar World Vision fundraises, the World Food Programme will match it times 9 – meaning we’d be turning $1 into $9 of food aid instantly. Food aid that is needed in South Sudan and the East African region where emergencies continue to cause food stress to the population.

Over the last three months food has become so much more important to me because I’m pregnant. I know how important it is to nourish my body so that my growing baby has what it needs to grow. As a researcher who has worked with children I’ve seen the effects of children who come to school without having nourishing meals. It’s devastating. Many schools now, in countries as different as Fiji and New Zealand, offer feeding programs acknowledging the need for children to have decent meals in order to learn and survive. It’s becoming evident that you cannot just invest in education without considering the health and nutrition of children.

World-Vision-World-Food-Day-1 World-Vision-World-Food-Day-2World-Vision-World-Food-Day-3 World Vision partners with the World Good Programme every year to deliver life-saving food to children and families around the world. While the World Food Programme provides the food, World Vision must raise money to cover the costs of distributing the food: which includes logistics, warehousing and staff. As a researcher who has worked on the ground in the field, I can’t tell you how important effective logistics and budgets relating to project or program delivery are. Without the right structures and systems it’s difficult to get worthwhile programs running. The costs related to distribution and the strategies for distribution are just as important as the food itself.

You can donate, find out more, and watch a video of the impact the program makes here. You can decide how much you donate, there is no set amount, remember even if you can only afford a few dollars, your donation is multiplied up to nine times.

For every $1 you donate, World Vision can deliver food and other relief essentials up to the value of  $9. Find out more about the World Vision World Food Day Program here.

A Day In The Life: In An Indian Slum

September 14, 2015

My day in the life posts are one of my favourite types of posts to write and to read on other people’s blogs. Curiosity is such a huge part of human nature, especially about how the other lives. Today I wanted to offer you something different. A real view into a day in the life of someone whose life is so different to mine, and I suspect to yours. With the help of World Vision Australia I’m so honoured to share with you a day in the life of eight year old Prachi, who lives in a slum in Delhi, India.

On climbing two floors up, entering a one bedroom home, eight year old Prachi is getting ready for school. She is humming to a tune. On asking about it, she replies smiling, “It is one of the tunes I learnt from life school for transformational development (LSTD) this year. I love singing and dancing to them.” Prachi gets up around 7 am. After breakfast her mother, Manju, 35, walks her to the school which starts at 8 am. “There are 25 students in my grade and we have one teacher for the primary level,” says Prachi, studying in third grade. English is her favourite subject.

7am Prachi wakes up, gets ready for school in her family’s one-bedroom home, after breakfast her mother Manju walks her to school.

8am School begins. Prachi is in the third grade, there are 25 students in her grade with one teacher for the primary level. Her favourite subject is English.

On climbing two floors up, entering a one bedroom home, eight year old Prachi is getting ready for school. She is humming to a tune. On asking about it, she replies smiling, “It is one of the tunes I learnt from life school for transformational development (LSTD) this year. I love singing and dancing to them.” Prachi gets up around 7 am. After breakfast her mother, Manju, 35, walks her to the school which starts at 8 am. “There are 25 students in my grade and we have one teacher for the primary level,” says Prachi, studying in third grade. English is her favourite subject.

1pm Prachi returns home from school, washes her hands and gets ready for lunch, “I learned about hand washing with soap and its role in preventing waterborne diseases at LSTD” she explains. After lunch she sits at her favourite spot, the wide open and brightly sun-lit terrace and finishes her homework.

After lunch, Prachi runs straight to the terrace and finishes her homework. The terrace is her favourite place due to the wide open space and bright sunlight. “She is very diligent in completing any work she gets from school and will not play or watch TV until it is done” says Prachi’s mother, Manju.

2pm-4pm (six days a week) Prachi attends classes conducted by World Vision India. Prachi is a regular for the remedial classes, the Life School for Transformational Development (LSTD) classes and the Right to Education workshops.

After the classes Prachi returns home and spends the remainder of the afternoon playing at home. Her favourite game is carom board. Many children are confined to playing in their homes, “one of the major needs for children in the community is a safe place to play as there is no playground or park nearby” explains Manju. There is a general fear among parents and children of the unsavoury influences outside the home. With the help of World Vision India, women in the community have become motivated to come out of their homes, attend self-help group meetings and actively participate in decision making.

Even Prachi’s older sister  Pooja who is in the 11th grade echoes the sentiments shared by her mother, “I used to be scared of walking in our neighbourhood streets due to the local goons but through the self-defense course [karate] organised by World Vision India in collaboration with the Delhi Police; I am very confident in protecting myself and the police have set up special support for women in the police-stations. If I see any suspicious people, I dial 100 (police helpline) or 1098 (child helpline).” Pooja wants to become a policewoman. Prachi has also expressed interested in learning self-defence but unlike her sister, she wants to become a doctor and help patients from poor neighbourhoods.

Prachi with her certificate from life school for transformational development (LSTD) this year. She loves singing and dancing to the songs she learnt from LSTD. To add on, Prachi says “I learned about hand washing with soap and its role in preventing water borne diseases at LSTD.”

6pm Prachi gets comfortable in front of the TV watching Cartoon Network

8pm The family have dinner

9pm Prachi is off to bed

As I put this post together I couldn’t help but think how lucky Prachi is (does that seem horrible to you? Let me explain). Her day seemed no different to school-attending children in many of the Pacific countries I’ve had experience in. But then I remember she lives in a slum. While I’ve had no experience in Indian slums I have worked in slums in Fiji and there are very few similarities between Prachi’s day and the day of the slum-dwelling children in Fiji that I’ve worked with. The difference is actually quite stark. The reasons for the differences I think go back to the presence of organisations like World Vision in these communities. The work they do and the support they provide especially in relation to education, safety and empowering women actually transform communities and allow children like Prachi to have these experiences.

If you’re curious and would like you find out more, I encourage you to have a look at the World Vision website, there’s a wealth of information about their programs and issues facing children like Prachi on there. There are a multitude of ways you can get involved, either as an individual or with a community via financial assistance or otherwise. Every level of engagement and involvement makes a difference.

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