Women Who Care

Sera Bonds is one. Big Time. Three years ago, Sera founded Circle of Health International to provide health services to women in areas of conflict and disaster. One woman, an idea, some training, and a mission, and she's saving the lives of women around the world.

I talked to Sera yesterday. She's been traveling the country raising money for the programs she runs. It's been a long couple of weeks and she's ready to get back to what she knows best, training healthcare workers in remote parts of the world.

We've successfully trained 55 midwives and doctors in Tibet in emergency obstetrics. The Tibetan government accepts our training and materials and has asked us to extend our program into other areas.

One trained midwife in a village can vastly improve the lives of the entire community. From the Circle of Health International's website is this story from Tibet -

It’s a cold autumn evening, and you've just put your young children to bed. The fire in the stove is warm, and a pot full of yah butter tea is boiling on the stove. There is a rushed knock at your door. It is a husband of a woman in the next village that you visited a few months back, she is in labor. He thinks she has been laboring, "too long, will you come?" You tell your husband of the news, poor a thermos of tea, wrap yourself in your thick woolen coat, and join the worried husband on the back of a borrowed motorbike.

As you ride through the valley, you wonder how this birth will go? The last time you attended a women in this village, the baby was dead when you arrived. You did what you could for the mother, but you know that sadness like that does not go away. BUMP! The motorbike slid out from underneath you as you drove through one of the many mountain streams you have to cross. Oh well, you both pick yourselves up, no harm was done to you or the bike, and you both climb back on. As you settle into the seat behind the anxious husband. You place one arm behind you gripping the steel bar for balance, as your other arm hangs down at your side. In your loose hand, you hold your Mala (Buddhist prayer beads), sliding one bead at a time between your forefinger and your thumb, you pray: may this birth be joyful, may she be free of pain.

The woman in the story ends up giving birth to a health baby because she receives the care she needs; what's clear, though, by the end of the story is how uncertain the survival is of every pregnant woman and her unborn child.

“We want to reach women who desperately need support,” says Sera. “Women who have been forced to flee their homes, are living amidst terrible violence, and often with life-threatening health conditions deserve to have adequate, appropriate, and accessible health care. Our goal is to gently enter conflict-affected communities and work with community health workers and midwives to enhance their skill levels and improve their access to information. By doing so, we hope to support these brave women in transforming a horrific experience into something that empowers them, individually as well as collectively, as they heal themselves and their communities.”

Since there's been so little improvement in women's health around the world over the last decades, independent efforts like Circle of Health's are offering new hope in the field. Already COHI has programs in Sri Lanka, Tibet, Tanzania, Israel/Palestine, and in January, in Sudan.

In Tanzania, they provide technical neo-natal health, HIV/AIDS, and gender-based violence related clinical skills focused in particular on adolescent girls.

In Sri Lanka, they provided women's health services following the tsunami with a grant from World Vision/Sri Lanka, and in Israel/Palestine, they are bringing together midwives on both sides of the conflict to share expertise and understanding. A new program is launching in Sudan in January.

As you think about your holiday donations this year, please consider donating to Circle of Health International. $10 pays for one birthing kit and could save a woman's life and $100 pays to train a midwife for a year. (A birthing kit includes a bar of soap, plastic sheets, rubber gloves, string, razor blades, antibiotic ointment, and the deliver of the kit to midwives.) If you pay using Paypal, type BlogHer into the form so Sera will know your donation came through here.

Another way you might help Sera is to volunteer to blog about her programs. She has offered to introduce bloggers directly to midwives in areas of conflict so you might tell their stories.

The power of one woman, especially when it comes to other women's health has lasting impact. Marsha Wallace from Dining for Women, Katherine Morgan and the work she is supporting is another perfect example. Let's each of us take the pledge to save women's lives, put the widget on our blogs and spread the word -- the health of the women, in every community on every continent determines the health of families and of nations. That is the beauty and magic of BlogHers Act, each and every one of us has the power to make a profound and lasting difference.

Emily McKhann and Cooper Munroe are BlogHer editors for BlogHers Act. They also blog at Been There and are co-founders of The Motherhood.

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