FullSoul and the Co-op Student of the Year & International Co-op Of the Year Awards!
Christina has always been dedicated to her work, whether it was for academics or for widely known institutions and organizations such as St. Michael’s Hospital, Save the Mothers or FullSoul. Thus, it is only fair that she is rewarded for her hard work and determination. As a part of the Health Studies co-op program, she participated in four different co-op placements, first three placements lasting four months, while the final placement lasted eight months long. Throughout these co-op placements, she has shown strong work ethics, commitment and achievements.
[Christina & Dr. Eve (from Save the Mothers), on one of their 24 hour shifts at Uganda's National Referral Hospital]
The University of Waterloo is known as “the world’s leader” for its co-operative education program, which consists of six faculties with approximately 31,000 undergraduate students. The program annually hosts a Co-op Student of the Year award and only one student from each of the six faculties have a chance to win this award. Thus, students with exceptional contribution to their work term as well as community involvement and academic excellence are recognized. Soon after completing an outstanding work term at St. Michael’s Hospital as a project manager, Christina was honoured to be the Co-op Student of the Year representing the Applied Health Science Faculty. This marks as one of the early stepping-stones of her career.
“Christina is a fantastic communicator — both for the discouraged midwife in rural East Africa who Christina encourages to continue to help voiceless mothers… to the large crowd of Canadians who have gathered to hear Christina share her experiences. Her dedication to saving the lives of mothers and their babies around the world is inspiring. I’m confident that as she moves through her career, her influence will only grow stronger and deeper.”–Dr. Jean Chamberlain- Executive Director and Founder of Save the Mothers
Another accomplishment was just around the corner while finishing her last year at the University of Waterloo. She began teaching at Ugandan Christian University through Save the Mothers, an organization seeking to improve maternal health in Uganda. While teaching, she was given the opportunity to observe surgical operations in the maternity ward at a nearby hospital. But before she could wrap her head around the idea, she delivered 200 babies in addition to raising maternal health awareness in Uganda. This ever-changing life experience aspired Christina to co-found FullSoul and as a result, was then selected for the International Student of the Year award from WACE (World Association for Cooperative Education) as well. Amazing accomplishments, and such an honour for FullSoul to be recognized in such a way- we’re excited about the continued momentum of support and excitement surrounding the FullSoul message and cause!
Canada’s infant mortality rate (IMR; the number of infant deaths per 1,000 live births) and maternal mortality ratio (MMR; the number of maternal deaths per 100,000 live births) are some of the lowest in the world with 4 infant deaths/1,000 live births and 7 maternal deaths/100,000 live births recorded in 2015, respectively (World Bank, 2016). As a result of this, childbirth is not considered to be a risk to a mother’s or an infant’s life in Canada or in most other Western countries. On the other hand, “childbirth” and “a safe procedure” are not synonymous concepts in many underdeveloped countries of the world such as Uganda where delivery-related complications cost the lives of roughly 17 women per day (World Health Organization, 2013). Despite experiencing a slow decline in such statistics over the past few years (World Bank, 2016; Mbonye et al., 2007), Uganda still had some of the highest MMRs and IMRs in the world in 2015 with 343 maternal deaths/100,000 live births and 38 infant deaths/1,000 live births, respectively (World Bank, 2016). Rather than being a risk-free process that symbolizes the beginning of one’s life, in Uganda childbirth is more of a dangerous task that could cost the life of the mother, the child, or both.
With this in mind, an organization that is highly aware of the poor state of such health indicators in Uganda is FullSoul Canada, anon-profit social enterprise dedicated to reducing such alarming statistics within this African country. FullSoul aims to improve and protect the health and safety of delivering mothers, their infants, and the medical staff involved in the birthing process by providing necessary Ugandan hospitals with locally made, safe, and reusable medical kits. With each sterile kit consisting of a needle holder, a dissecting forceps, 3 artery forceps, 3 surgical scissors, and 2 kidney dishes, such medical equipment is believed to contribute towards significantly reducing the burdensome tertiary delays – delays in receiving adequate or timely care once present at a health facility due to a lack of available medical resources, personnel, and/or services – that are responsible for roughly 50% of Uganda’s high MMR (Thaddeus & Maine, 1994; AOGU, 2013).
