By Carina Sorrentino
During the Fall term Dr. Padmini Murthy, M.D. as the Presidential Speaker on Diversity came to inform students on global health and its link to human rights. What began as informative presentation to raise student awareness has now become cause for action on the Union campus.
Much of Murthy’s presentation focused on inequalities that pervade the global spheres of life and health. While the culture of the United States is often one of fortunate means, there are many places in the world that do not have even the most basic necessities.
One of her primary examples was to focus on the pregnant women of Malawi who often have meager supplies while giving birth.
The women who have the ability to will turn to health centers that often do not have the appropriate space or provisions, while many do not even have the time to get to a sanitary place.
At the conclusion of Murthy’s talk, a student in the crowd stood to ask how we as college students could give aid and help these women who are in need. Murthy replied that other colleges had groups of students put together “Mommy Bags” for the women, which have proved extremely helpful in improving their birthing conditions.
With this reply, a group of dedicated students are turning words into action with the leadership of Director of the Kenney Community Center, Angela Tatem. Since last term Tatem has extended the message to any students who are interested in collaborating to raise money, and by Mother’s Day the goal is to send 200 “Mommy Bags” to Malawi.
The bags, which cost $5 each, will include simple but necessary tools in order to increase the quality of health for both the mother and baby.
“We are putting in things such as a onesie for the baby, a receiving blanket, soap, sheets, alcohol swabs, scalpels, blades and ties for the umbilical cord,” said Tatem. “And what is really great is that we are making them waterproof. A lot of the women are walking to where they are giving birth, and potentially not making it there. It was very important for us to consider the elements,” she continued.
Tatem stated that she has received tremendous interest in the idea thus far, with many students volunteering to head the fundraiser, which includes putting together a Dinner and Discussion one evening as well as tabling in Reamer to raise money.
Said Nuzhat Chowdhury ’16 a member of the student committee, “Every woman has a right to give birth under sanitary conditions. The utensils that these bags provide the mothers with are so simple, yet crucial to the health of the mother and baby. A small bag can make such a huge difference. I think it’s our duty as humans to help other humans in need.”
These students are getting in touch with the campus bookstore, who has agreed to donate $100 worth of gift cards and merchandise to raffle off.
“The Dinner and Discussion will be held with Professor Roger Hoerl, who has many colleagues that do work in Malawi,” said Tatem.
“At the Minerva program we will ask if people want to donate, and if not at least we are raising awareness and getting the word out there,” Tatem continued.
Fortunately, after getting in touch with Dr. Murthy after her talk, she agreed to get Tatem and her students in touch with the President of Malawi. After all of the supplies have been collected, they can be safely shipped and distributed to the country with the help of the government.
Another student who is on the fundraising committee, Vicky Delianedis ’17 commented, “I think that often times people are more inclined to fundraise for children and other underprivileged groups, but I think it is very cool that these bags are all donated to mothers in need. Because we will be helping mothers there is somewhat of a ripple effect, as having healthy mothers will hopefully lead to some success within families.”
Tatem is the staff member facilitating the project, however she remarked that the students are really the ones who have taken the reigns. “I was very pleased with the support we have gotten so far. A student even got in touch with me volunteering to knit baby hats. Whether we can send them or not, the sentiment is great and we are so appreciative.”
In the United States, having a baby is a cause for celebration. The majority of women have support, baby showers and the ability to get to the proper facility in order to have a successful birth.
“When you see videos of women giving birth in conditions detrimental to the health of their child and their own, your heart goes out to them and you want to do something to help,” Chowdhury added, “The second she mentioned this project, I knew I wanted to get involved.”