It’s hard to know where you might make impact in your life, and how you might do it. Often it’s little things that slowly ripple out and take unexpected twists and turns.
Using images in Africa
VizPeep Mari Alexander is a therapist, physician assistant, intercultural consultant and Mom to two teenage boys. She’s also the co-founder of a grassroots nonprofit, Safe Passages to Motherhood that has been working in a rural village in Kenya. They’ve been sharing Home Based Life Saving Skills with a group in the village, and that small group has reached out and shared the information with over fifteen thousand other people.The program teaches people to recognize the signs of childbirth emergencies and to get those women to help before it is too late. Since the program has started, none of the women in the village have died in childbirth. Pretty impressive in an area of the world where 1 in 16 women die having babies.
One of the challenges of working in the developing world is really knowing what is happening and if you are actually making a real difference. This program has assessment and information tracking built in, but Mari was interested in the impacts beyond just the number of births in the clinic or attendance at programs.
Mari knew how powerful using images was in her work as a therapist and consultant, but feared the photographic images would be difficult to relate to for the people in Africa. So we worked with her to develop a set of paintings she could use instead.
Stories of Empowerment
The paintings worked exceedingly well. People easily found images to describe the impact the Safe Passage to Motherhood program had on their lives. The stories weren’t so much about saving the mothers lives as they were about how becoming a trainer and sharing this vital information was changing them. They were stories of discovering purpose, and becoming someone.
Increasing the feeling of empowerment
It was obvious this group had been changed by participating in the program. Now, to figure out how to make it sustainable after the five site visits of the Home Based Life Saving Skills program. Part of the training had been to get the community thinking about how to leverage the resources they had. The US group provided some limited funds, but wanted to make sure the group could carry on after the official part of the program ended.
The group was very motivated to find ways to keep the work going. They looked around the village for opportunities, and realized for most of the long gatherings, people sat on the ground and on benches that weren’t comfortable.
The group saved up money to buy chairs, which they rent out. From the money they made, they bought dishes. They knew they were great at feeding big groups because they did it every time they did a training. They were saving money to buy a tent to extend their new catering business into rainy season. The US based group made a donation to the tent fund, and it arrived the day after the US group left. They now have a way to support spreading their work to other villages.
They have requested their own set of images so they can use them in their training. Of course VisualsSpeak will provide them!
The last official visit
The Home Based Life Saving Skills program that Safe Passages to Motherhood uses has five visits to the community in the developing world. The last trip is focused on evaluation, and documenting the impact the program has had. We already know the group has reached over 15 thousand people, and women are being brought to the clinic in time for help to save their lives.
Safe Passages is a tiny grassroots organization. The health care workers and team who go to Africa take time off from work and volunteer their time. They are very resourceful and keep costs to a minimum. Still, it is very expensive to get them there. When they can, they purchase medical supplies to bring to the village. They have not raised all the money to fund the upcoming trip.
Can you help?
Any amount will help, it’s incredible how far our dollars can stretch in the developing world. Right now they are several thousand dollars away from just paying for transportation for the upcoming trip.
This program is powerful and effective. We’re seeing the impacts ripple out to make real differences.