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

BACKGROUND:

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

JOB SUMMARY:

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.

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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.

Introducing Jane Drichta: Our Doula Training Instructor!

It is our pleasure and honour to introduce the one and only: Jane Drichta! We are thrilled to have Jane lead our Doula Training and Retreat in Uganda from October 10th- October 19th.

With a resume that is second to none, Jane’s warm energy and experience have been a part of the Shanti family since she volunteered at our Birth House in 2011. Since then, she led our first Doula Training and Retreat in 2012 and has proudly served on our Board of Directors since 2015. As a Midwife, Author of the critically acclaimed The Essential Homebirth Guide, Birth and Postpartum Doula, Massage Practitioner and Trainer: it is safe to say that our retreat goers are in excellent hands!

We caught up with Jane to speak candidly about her own journey into the maternal health world, the role of doulas, and give us a sneak peak into what makes Shanti Uganda’s Doula Training and Retreat so unique!

Supportive Sisters – Interview with Harriet and her birth partner/ sister Justine

Shanti Uganda Project Coordinator, Trine Rasmussen talks to sisters Harriet and Justine about how they support each other as birth partners.

Harriet is 28 years and just gave birth to her second baby Sunday night at Shanti, a baby boy- 2.9 kilo. Her birth partner was her younger sister Justine, who is 26 years, mother of Gladys age 2 and 5 months pregnant with her second child.

Harriet, please tell me why you decided to ask your sister to be your birth partner;

Justine and I have always been close, growing up together, and now living 10 minutes from each other. During my pregnancy Justine has been by my side, going with me to my antenatal appointments, helping me plan and shop for the baby.

Long Roads Ahead

By Madelaine Thiel

Development and Partnership Coordinator

My time at Shanti is coming to an end! I can’t believe I will be leaving next week. It has been an incredible four months.  I remember thinking I had forever to spend here back in January.  With a departure date looming I am suddenly wondering where all the time has gone.

There is so much left to do here before I leave.  Asides form packing and saying goodbye to all my friends on the Shanti staff, I have some practical matters to take care of.  I need to set up a platform for the new intern coming in.  When he takes over my role, I want him to have a solid understanding of the priorities of the last 4 months and a sense of direction for his own internship. It is hard to think of this house moving on!  Memories tend to freeze capture individual experiences, while ignoring the changes that happen outside that specific window.  I can’t wait to hear how Shanti grows over the summer.

Here is a list of things I will miss most about this place:

Ugandan Medical System

by Madelaine Thiel

Development and Partnership Coordinator

I have had some personal experience with the Ugandan medical system.  I was hit by a motorcycle some weeks back and I am on the mends, but saw some interesting aspects of the health care system.  As a side note-let this be a lesson about the importance of travel insurance.

Mother’s day: Tears and gratitude

By Emilie Salomons Dr. TCM, FABORM

Tonight I attended a screening of a documentary film called ‘Sister’, hosted by Shanti Uganda, and then moderated a panel on preventable maternal and infant mortality. The film ‘Sister’ tells the story of health workers from Ethiopia, Cambodia and Haiti, exploring how they find meaning while working under difficult circumstances and revealing maternal and newborn death as a human rights issue.

I will admit that the film was not easy to watch. As I held back tears I was reminded that no matter how long you work in the field, or how much you know about the politics, history or socio-cultural conditions around preventable maternal and infant mortality; when it looks you right in the face as it did tonight, the pure gut reaction is one of horror and an almost frantic desire to fix the situation. No woman or child should die from a preventable issue, plain and simple.

I am now siting here in my dark, quiet home, both my husband and son fast asleep. And suddenly I am deeply humbled, saddened and filled with immense gratitude at the same time. I am grateful for my family, my home, and my job. I am grateful for my own mother, whom I adore and owe so much of my personality (quirks and all) and my almost dangerous love of good food to. But mostly, I am grateful for all those lucky enough to have access to good healthcare and perinatal care. We should not feel guilty about having access to good perinatal health care; we should feel outraged that so many women still don’t have access to it.(Developing countries account for 99% of 289,000 maternal deaths a year)

I won’t get into all of the social, economic and political details associated with preventable maternal mortality that were so eloquently articulated by Dr. Shroff, Dr. Shaw and Mrs. Bitek, mainly because I wouldn’t do it justice and because this blog would turn into a novel.

I will say this though. Tonight, on the eve of Mother’s day weekend (as I like to put it), I will be taking a moment to think about the mothers who died when they shouldn’t have. I will think of the babies who were lost too soon, whether from preventable issues or not. I will think of the women who suffer this weekend because they have lost a child, or those who suffer because they are reminded of their longing to have a child.

This weekend I will remember mothers with tears and gratitude, and a renewed motivation to do everything in my power to support the true foundation of human existence.

Re-posted with permission from http://www.acubalance.ca/blog/mother%E2%80%99s-day-tears-and-gratitude 

Learn how you can support our work to provide safe and affordable maternal and infant health care services to families in Luweero, Uganda: 

Become a Birth Partner today!

