Jennifer Braun’s day in Soroti, Uganda, starts early. Roosters apparently don’t know they’re only supposed to crow after dawn. And when it comes to being born, babies have never respected working hours.
Braun, executive director of International Midwife Assistance (IMA), a Boulder County-based 501(c)3 nonprofit, travels to Uganda twice a year to work at the clinic that IMA helps support — the Teso Safe Motherhood Project (TSMP).
By the time she reaches the clinic, which opens at 8 a.m. each day, dozens of women and children are already waiting to be treated. Some of the women are in labor, many having walked long distances or traveled by motorcycle over bumpy roads to give birth at the clinic. Some are there for prenatal care. Some have brought sick children or children in need of vaccinations. Some want family planning. Some have HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis or malaria and need medication.
Jennifer, other volunteers, and the Ugandan staff of TSMP get to work saving lives. That’s what they do every day.
In 2010, the staff at TSMP saw 37,000 patients — an amazing feat for such a small organization. This year so far, IMA has provided more than 8,700 patient visits. The clinic where TSMP is housed is small, with a few beds for laboring and post-partum women, a space for exams, a bathtub, some office and storage space, and a pharmacy where drugs are passed out through a window. Vaccinations and family planning education take place outside on the grass or on benches beneath a sun shelter.
If the clinic weren’t there, women would be giving birth on the mud floors of their huts, and some of them would die along with their babies.
Once a week, the staff pack up their medical gear and travel to distant villages to offer medical care to those who would otherwise receive none, many of them internally displaced persons trying to build a new home after years of living in camps.
Here, we complain about the high cost of health care. There, they simply have none — except for when TSMP and IMA volunteers visit.
But IMA’s work depends on our donations. Without our dollars, there aren’t enough vaccinations and medications to dispense. There aren’t enough medical supplies and equipment — simple things like Doppler fetal heart rate detectors, sterile needles, umbilical clamps, scissors, sutures.
Enter BoldeReach, a local 501(c)3 nonprofit organization and community of women that works to support organizations dedicated to improving the lives of women and children around the world. Rather than pursuing one specific cause, BoldeReach tries to improve the “reach” of nonprofits that are already successful by hosting an annual fundraising gala, the proceeds of which go to one deserving nonprofit each year.
“BoldeReach’s mission is to support organizations doing great work in the area of serving women and children in extreme need,” said Cindy Lindsay, the treasurer for BoldeReach.
In their research this year, members of BoldeReach uncovered these appalling statistics from the World Health Organization.
Every day, approximately 1,000 women die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. That’s equivalent to three jumbo jets crashing every day. Some 99 percent of all maternal deaths occur in developing countries. Maternal mortality is higher in rural areas and among poorer and less educated communities.
In some countries, girls are often forced into marriage at an early age, and adolescents face a higher risk of complications and death as a result of pregnancy than older women.
Skilled care before, during and after childbirth can save the lives of women and newborn babies.
“The last bullet really caught our attention,” Lindsay says. “International Midwife Assistance was the perfect answer. The simple addition of a trained birth attendant makes a huge difference in maternal and infant mortality. … IMA’s focus on training in-country midwives, combined with the general health, antenatal and postnatal care and family planning services they provide made them the perfect choice as BoldeReach’s beneficiary for 2012.”
IMA is hosting a free public event on Thursday, April 26, to give the public a look at how it accomplishes its mission of improving health care for women and infants in and around Soroti. A monologue, Magic Hands, will be performed by Funmi Oyatogun. Written by BoldeReach board member Reggie Richardson, the performance piece tells the true story of a Ugandan midwife’s journey from a life of poverty and violence to one of hope and service to her fellow Ugandan women through IMA and TSMP. The event runs from 5:30 to 7 p.m. in the Parish Hall of St. John’s Episcopal Church, 1419 Pine St., in Boulder.
BoldeReach’s gala fundraiser is slated for Saturday, May 12. It will include international cuisine, entertainment, an African marketplace and more. Tickets are $95, and 100 percent of the money raised goes to IMA.
For more information in International Midwife Assistance or to donate online, go to www.midwifeassist.org.
To buy tickets to BoldeReach’s gala fundraiser or to support BoldeReach in its mission, visit BoldeReach.org.