Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Honoring the mother of my girls.

It is almost mother's day.  My heart is daily on the mother of my girls, the twins we adopted from DRC 4 years ago.  Maybe it is that they are now old enough to miss their mother in words like, my heart is breaking that my mommy isn't alive anymore.  Maybe it is just looking at her picture everyday in their room.  Maybe it is because of the giggles, laughter, singing, dancing surrounding me all day.  Maybe it is because I wish more than anything she was alive for them. So, I honor their mother by fighting for the lives of other mothers in eastern DRC so that their little ones would not grow up with hearts breaking and yearning for their mamas.


In lieu of a more traditional gift on Mother's Day this year, perhaps give the mother in your life a gift that would impact the life of another mother on the other side of the world.  And I know this is a long post, but please take the time to read it in its entirety.  Save the Children recently published their "State of the World's Mothers" report and again DRC is ranked as second from the bottom (source--this is the executive summary of the report and worth taking the time to read). Following is an except about DRC:

"Civil war in Democratic Republic of the Congo
has led to horrific abuses against women and children, and
directly and indirectly claimed more than 5.4 million
lives. But less than 10 percent of these deaths have
occurred in combat, and mortality rates in areas of the
DR Congo outside conflict zones are often as high as
in the conflict-affected eastern provinces. Most deaths
in the DR Congo have been due to preventable or
treatable causes such as malaria, diarrhea, pneumonia,
newborn causes and malnutrition – and almost half
the country’s death toll has been children under age 5.
DR Congo exemplifies many of the challenges facing
countries with high mortality burdens, which are also
off track towards the Millennium Development Goals:
it is a fragile state with a weak health infrastructure that
leaves many without access to basic health care. Health
facilities often lack properly trained medical staff and
medical supplies – many do not even have electricity
and water. Attacks on health workers also undermine
the quality and availability of care by traumatizing
the health workforce and forcing health facilities to
suspend activities. Despite the many challenges, there
are signs of hope and progress in the DR Congo. Well-
established local non-governmental organizations
(NGOs) provide medical care and psychological
support to rape victims in conflict-affected areas. In
the Kivu provinces, humanitarian agencies have been
supporting the national Ministry of Health in the
provision of primary and secondary health care services,
vaccinations, and family planning and maternal health

Why does this matter so much to me?  It matters to me because our youngest girls lost their mother in childbirth.  Her death was preventable, but she lived in a very remote village (it would take 12 hours of walking to get to the nearest hospital).  Death can come in many ways.  For many women in eastern DRC who are pregnant the first time with twins, or pregnant with their eight child, or their third set of twins, hemorrhaging after birth means death.  Not having access to clean and quality birth kits can lead to postpartum infections.  Untreated and unrecognized hypertension and diabetes can lead to death.  I care about access to health care for women in eastern DRC, because I love my girls and their mother should be alive today.  So should the mothers of all the small babies at the orphanage we support. Mothers matter.  Most of their mothers died from preventable causes in childbirth or shortly afterwards.  We must work to prevent children from becoming orphans.  We must slow down maternal mortality.  Babies like the ones we support need their mothers.  They need us to come alongside Congolese led initiatives that provide women with safe access to quality medical care.  "Most deaths in DRC have been due to preventable and treatable causes," not combat (see quote above). 

It also matters to me because Jesus often stopped to help those when others kept walking.  I want my heart to be completely and utterly His heart.  Helping mothers stay alive to care for the gifts of life they carry inside is one way that His love pours out in eastern DRC.  Giving hope that a woman may have the chance to live through childbirth is one way to love that mother.  And ensuring a baby has her mother to hold, feed, and love her is another way to tangibly show the love of Jesus. 

Mothers, not orphanages.

Mother's arms, not orphanage cribs. 

Back to the Save the Children Report.  The recommendations from this report are the following:
"1.  Ensure that every mother and newborn living in crisis has access to high quality health care, 2. Invest in women and girls and ensure their protection, 3. Build longer term resilience to minimize the damaging effects of crises on health, 4. Design emergency interventions with a longer term view and the specific needs of mothers and newborns in mind, 5. Ensure political engagement and adequate financing, coordination and research around maternal and newborn health in crisis settings."

I have a friend that lives in eastern DRC and she has started an ambitious campaign that involves three separate projects that support maternal health, access to basic health care for women, facilities, training, supplies, and advocacy.  They are going to areas that are insecure and vulnerable, where there are few facilities equiped to handle the enormous needs women face.  They are partnering with courageous Congolese physicians who are committed to helping women in eastern DRC.  Channel Initiative has two ongoing projects-one in Kilungutwe, Mwenga - where they educate on reproductive health and hope to construct a one-stop health and community center, together with Panzi Foundation DRC and another in Mulamba, Walungu - where they work together with the Mulamba Health Center to ensure they can provide high quality care to the women who can sometimes come from over 45 km away, for care.  Take some time to check out their work at their website.  Their three core pillars are:  Authenticity, Effectiveness, and Empowerment.  

Channel Initiative is urgently looking for donors to support their newest project in Kavumu, eastern DRC.  They are partnering with Dr. Imani to start a new office in an underserved area (due to insecurity and violence) where women are desperate for safe access to quality medical care.  I love this description of a normal day in the life of their organization; follow the link to look at photos of their new site.

Dominique (my friend and founder of Channel Initiative) writes, "The Channel Initiative mission is what it is, because, small and as relatively minor as we might be, we choose not to wait or be silent anymore. We choose to acknowledge, appreciate and respond to the urgent needs of vulnerable people. We choose to do whatever we can, in love, and with excellence, knowing that if even one life is saved, if even one tragedy is averted, if just one heart is in a better place, we have moved out of the place of ‘waiting’ for a reason." (original post found here).  

Donate here.  For every $40 donation, Channel Initiative is also including a bag as a thank you gift that is made by MamaAfrica.  MamaAfrica Designs "is a non-profit organization based out of Bukavu, located in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Our mission is to change the lives of the women and the future of the children that have been most affected by conflict in Democratic Republic of Congo. We take a holistic approach to creating this change by providing education, healing arts programs and economic opportunity. This fosters self-empowerment, community and sustainability for the women and will ultimately result in generational change. Our programs reflect the basic premise that when women have equity, nations and the world become more secure."  So, not only would your gift of $40 help to give access to quality healthcare in eastern DRC and also be supporting women through MamaAfrica Design, you would also receive a small bag to give to a special mother in your life.

Please note that delivery of these bags may be delayed because they  are coming from eastern DRC. 

I started this post by stating that DRC was the second from the bottom of a list that ranked countries by the "state of their mothers".  It is easy to get overwhelmed and discouraged by this statistic and ranking.  And though rankings like this are important because they can galvanize us towards making decisions that would improve women's health around the world, they also can make us forget the stories of courage and strength that are found in eastern DRC.  More than any place I have lived, the women of eastern DRC have inspired me by their indomitable spirits and unflagging determination, faith, and persistence.  By supporting small grassroots organizations that come alongside Congolese women and men, we support this spirit and blow on small flames of hope that spread throughout eastern DRC and ultimately change the future.  Please, consider a donation to Channel Initiative today.

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