I was in Uganda’s Mukono Health Centre IV the first time I saw a woman give birth. The hospital’s delivery suite was about the size of a single private room in a Canadian hospital, yet at that moment it hosted 1 midwife, 4 nurses, 4 occupied beds, medical supplies, and myself. The woman’s delivery was difficult and as I watched, I experienced a rollercoaster of emotions – worry, amazement, relief, and, finally, elation. During the delivery, the midwives and nurses worked in a well-practiced manner, improvising when certain materials, such as forceps or surgical scissors, were not available. I was surprisingly unfazed by the conditions; I had already mentally accepted that hospitals in Uganda are often insufficiently funded. However, I was shocked by the implications of this reality. For the first time, I saw what it meant for a woman to deliver a baby without adequate medical facilities, privacy, or support.
FullSoul Intern, Alyna Moosabhoy, interviews the head midwife at Mukono Health Centre IV, one of the locations of the FullSoul Kits.
Unnecessary delays are believed to be a significant cause of otherwise preventable maternal deaths and they occur all too often when hospitals are not properly equipped. I travelled to Uganda this past summer to evaluate FullSoul Canada’s Maternal Medical Kit project, which supplies essential delivery tools to under-funded rural Ugandan hospitals. Throughout my internship, I recognized first-hand the relevance and significance of the work FullSoul does. A large portion of my role entailed listening and observing. From site visit observations, audits, and interviews with healthcare workers, I gained insights on the specific needs and challenges of our partner hospitals regarding maternal health. Simultaneously, through conversations with newfound Ugandan friends I furthered my understanding of the context of FullSoul’s work, as we discussed the fundamentals of national politics, economics, and healthcare.
FullSoul partners with local stakeholders and institutions to practically and appreciably improve maternal healthcare and decrease the number of preventable maternal deaths in a country that has one of the world’s highest maternal mortality rates. Using the DMIAC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control) approach, I evaluated the efficacy of the program’s implementation, the details of which can be found in the published Evaluation Report. I am grateful to have gained insight on the state of maternal healthcare in Uganda from my internship, as it now enables me to contribute informed ideas on how FullSoul may best progress and grow. I have taken this opportunity to work with an organization that saves lives by implementing a feasible solution to the immediate problem many rural Ugandan hospitals face: lack of basic medical tools. I also developed personal and professional skills, and was immersed in a spectacular cultural experience. I worked alongside local Ugandans, some of whom became my closest friends. I learned of cultural differences that challenged my perceptions, beliefs, and values. In such a beautiful country, surrounded by lush greenery, I was welcomed by its people and free to discover its many charms; ultimately I had a uniquely wonderful two months.
In the two short months I was there, I came to love Uganda. I cherish my time there and the people I met, and I hope to return soon. In the meantime, although I am back in Canada my journey with FullSoul has not ended. FullSoul does great work and I can clearly envision its bright future, which I am excited to work towards with the rest of the team.
Alyna Moosabhoy served as a FullSoul Intern in Uganda for May-July 2017, evaluating the kits and the needs surrounding maternal health in these facilities. She continues to work with FullSoul in their evaluation, development and implementation of projects since returning to Canada.
The Baby Blanket. An important item and image in many cultures- a way to carry and protect, or a symbol of comfort and security. Throughout the world, these pieces assist mothers’ bonds with their babies and in some cases are a matter of survival. We know how important these small pieces can be for mothers delivering; when many are not even having money to pay for transport to a health centre for a safe delivery, a blanket seems even further from their reach. We also know, however, just how important such things can be for a new mother- So at FullSoul, while we work to make safe deliveries an accessible norm in Uganda, we also want to add some comfort to these mother’s lives. We’re very excited to introduce a new partnership with Adventure Baby Gear, that aims to do just that!
Adventure Baby Gear began as husband and wife team, Nusia and Peter set out with their little one on adventures near and far- from shopping trips and visiting family to international exploring. Two sentiments sum up ABG best: that having a child doesn’t mean you have to stop exploring, and every time you leave the house with a little one, it’s an adventure!
It also represents the theme of caring for our babies and wrapping them with our love and support, whether they are in our home, or hundreds of kilometers away in Uganda.
Adventure Baby Gear has partnered with FullSoul Canada to support the work that FullSoul does for maternal health in Uganda, East Africa. One of their products, the Baby Blanket will go to support FullSoul’s work with mothers in the hospitals in Uganda- for every blanket purchased through ABG, one will go to a new mother and baby that we work with.
We had the opportunity to talk with Nusia and Peter to discuss about what inspired this partnership, and what safe motherhood means to them:
Tell us more about what inspired you to start Adventure Baby Gear, and what it means to you now!
When our son was born, we didn’t want traveling, such an important part of how we spend our quality time, to be affected. It’s a fact that having a baby changes many things but it definitely does not have to put an end to exploring and experiencing as much of the world as possible. We continued to travel and simply took our little guy along with us; from camping in Ontario, road tripping through the Rockies, to sightseeing Paris at Christmas. This led to many experiences, both good and challenging, that showed us the huge benefit of being prepared and having the right tools. So came the idea for a store filled with hand-picked adventure baby gear based on items we found convenient and indispensable, or ones that through our research we would have loved to have with us sooner.
