Midwifery Care beyond Language Barriers

Midwife Kerry Dixon recently had the opportunity to volunteer at our birth house in Ugandan and cherished her time there. Kerry has been a midwife for over 20 years and has many qualifications including being a Certified Professional Midwife and Certified Nurse-Midwife. She also has the unique experience of practicing in 4 continents over the course of her career including in the US, Pakistan, China, New Zealand, Rwanda, and now most recently, Uganda.

Feeling disillusioned by the negativity in the world, and finding herself in a career transition, Kerry knew this would be the perfect time for her to give back, “Some people have discretionary income and share generously. Those of us without that ability must find other ways to give back to the world. I am someone who has midwifery and women’s health skills and knowledge to share.”

From her previous experiences working around the world she knew there was a knowledge gap when it came to modern midwifery practises.  New studies do not often reach people in remote places without access to computers or wifi, and when research is published in English, a second language for many; it makes it even more inaccessible. With experience in homebirth, birth centres and hospitals Kerry saw that she had a lot to offer by volunteering at Shanti. She was also inspired to volunteer at the birth house because of our foundation in the midwifery model of care which centres on the health and well-being of the mother.


Strong mama and newborn baby who were assisted by Kerry and our Ugandan staff during birth

While visiting Uganda in 2014 Kerry noticed how kind and friendly everyone was, and experienced that same warmth from our local midwives, “I loved working with the Ugandan midwives. I was welcomed and supported during my time with the team.”

Kerry worked with our local midwives to update them on the latest information on when best to prescribe medications to pregnant women. As well, she refreshed the team on the various labouring positions that mothers are encouraged to use at the birth house.

Kerry (center) with Shanti midwives and staff

Not only did she come to Uganda to share her knowledge, but to learn from our Ugandan midwives as well. “I learned more about malaria and how to compassionately tell a client she is HIV positive. Also, for the HIV negative women, how to reinforce the importance of maintaining negative status.” But the biggest lesson she found while volunteering at Shanti Uganda went beyond simple midwifery techniques, “I learned that compassionate and kind care transcends language. Loving and respectful touch when examining a pregnant belly can be felt physically and heart-to-heart. I was completely comfortable taking care of women despite language barriers.”

This is a lesson we all hope to learn here at Shanti, as compassionate care is at the heart of what we do. Kerry hopes to return to Ugandan in the future and in the meantime will continue volunteering with Shanti as part of our midwifery advisory board. We are grateful to have individuals like Kerry who share our vision and help re-inspire us in the work that we do. If you want to volunteer at our birth house in Uganda send an email to info@shantiuganda.org with your resume and fill out our volunteer application.

Shattering Glass Ceilings One Business Workshop at a Time

We have exciting news to report from central Uganda: the members of the Shanti Women’s Income Generating Group are well on their way to successful business formation!

The first phase of our business training program was completed last week with the help of Ocakacon Lawrence, a business trainer from Start and Improve Your Business Uganda (SIYB). The topics of discussion during this first phase included business planning, market research, record keeping and profit forecasting. Through group work, question and answer sessions and role playing, the members learned a variety of important concepts and are well-equipped to move onto phase two. Also, I’m proud to share that we had a 97% attendance rate!

After the training period, I met with the women to discuss their overall opinions of this first phase; they gave nothing but positive feedback. Many of them had never practiced detailed record-keeping or costing, so eyes were opened and repertoires were expanded! Importantly, they mentioned that these first lessons will be invaluable as they begin working on their own business plans.  

Ocakacon Lawrence presents to the group

A common demonstration of appreciation in Uganda is a quick hand-clapping sequence that ends with “Asante sana!,” or “Thank you!” in Kiswahili. This gesture was shared many times over. Needless to say, they were extremely grateful for this experience.

We are moving onto phase two which will include vocational training in a variety of subject areas including tailoring, shoe-making and pig rearing. Each individual member will decide which trainings she would like to attend so the path forward will be individualized to fit the desires of each person. While attending these trainings, the members will also work individually with the interpreter and I to create functional business plans which will guide them as they continue on their journey.

As this first phase comes to an end, the WIGG members and I would like to extend our deepest gratitude and appreciation to everyone who has joined us through monetary and moral support. Thanks to you, many families, children and communities will have a more stable way forward. This program will help send kids to school, will allow members to create sustainable plans for future generations and will provide hope and inspiration to the entire community.

Weebale Nyo, Nyo, Nyo

(Thank you very, very much!!!)

To support more business training for our WIGG group, please see our Global Giving page.

Interview with Kate Dewey of Birth Arts International

Kate supporting a strong mama

Our Operations Director spoke to our doula training instructor, Kate Dewey about her work as a doula, doula instructor, mom and business woman. Kate is a mom of five kids, a doula instructor with Birth Arts International and co-owner of Let It Be Birth Doula Services, she lives in the Seattle area with her family.