Contemporary Uganda

by Rebecca Bell, Assistant Project Coordinator

Contemporary Uganda is a globalizing Uganda. It is a place where you can get traditionally made matooke or a cheese pizza at the local restaurant, Stoneys ginger soda or Coke zero, or see a Hollywood or Bollywood movie at the cinema (and get your Nollywood fix on television). Even in the most remote villages, the influence of the outside world is visible, even if it takes a bit more searching.

Explaining this experience to friends and family back home, it is difficult to describe life in a small village. There are cows on the roads, children as young as five carry machetes in hand, and women carry babies on their backs and pineapples on their heads. Not exactly the picture of cosmopolitan culture. Yet in Kasana, ‘top 40’ hits can be heard blaring out of a small wooden hut near the market, illegally copied foreign movies can be bought on the sides of the street and I even took a matatu yesterday with a guy wearing a t-shirt from one of my favourite shops in Toronto. Heinz ketchup is available alongside local ‘Top Up’ at the local supermarket. These global influences are even more apparent the minute you step into the capital, Kampala.

IMG_4134_2Top Up Chili Sauce: We go through about a bottle a week. I have a theory that it helps kill any sketchy bacteria in our food- haven’t been sick yet!

This past Saturday, searching for some creature comforts, I went out to the latest Hollywood release, “Kingsmen” at the movie theatre, sorted through piles of imported clothing at Owino market (second hand H&M is a top notch find!), to an Italian restaurant for dinner, and finally an Irish pub. Moments like these feel a bit surreal- at any given moment, you really could be anywhere in the world. They feel even more surreal in drastic contrast to Kasana town, a little less than a two-hour drive away.

The multicultural dynamic here at the volunteer house also makes for interesting conversation and learning opportunities. Our project coordinator, Trine, is Danish. None of the current volunteers have ever visited Denmark and we often grill her with questions of what to see and do, what life is like and we whine about how jealous we are that all of Europe (and the world!) is at her fingertips. The rest of the current interns are Canadian; we await an American later this month! We hail from different provinces and try vainly to find ways in which we’re different. And we are, despite our citizenship. We discuss our travel experiences, our favourite Canadian coffee shops and destinations and our shared and not-so-shared political ideas. We share music from across the globe.

Shanti itself is an example of multiculturalism in the best way. Ugandan staff hailing from all across the country work with Ugandan clients and international interns to provide services like yoga! Yoga is definitely not originally Ugandan…

DSC00035Women taking a pre-natal yoga class at Shanti. I guess there is plenty of Indian influence in East Africa!

Although this experience is drastically different than, say, that of my parents’ generation of travels, I am constantly amazed at the ways in which outside influences change Ugandan culture and not overtake it. Ugandan traditions and languages are still alive and well, and they’re not going anywhere. But the influence of people and things from all across the globe are subtly changing the ways people live and interact. People are taking what works and leaving what doesn’t.

There is no one experience of Uganda, and that is what makes this such a personal and unforgettable experience.

Chai with Shanti’s Women

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by Dena Thomas, Monitoring and Evaluations Intern

When working on development projects in countries like Uganda, I am constantly amazed by the assortment of people I meet from around the world with interesting stories and backgrounds. WIGG momenMeet Teopista, Jesca and Racheal – three women from the income generating group. Under the shade of a protective straw hut, we sit and talk together…

How long have you been coming to Shanti’s Women’s Income Generating Group (WIGG) for and how did you hear about it?

We started coming to Shanti in 2009, and since joining WIGG we’ve been coming most Thursday’s since then. We heard about Shanti through Bishop Asili Hospital, where we were being treated for HIV/AIDS. They teach us to make things that will help bring income for us so that we can live.

What type of things do you make?

We have learned to make beads which we string together to make necklaces, bracelets and earrings. We also have sewing machines and textiles which we make laptop bags, cosmetic bags, diaper bags, yoga bags, banana bags, baby bags, backpacks, coin purses, oven mitts and nalongo bags – oh, and table mats!

Which do you prefer making?

Most of us enjoy making beads because we all sit down together and spend the afternoon working, talking and sharing difficulties together. Making banana bags is also fine because they are more simple than oven mitts.

Your fabrics are so vibrant and colorful. Which are your favorite colors?

Well, when we are making textiles for Canada, we use colors that are good for the seasons. Blue, reds, browns, greens. We like browns and greens the most though.

Teopista, the blue dress you are wearing is stunning. Did you make it?

Yes!! I learned how to sew about 13 years ago from my auntie, and I made this one myself in only 1 day! (Shy giggle)

Jescac and Racheal, who taught you to sew?

Jesca: A friend taught me.

Racheal: I learned here at Shanti!

How long does it take you to make a necklace?

About 6 hours on average.

Well you guys are making some really beautiful items. Thanks for sharing your story with me.