With each medical kit costing $500 CND to produce, translating into an expense that is less than 5 cents for every baby delivered, each one is theoretically capable of assisting the birth of 2-3 babies per day for about 20 years thereby potentially safely delivering over 15,000 infants in its lifetime. With 15 kits having already been implemented in 3 different Ugandan hospitals, it is hypothesized that this will be able to statistically significantly improve the proportion of mothers and infants surviving childbirth in these locations. It is theorized that these medical kits will provide such hospitals with a larger quantity of safe medical resources allowing for more timely and efficient care to be provided which will lead to a significant reduction in the effects of tertiary delays on maternal mortality and therefore also significantly reduce the MMR in these respective Ugandan hospitals. However, in order to confirm that such medical kits are actually able to achieve these intended aims, their abilities must be measured both quantitatively and qualitatively; one way that this can be done is via a comprehensive program evaluation that systematically analyzes both the processes and outcomes of this initiative. The outcome assessment of such evaluations involves a step-by-step process that investigates how effectively a particular program is achieving its intended outcomes (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2011). Alternatively, the process assessment is meant to specifically evaluate if a particular program is being implemented as planned as well as to deduce how the program is operating with respect to what tasks are being carried out, who is performing them, how these are being performed, and who is being affected as a result of such tasks in order to inform the continuous improvement of the program. Overall, both the process and outcome aspects are critical components of an evaluation because they determine not only if a program works and/or is sufficient for achieving the intended goals but also allow for exploring its strengths, weaknesses, and areas that can be potentially improved in order to better obtain the desired results (CDC, 2011). All of this is to be done while simultaneously and continuously incorporating the needs and desires of key stakeholders throughout the entire process with such findings then being communicated back to these individuals as a means of being accountable for the program’s effects on the projected goals.
With respect to the medical kits, their ability to significantly reduce the MMR will be evaluated in the three Ugandan hospitals where they have already been implemented. The overall objective of the outcome portion of this evaluation will be to determine if the MMRs in these three hospitals after the kits have been implemented are significantly lower than the MMRs in these same respective hospitals before the initiation of this program. Likewise, it will be assessed if the MMRs in these locations have been significantly reduced in comparison to Uganda’s average MMR to determine if this initiative improved the health of the mothers and their infants. Secondary data sources will be used to keep track of such rates at both the hospital and national levels in order to compare the pre- and post-treatment MMRs. For the process evaluation, how the medical kits are being implemented (i.e. if the medical personnel involved in the childbirth process are using the kits as they were instructed with respect to using them at the right time, applying the correct techniques, properly sanitizing the kits after each use, being the only qualified stakeholders to use such kits, etc.) will be assessed using site observations, interviews, focus groups, and case reviews with information being collected from the hospital staff as well as the mothers being cared for in order to evaluate if the program is being delivered according to plan and if the kits are being used as intended in order to achieve optimal effectiveness. This will also be used to detect if the delivering mothers are informed about and receptive to such medical kits by analyzing if more of them are choosing to have their babies in a hospital setting where such materials are available instead of attempting to give birth in private venues such as within their own homes. By evaluating the implementation of these medical kits in 3 distinct hospitals, the execution of this program within these different settings can be compared and contrasted in order to obtain information with respect to how the overall delivery of this program can be improved (i.e. by either having more kits, having more tools in each kit, developing better ways of teaching the medical personnel how to use the kits, etc.). Such a process can underline some potential barriers to the proper delivery of this program that may exist in one hospital and not in another whereas it may also point out if one hospital is doing something differently than the other two which could lead to a more successful delivery of this program.
All in all, implementing such an evaluation and disseminating its findings will inform the Ugandan mothers and hospital staff as well as the FullSoul team, the sponsors of this organization, and any other key stakeholders if the implementation of these medical kits is a sufficiently effective approach for significantly improving the safety of childbirth in such Ugandan hospitals. Similarly, this assessment will reveal to such stakeholders if this program is being carried out as planned with respect to the kits being used as intended and if they are reaching a sufficient number of mothers in need. Both components of the evaluation will be used to infer if this current approach is sufficiently effective and if it is ready to be implemented in more hospitals to achieve such goals or if more work needs to be done in order to develop this program into a more feasible and successful initiative before a significant impact on Uganda’s MMR can be attained.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
Most FullSoul followers have heard of GreenHouse at St. Paul’s University on the University of Waterloo campus. And many have also heard of an ever-growing impact radiating from the small social enterprise incubator- so I sat down with GreenHouse’s Director, Tania Del Matto to chat about Social Innovation, FullSoul and how GreenHouse works to tackle complex issues- like maternal mortality in Uganda!
Christina has has often said that she “came into GreenHouse with an idea and came out of GreenHouse with a business” that business is the FullSoul we know and love today.
But what is so special about GreenHouse that allowed our co-founder to give her time, support and hard-work while going to school full-time?