What attracted you to doula work?

So I was that weird kid that liked playing pregnancy and birth as a kid, I’ve always been interested in birth. My grandma was also a big influence on me, she was a labor and delivery nurse and I used to visit her at work. I began my career in nursing school, but when I had my first daughter I realized it was the comfort part of birth, both pregnancy and postpartum that I was interested in.

What was it about your birthing experience with your daughter that changed you mind?

I didn’t know what was a doula was before the pregnancy, [back in 2006]. My husband and I didn’t end up getting one as I thought he would be enough. When my birth stalled, the nurse was actually trained as a doula and helped me turn the baby and progress to have a vaginal birth. Her support and care inspired my doula work.

How long have you been a doula? How long have you been a doula instructor?

Doula for 9 years, an instructor for 1.

What inspired you to become a doula instructor?

Learning about Birth Arts International made me want to become an instructor. They approach doula work from a place that is both doula centered and birth centered. BAI teaches a strong heart connection to the work, but they also want their doulas to be financially successful. There was a trend in instruction to go either one way or the other, all about business or all about the work. I feel like there needs to be a balance and the BAI training does this very well. I was inspired to bring BAI to the Pacific Northwest where I live.

What is your teaching style like?

I would say my teaching style is humorous and educational. I like to have fun, if you’re not having fun you’re not absorbing the information. I love telling birth stories, sharing my experience and making a few jokes along the way. I feel it’s important to learn from my students as well, people come from all different backgrounds and have a lot to share. Doula work can be hard and having a sense of humor makes it easier.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned from supporting birthing women?

Let it go. It sounds so Disney, but its true. There’s a lot of surrender you have to do because birth never goes as planned. You have to be prepared to accept those changes and curve balls in birth as well as in life. You have to let it go and trust that it will all work out in the end.

What makes Birth Arts International different from other certifying organizations? Why did you want to become a BAI instructor?

The BAI training is comprehensive and requires a lot out of its students. To be a good doula, you need a lot of training, so I think it’s good to have high expectations of future doulas. We require a lot of births, a lot of homework and activities and most importantly a lot of self-discovery. We also make sure doulas are prepared to start their business before they become certified.

What is the key to having a successful doula business?

You have to have the dedication to making this be your full time career. You have to be able to market yourself, have confidence in yourself and have confidence in the birth room. You have to have your life set up in a way that works for your business. A solid partner, a solid family support system and a dedication to birthing women will go a long way.

Why are you excited about the Doula Training with Shanti Uganda?

One of the things I try to teach my students is always to be open to new things and be open to opportunities to expand your knowledge. By teaching this training, I’m showing my students that I’m doing that too, I’m going to learn just as much as I am to teach. I’m excited to explore a new country, learn from Shanti Uganda’s incredible staff of midwives and find common ground through birth. It really is a universal language. I’m excited to teach aspiring doulas from all over the world.

What advice do you have for someone who wants to have a career as a doula?

The first birth I attended, I heard that siren call. I knew in that moment what I wanted to do with my life. I hear often from women who hear that call too and I always tell them if you’ve got that voice telling you to do this, don’t ignore it!

Attend our BAI Doula Training this September! For more info click here.

From Child Brides to Girl Leaders and Mentors

child brideNearly 1 in every 2 girls in Uganda is married before the age of 18 and 60% of girls in Uganda are pregnant before they reach 18. Young girls in rural Nsaasi Village, Uganda represent some of the most marginalized girls in the region. In addition to forced marriage, high early pregnancy rates & the associated health risks, many of the girls we support have lost parents and are often living under the care of a female relative.

We see this every day because over 45% of the women we serve at The Shanti Uganda Birth House are between the ages of 14 and 19. 

The Power of Yoga

may 22 (42 of 42) (1)Things are always abuzz at Shanti in May: a large part of which is because of our Prenatal Yoga Teacher Training and Retreat! Our latest retreat took place from May 10-May 19, 2016: our retreat-goers came together for a ten-day program where they were immersed in the prenatal experience.  Surrounded by the beautiful atmosphere of Shanti Maternity and Learning Centre, this experience provided in-depth training in anatomy & physiology. It also included teaching techniques for every trimester, yoga philosophy as it relates to pregnancy and a lot of opportunity to develop confidence teaching pregnant women. After 40 incredible hours, the women are now certified as prenatal yoga teachers.

Prenatal yoga is a healthy practice to take up during pregnancy. The following are three ways in which this practice is helping the birth mothers here at Shanti, to feel great physically and mentally during their exciting 9 months.

A Home Beyond Birth: Estar’s Story


Read Estar’s Shanti Journey as told by our Communications Intern in Uganda.

