Imagine for a moment you’re a brand new mom having just given birth. Your perfect, wiggling baby being laid in your arms. You’re exhausted and riding the euphoric triumphant high of post delivery. But then you find out all is actually not well. Your baby has several significant malformations and medical problems. And help is not promised. Being helped is actually unlikely while being turned away and blamed for your child’s condition is the more likely scenario. This is actual life and death. And you are helpless.
This is maternal healthcare in much of the developing world. Here in Cincinnati, we have one of the top pediatric hospitals in the entire world. Not the state, region or even country. In the world. And though we all know healthcare can be expensive and difficult, for the very vast majority of us, it is still within our reach. We have no epidemic of children dying simply because they were turned away from care. We do not have to battle a society in which we are told there is a curse on us or our child if they are born with a disability, thus ostracizing them from their community. In truth, we know nothing of this broken, justice-less system of maternal and pediatric medicine.
But take heart, there are warriors fighting on behalf of those not yet given a voice. And a chance for us to help them share their story and give access to what is being kept from them.
In Port-au-Prince, Haiti, the Maternity Center at Heartline Ministries is tirelessly providing dignified and compassionate prenatal, labor, delivery, and postpartum care. Mothers enter into the program at the beginning of their pregnancies where they’re enrolled in weekly prenatal classes that provide medical care, education, and a healthy meal. The women give birth right at the maternity center, or if needed, are transported to a hospital with the center’s ambulance.
A postpartum wing gives them a chance to recover for a couple days and establish breastfeeding along with ensuring the health and wellness of mom and baby. For the next 6 months, they attend weekly postpartum classes focusing on medical care, child development and breastfeeding support. This all may sound basic, but for the women this program serves, this is radical and unlike what most of them could ever imagine experiencing in a healthcare environment.
All of this is spread by word of mouth. No advertising necessary. It is women telling their sisters, aunts, cousins, and friends. Which is exactly how revolutions begin. And I truly believe Heartline has a place in revolutionizing how women in the developing world (and even here in the States!) are provided with care during their pregnancies and births. I know these are big words, but I stand behind them. Education is power. Being respected and cared for well is transformative. And if you saw just once, the difference it made in the life of one of these women, you would be the first to jump on this soapbox alongside me. The hope and freedom that are so clearly displayed by so many of these women are undeniable. And a free and hopeful woman is something to be reckoned with. Can I get an amen?
A late disclaimer: I lived and worked in Haiti for several years (Check out this post to find out a little more about that) as a part of the Heartline staff for another program. Apart from Heartline, I also spent time at a number of other organizations. A lot that I saw during my time living in Haiti was questionable, at best, from a development standpoint. But one thing that’s being done well is Heartline’s work. Their mission is based around the idea of orphan prevention and strengthening families through job skills training, discipleship and through safe and dignified prenatal care, delivery and family planning. So many organizations are putting a bandaid on a bullet wound and hurting people in the process. Heartline yearned for a better way. And that’s how the maternity center came to be.
Because of the time period that I was in Haiti, I saw a lot of death. But because of the maternity center, I was also constantly surrounded with the hope and promise of new life as well. From the outside looking in, I’d never seen a more dedicated group of women lifting up other women, and that is simply the culture of this care center. And though I’ve highlighted the Maternity center, Heartline is more than just that one program. They are looking at the big picture while digging in with individuals. It cannot be understated how important who the people are in charge, it is their character that will end up being the compass for the organization. Transparency, humility, and moxie are needed to be a worthy, successful non-profit, and Heartline’s leadership has this in spades. Knowing this makes me give and support confidently, knowing they aren’t just putting up “good numbers”, but that they are committed to doing things right and for the right reasons.
Speaking of good numbers, in 2017 the Maternity Center provided family planning and medical assistance to 1,000 Haitian women and girls. 110 babies were born with the help of compassionate and experienced midwives and nurses. 200 men and women were equipped with vocational skills to run small businesses that support their families. 94 children were able to attend school because of student sponsorship. Across their various programs, over 50 Haitians are employed by Heartline. And these are just snip its of the impact of this organization.
And though generally for Heart of CMB we like to focus on organizations that are local (which there are many wonderful ones!), this one hits too close to home for all of us for me to not take the chance and share about it. As women, the commitment to care during our most vulnerable time is sacred, the lifting up of each other is sacred. And we are all lucky enough to be able to invest in that for our sisters both here in Cincinnati, and abroad. And if I could shout it from the rooftops I would, but where we put our money matters. It’s grassroots organizations on the frontline building relationships and focusing on people, rather than problems. They are getting it done, and more importantly, they are doing it in the right way.
I encourage you to follow Heartline Ministries – Haiti on social media. I promise you’ll be inspired, encouraged and humbled by the faithful people working towards setting a better standard for women and families.