A big part of your focus with Adventure Baby Gear is maintaining customer service, providing high quality content in your blog and affordable product prices- that’s a tall order! Why is it important to you to also work with a non-profit in your business model?
Indeed! We consider those things mentioned above, a priority at ABG. Working with a non-profit actually wasn’t part of our business model. Maternal health and safely delivering newborns into the world is so closely related to our mission of providing the best for our little ones so this partnership presented itself as an opportunity to cross borders and affect change. By supporting the hard work of an organization like FullSoul, the time and effort we are putting into managing our online store, now has an even greater meaning.
Baby blankets- why did you decide on this product to sell in support of FullSoul?
We decided on baby blankets as we figured is was a good, universal product that anyone could make use of, in North America or Africa! It also represents the theme of caring for our babies and wrapping them with our love and support, whether they are in our home, or hundreds of kilometers away in Uganda.
Do you think your international explorations will take you and your family to Uganda with FullSoul?
We never say never! We are always open to new travel opportunities and a mission trip has always been a bullet point on our travel “bucket-list”. So if everything aligns, and we are at a stage with our baby that we feel comfortable travelling with him to Uganda, then we will definitely be there, to take part in FullSoul’s work.
To learn more about Adventure Baby Gear, and their partnership with us at FullSoul, check out their website.
Purchase your own FullSoul Baby Blanket here.
Share your own stories of baby blankets, especially your little one’s FullSoul blanket using #FullSoulFuzzies on Social Media!Read More
The non-profit industry requires a certain level of collaboration to function effectively and properly; perhaps influenced by the Ugandan way of life, where community comes first. One of the greatest issues is making sure that, as an organization, we are continuing to work effectively to fill these gaps that exist. Again Susan Fish’s article for ‘Charity Village’ in 2015, Fish quotes FullSoul co-founder Christina in saying that
“[FullSoul] is another strong believer in partnership. “We decide it’s right time to have a partner when someone does something better than us. We can then focus our time and effort on what we’re really good with. You have to know what each other’s values are. When you find a partner whose values are on the same wavelength, it’s a great relationship.”
Indeed, FullSoul has been inspired by countless other organizations throughout our years- and each volunteer brings many of their own influences as well. Christina’s first-hand exposure to the issue of maternal mortality in Uganda was during her co-op placement in 2013, working at Save the Mothers in the East African country.
Save the Mothers is one organization that has inspired, influenced and advised FullSoul from the beginning!
Working with and learning from other students- any who were forming their own organizations at the same time- at St. Paul’s GreenHouse at the University of Waterloo, was another great way for Christina to connect with passionate individuals- and volunteers! Students in this program are encouraged to reach out to those in their industry of interest, and work with them to see not only what is needed, but what has worked and perhaps more importantly, what has not in the past. It takes collaboration to know exactly where those gaps are and what is needed to fill and resolve them; With years of collective experience among organizations, it makes sense in the non-profit world to work together to create change. At times, collaboration that comes in the way of just talking- having a conversation about the reality of situations and what is realistically happening to solve issues; With FullSoul, Christina is not one to shy away from conversations- even the difficult ones that may be necessary in forming an organization, or working with an issue as sensitive as mothers and babies dying during childbirth.
“Talking with a larger organization gives us the experience we don’t have, someone to talk to who has been there before, to remind us to dot our Is and cross our Ts — somewhat like a mentor relationship. And larger organizations can recognize that smaller organizations are doing great things too.”
Considering the big picture is important in these organizations, and understanding that there is collaboration that needs to take place- no one- person or organization- needs to do it all, nor can they! In working together at an organizational level, we can hopefully create an environment and culture of commitment and collaboration among those communities we work with as well- which then truly benefits everyone!
To ensure that our collaborations are indeed creating a positive impact for those involved on every level, there are some questions that must be asked before entering into partnerships, mentorship and collaborations:
The ‘Three R’s are something that FullSoul, and our co-founders specifically seek to consult when we are looking to partnerships with other organizations and groups. Outlined and beautifully stated as well in Fish’s article, these are:
Reciprocity (“making sure it’s good for them and good for us, and no one’s values are compromised”).
This is important as an organizational stand-point- with so many incredible and very important causes, it is important to have a focus; we can’t do everything! Being able to find what we (or any organization) excel at allows us to do the job well- and others to do the same! Teaming up can assist in larger projects succeeding, which is beneficial for all those involved!
Relationships (communication, follow-up, etc.); and,
Treating people with respect! Allowing those important communications at a higher level in the organizations really does come down to how we treat people at an individual level as well. When we can have those honest, open and effective communications in planning meetings, we can take that same attitude when we’re ‘on the ground’- and vise-versa!
Reality Check (“being realistic with what we’re talking about so we don’t take on too much and we can keep our commitments”).
Again- knowing what we are and what we are best at. Where our reach is and what we can do most effectively with our resources. Sometimes large projects are the dream but not accessible at a certain time- and that is okay! Allowing others to take on a good idea instead of holding it back to be our own- that creates the change that we are all working towards.
Much of what a non-profit, especially FullSoul means is working together- from metropolis Canada to rural Uganda- we are all working for people- to allow others to live and thrive and do the same. Everyone has a part to play in this and as a non-profit organization, FullSoul is one example of soulful individuals collaborating to create something big- reducing maternal deaths and bettering maternal and child health in Uganda. None of us could do it alone, and FullSoul could not do it without you too.Read More