Written by Echo Zielinski, MamaBaby Haiti volunteer and board member.
Each and every time I get the opportunity to encounter the beauty of Haiti and am able to love on its amazing people, I am left completely changed.
In case you do not already know, Haiti is about an hour and a half flight south of Florida in the heart of the Caribbean. It sounds like a dream to visit (um, the Caribbean!) but in reality, there is a visible contrast that hits you as hard as the humidity. The stunning terrain and palm trees that are surrounded by beautiful warm water is also home to the poorest people in the western hemisphere; a level of poverty that most of us could not even imagine! As you ride into town, your senses are overwhelmed by the number of people in the streets, the smells of cooking food, and the amount of trash that has inevitably taken a huge toll on the country.
However, with just one look into the dark eyes of the Haitians, you quickly recognize the human connection and that these people are just like you and me. Men who want to care for their families, women who want to love their children and provide a better life than what they had, and kids who want to stimulate their minds and bodies with toys and play. Much looks different than the lives Americans live, but when you strip it down to the bones, you will see that the Haitians are strong, bold, courageous people who desire the same comfort and stabilities as you and as me.
If you drive a little further into the country, you will find the oasis that is MamaBaby Haiti. MBH was founded by a group of midwives in 2010 after an earthquake devastated parts of the country. They quickly saw that women and babies were dying too often, and not because of illness or sanitation, but simply due to the fact that they did not have a safe and compassionate place to receive prenatal care and give birth. Normal pregnancies were ending gravely after women chose to stay home because of the costs and travel associated with trips to the hospital. Where there is severe poverty, mothers often have to choose between food for their family or having a skilled attendant at their birth. MamaBaby Haiti believes this is not okay, and it is their core belief that no woman or child should ever die because of where they live. This fact alone is why providing FREE care is one of our biggest commitments and core values.
I did a village home visit for this Mama and Baby a few weeks after she was born. Her mama was extremely thin when pregnant and we wanted to find her and find out if they both had enough to eat or if we should get them on the plumpy'nut medical food program.
After just a few hours at MamaBaby I knew my visit was not going to be a one-time-thing, but that it would forever hold a chunk of my heart and commitment.
I became involved with MamaBaby Haiti after I felt an intense and overwhelming nudge to GO. Since the only way to make change in this world is by God’s people saying yes, I did not overanalyze this charge, but merely started making the arrangements and trusting His provisions. What I found when I got to Haiti has changed my life forever.
Myself and Madam Bwa. She is a community midwife in Shada, the slums of Cap Haitian.
I saw people I needed to fight for, situations that needed to be illuminated, and my own boldness that I needed to tap into. When I hopped on a plane to head home, I knew that my work had just begun! If there is one thing I am sure of in this life, it is that God does not invite us into these opportunities to make us feel good or to receive a pat on our backs. He invites us because we are literally his hands and feet and he has us here on this earth for far more than our own comforts and joys; we are here to love his people, hear their cries, meet their needs, and most of all, when they are no longer in your sight, to commit to relationships and return to complete the work being done.
I am now on the board of MamaBaby Haiti and every day we are making strides toward thriving Haitian families. Four Haitian midwives run the birth center with the help of eight Haitian support staff members, and a six person volunteer board in the States. We have big dreams for the future, full of healthy mamas and babies, micro-businesses for our families, sustainable gardening and farming, and of opening a midwifery school to train more Haitians to care for their own.
We took down a much needed new stove for the clinic. It is very hard to ship supplies to Haiti so we heavily rely on our volunteers packing needed supplies into their bags to take down!
This is just a tiny glimpse into what is happening at MamaBaby and in Haiti as a whole. If you read this and your heart was stirred even the slightest bit, it may be because YOU are suppose to GO! If you want to get involved and volunteer at MamaBaby Haiti or find out how you can support us (we run 100% off donations) then please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or sign up for a one time or continual donation HERE.
Each volunteer experience looks different depending on the skills you have to give... there are roles for all different skill levels and opportunities to serve in medical and non-medical ways. Our midwives are always in need of relief from volunteer midwives AND there are ways to serve the birth center and community in other practical ways!
There are also two group trips happening through the non profit Hear the Cry this year (in June and November).To find out more about these go to hearthecry.org/trips
I urge you to take 4 minutes and watch our video "A Mother's Journey". Here you will get a beautiful glimpse into MamaBaby Haiti and the people we serve.