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Stories from the Field - From Project Coordinator, Kristen Porter

MAGIC! - By Kristen Porter, Shanti Uganda Project Coordinator

Three days have passed now since the busiest week Shanti Maternity and Learning Centre has ever seen.  To be honest I have been a little worried about this week for a while now  but the many many people involved in organizing this week made it not only our busiest week but our most successful and most powerful one as well. This week has made me realize just how powerful and amazing every single member of Shanti Uganda is. All Shanti Uganda staff and volunteers pulled long working hours and performed duties that were well outside of their job descriptions this week and poured their hearts into every moment and we are so grateful for everyone of them.

In addition to having a few babies this week, we reached out to 195 mothers of new borns in Nsaasi and the surrounding villages. Postnatal education is by far one of the hardest programs to implement here as mothers leave the centre (or hospital) and that's the last we see of them. For the past four weeks our midwives and two nursing interns from McGill University in Montreal have been working hard to put together an effective and comprehensive postnatal infant and mother care program. In the short time that they've had the program in place we've seen dramatic results. All moms have been coming back for their appointments and wellness workshops and actually enjoying themselves. 

Just at the right time we had Neil Powell designer of the Information Blanket join us from New York. Neil brought a very generous donation of baby blankets engraved with the essential information a new born mom needs. Danger signs, breastfeeding information, temperature, a growth chart,   immunization schedule etc. It's all in Luganda and designed for those with limited or no literacy. Mothers and TBA's came from all over to receive a blanket and take part in our postnatal workshops on wellness, care and nutrition. We also spent two days in the village talking to mothers who live too far away to come to the centre. We were blown away by our lab attendant's teaching abilities and our agriculturalist's knowledge of Ugandan plants (what foods help breast milk come, what plants/food are good for brain development etc).  Every mother received an explanation on each aspect of the blanket from our amazing midwives.

The week was capped off by a visit from the Witness Your World participants. The leaders of this trip were members of the Off The Mat group that made all of this possible. They visited us over a year ago when we were still just bricks and mortar.  It was an emotional reunion as they were welcomed to what is now a thriving centre for the women of Uganda. Their first day was spent reuniting with some of our women's group members and midwives, getting a detailed tour of the centre and good old fashion booty shakin'. We capped the day off with a huge yoga class in our new yoga garden. Our staff and women's group got to show off their skills.

To cap off the week we had a huge celebration with 46 teen-girls to celebrate women and women's rights.  This day was about fun, pure fun. Most of the girls in the village don't get to just be “kids”.  Many are house-girls taking care of many children with little to no pay, many are mothers themselves.  We opened with a powerful dancing and singing circle in which some of the greatest talent I've ever seen came out of one of our teen moms. Then the girls got to participate in sports, bracelet making, a rockin' yoga class (on real mats!), banana fibre doll making and each girl walked home with a tooth brush, which some have never used.

The real excitement began after lunch as the girls made t-shirts with women's rights messages on them - “Women are strong,” “Women are Heroes,” “Women are Motherland!” Not the common message around these parts.

Webale nyo, nyo, nyo to everyone involved in this week!!!! It was a lot of hard work and every minute was worth it and every mother and girl touched this week lives will be changed because of it!

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