There is no better time to visit Shanti than on a busy Thursday morning. As I made my way down the Birth House’s path, I was greeted by the warm smiles of Shanti’s midwives. The day was early, but there were already dozens of women participating in a family planning and postnatal nutrition workshop. With growing baby bellies, and young babies on their laps, the women watched our Traditional Birth Attendant, Flora, eager to learn. As I scanned the crowd, one woman and her young boy smiled brightly.

After having a discussion with her, I learned that her name is Estar. Estar, 27, proudly shared stories of her two children, Simon Peter, 2, and Donnatus, 9 months old. Having both been born at Shanti, her sons have become familiar with Shanti’s positive environment. Today, Donnatus and his mother walked one mile from home to receive his vaccination.

Living not far from Shanti, Estar reminisced of when she first learned about the Birth House. She recalled seeing it being built when walking down the road in 2009. Since first seeing Shanti, Estar has been visiting as a client for many years. With a beaming smile, she told me how caring Shanti’s midwives are. Having seen many other facilities throughout her life, she constantly recommends the Birth House to her family and friends as she recognizes Shanti’s staff, clean and friendly environment, and variety of services.

Shanti’s Impact to Date

IMG_0855 (1)Uganda has one of the highest fertility rates in the world, with an average of six children per woman. Additionally, 33% of women will have their first child before the age of 18. Approximately 16 women die giving birth every day in Uganda and adolescent pregnancies are at particularly high risk for complications and death. However, with access to a skilled midwife, 90% of all maternal mortality is completely preventable. It is Shanti’s mission to provide skilled midwives to all of our clients in a safe, nurturing, and empowering environment.

With the assistance and care of six registered Ugandan Midwives, one Traditional Birth Attendant and a Lab Technician, 20-30 babies are born at Shanti each month. These women are highly valued at the Birth House as their training is exceptional and uncommon. In Uganda, only 38% of midwives are fully qualified which often results in an inability to deal with complicated births.

We are so grateful to have trained and experienced midwives at Shanti who are able to facilitate the following excellent services:

Shanti Spotlight: Florence, a leader of action

sister lule (1 of 1) (1)When at Shanti, you’re always able to see women wearing a smile while hard at work. One woman in particular that spreads joy and knowledge around Shanti is Florence. She is a highly respected leader at the Birth House and within the community as Florence goes the extra mile as a midwife. For 4 years, she has been a valuable member of Shanti’s team and on a sunny Thursday, I had the opportunity to have a chat with her.

Do you have any children/grandchildren?

Florence explained that she has 5 children, who no longer live with her as well 10 grandchildren. Her young granddaughter, Florence (named after her grandmother) can often be seen playing at Shanti.

How far do you live from Shanti?

If I am working hard while walking, it can take 45 minutes. If I am walking slow, 1 hour.

What is your role at Shanti? What are your responsibilities?

Job Posting – Project Coordinator, Shanti Uganda Society


Shanti Uganda is a grassroots Canadian Charity and Ugandan NGO that is eradicating preventable maternal mortality throughout Uganda using a unique collaborative care model. We are committed to sustainable community based development and the midwifery model of care.

The Shanti Uganda Birth House is a solar powered maternity center on one acre of land in the Luweero District of Uganda. The Birth House provides mother-centered care throughout pregnancy, birth and the postnatal period and is staffed by our team of Ugandan midwives, traditional birth attendant and lab technician. From the Birth House, Shanti Uganda runs prenatal education classes, prenatal yoga, a Community Garden Program, and a Teen Girls Program.  We also run an internship/volunteer program, and host two training retreats annually; an international doula training and a prenatal yoga teacher training. We are poised for growth in the coming year, and will be scaling up many of our services.

Closing date: Open Until Filled

Start Date: December 15th 2016 (training beginning November 24th)

Work Location: Luwero, Uganda


Working alongside both interns/volunteers and Ugandan staff, and reporting to the Director of Ugandan Operations in North America, the Project Coordinator is an inspirational leader with proven experience growing organizations and fostering a team environment that is aligned to the organizational culture and strategic plan.

Mother Knows Best: Daisy’s Story

During our most recent Teen Girls Workshop this August, we were happy to see two familiar faces: Teddy, 18 and Benah, 14. Daisy, the mother of these two young women has been a member of Shanti’s Women’s Income Generating Group for five years and lives with her daughters four miles from our Birth Centre. Daisy expressed her enthusiasm for the workshop and was pleased her daughters were able to participate. The multi-day workshop was taught by Ritah Musoke, a community member and longtime Shanti team leader.

Daisy with her two daughters Teddy and Benah

Teddy and Benah actively participated in the workshop and were given tools and information on how to better face the many challenges of being a young woman in a safe and encouraging environment. Some topics covered by the workshop included: how to navigate emotional and sexual relationships, reproductive health and positive female role models. This caring mother encouraged her children to participate in the workshop knowing that the focus would be on empowerment and self determination.