As a bit of background, the University of Waterloo is world-class when it comes in innovation. “Idea’s start Here” Christina echoed when she first shared the FullSoul idea on the Tedx Waterloo stage. The GreenHouse program is one of the University programs at the heart of innovation, more specifically- social innovation and entrepreneurship.
The GreenHouse students live on-campus, and build connections to accelerate their own start-ups and social change initiatives. GreenHouse is designed to allow students the opportunity to develop and hone in on their own ideas and goals, while managing a full course load.
GreenHouse gives a place where students can actually tackle the problems they see in the world today. Said wonderfully by Tania, with her economics perspective, “we have a vast supply of young talent here at the University of Waterloo”, but we also have demands: “that is unmet problems that we don’t have answers for”…
GreenHouse encourages students to tackle complex societal issues, to see where they can “make an impact on a pressing societal problem”, perhaps setting them apart from other ‘incubators’ as a place where non-profits and for-profit social-enterprises can thrive. There is an additional focus on the students personal growth and development; Tania mentions that “At university we don’t necessarily empower young people to do these things- here, we give them opportunities to get out of the building and talk to people”. Encouraging GreenHouse participants to network and interact with their idea and issues in a real-world setting helps to ensure that “regardless of where their venture goes, they’re going to do great things”. They are learning how to build up their skills, and use what they have to tackle these problems. Students are encouraged to use “a wide lens in imagining what kind of impact they can make- some are big venture’s like Christina’s, and some are more about policy change”.
After her co-op placement abroad— working with an organization called Save the Mothers in Mukono, just outside of Uganda’s capital city, Kampala— Christina was more than inspired to do something. She was determined and needed to create something to change the huge systematic issue of maternal mortality. Women in Uganda face a 1 in 44 chance of dying in childbirth or a pregnancy related complication, this problem plagues more than just women – it strains the entire population. Husbands’ lose wives, parents’ loose daughters, siblings’ loose sisters and the remaining external family such as grandparents, are often called upon to take in their orphaned relatives. The children, who grow up motherless, are vulnerable and less likely to reach the age of 4. Everyone is impacted, but what is more is that; “The United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council has highlighted maternal mortality as an issue bearing not just on development, but also on human rights” (WHO, 2012)– every mother and child’s deserves the right to health, equity in health and gender equality.
Tania notes that when Christina applied to the GrennHouse program,” Christina came in with a lived, on the ground experience, from co-op- [and] knew from that that she wanted to do something about it”, GreenHouse was ready to take on the task with her.
The GreenHouse method, which encourages students to “Get out there, Start talking to people, test their assumptions [about where there are gaps and needs in a social issue, and get a] Better understanding of the problem, before they go into solution mode.” Christina had an issue that she was passionate about, which fit well with GreenHouse’s idea of encouraging its innovators to “get as close to problem as they possibly can. [This] enables them to better understand it, better understand what’s been done, what’s worked, and what hasn’t worked in the past, what gaps there are [in the climate surrounding this issue]”.
With the community based, live-in approach of GreenHouse, it makes sense that it can produce an effective way to tackle a complex societal issue in Uganda- the collectivist culture, of supporting, sharing and building with each other mirrors many aspects of the East African country’s own way. “Students can be inspired by their peers- it’s great when Christina gets back and gives these talks, it really inspires other students to go ‘wow, she did that, maybe I can do something too’” Tania says of how, even now that Christina has been graduated from the program for 3 years, they remain connected. “She was in our second cohort- Not short of praise for our co-founder either, Tania speaks on how Christina- and FullSoul- really were able to grow in the program, and become the force that they are today; “Gosh, how do we get more Christina’s? how do we create the conditions so that more Christina’s and can thrive, and can step forward […] get engaged with these problems [..]she’s been the inspiration for a lot of pieces of our program.
In the years since FullSoul’s first days in GreenHouse a lot has changed! Our team has grown, both in size and in our passion to live soulfully, FullSoul has gained hundreds more supporters globally, and best of all we’ve travelled back to Uganda, delivering our first safe-birth kits to clinics in Uganda. We’re so thankful for our founders’ passions, and of places and networks like St. Paul’s Greenhouse that really allow these ideas to become reality- some of our past FullSoul volunteers have gone on to start their own initiatives for social change too! We’ll keep up the ‘Sindica’ for safe-motherhood in Uganda, and we’re glad and honoured to see everything that GreenHouse and its fellows push towards too.
Read more about Christina’s experience with St. Paul’s GreenHouse here: Life is TriageRead More
To read this post, please visit: Save the Mothers – How is Africa?
People heard, and continue to hear the realities of not just Christina’s story, but the stories of the thousands of women of Uganda.