Take collaborative strategic action to lower maternal deaths

By Azka Asif, Rotary Service and Engagement staff

In honor of Maternal and Child Health Month, Past District Governor Dr. Himansu Basu, a Rotary Foundation Cadre of Technical Advisors for Maternal and Child Health, shares about his team’s work to save the lives of mothers and babies in partnership with Rotarians, other professional volunteers, and governments.

Azka: Dr. Basu, last year you shared an update on the success of the Calmed (Collaborative Action in Lowering of Maternity Encountered Deaths) programme. Have you had any recent developments?

Dr. Basu:
Calmed, started in 2013, is funded through Rotary Foundation grants, supported by hands-on efforts of volunteer doctors and Rotarians from the United Kingdom and India. Two global grants have supported six vocational training team (VTT) visits to Sikkim, with a target population of 0.7 million, and Gujarat with a target population of 2.5 million.

Our team of 12 Obstetricians has trained 39 master trainers who continue to train professionals (currently just over 250) in emergency care of pregnant women and babies. The team has also trained approximately 100 Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHA) who raise awareness about pregnancy, child care and related issues through community women’s groups.

The programme was recognized with two international awards for excellence in 2016 — Times Sternberg award and Rotary GBI Champion of Change.

AA: Have you achieved your objectives for the programme?

HB: Maternal mortality reduction programmes take time to achieve their goal – zero preventable maternal death. We are on track for improvements in access to effective care. After three years, we see a steady fall in the number of avoidable maternal deaths in all of Sikkim, our first pilot site. We are moving towards our target of zero preventable maternal deaths.

AA: What can Rotarians do to reduce maternal and child mortality?

HB: Maternal mortality is an index of development in any community – an effective project in any of Rotary’s six areas of focus will also decrease maternal and child mortality, albeit slowly. For a more direct measurable response, a comprehensive strategy based on the Calmed template aimed at reducing the shortage of trained professionals while promoting community awareness regarding childbirth and child care issues should be implemented.

AA: What advice can you offer Rotarians planning a global grant project to reduce maternal and child mortality?

HB: Create a strategic programme with vocational training teams being a key component. It’s important to have experienced project committees supported by health professionals, and public health experts. Close collaboration with motivated Rotarians and government in the project host country is essential for impact and sustainability. The Rotary Foundation Cadre of Technical Advisors can be a valuable resource in planning, implementation and the follow-up stages. Expertise is also available from Rotarian Action Groups such as the Population and Development, Health Education and Wellness, and Preconception Care groups.

A planning visit to the project area by the international partner is very important and should focus on identifying local assets and needs, partnership opportunities with local government and professionals.

AA: What advice can you offer for organising a vocational training team aimed at reducing maternal and child mortality?

Himansu: A vocational training team for improving maternal and child health should be structured to meet the needs of the community. Here are examples of scaling a project:

Scenario 1 targets several smaller hospitals or one large hospital. Two to four experienced doctors train a group of 10 to 20 doctors and nurses on emergency care of pregnant women and new-borns.

Scenario 2 targets several larger hospitals or many smaller hospitals. 5-7 experienced doctors train 20 to 25 motivated trainers who then qualify as master trainers. These master trainers go on to train others (30-40 at a time). Two return team visits should be conducted for evaluation and further training.

Scenario 3 targets a community of one million or more. This is a most effective method, but requires close collaboration with local government. A team of 7 to 10 experienced doctors undertake:

  • training cascade as in Scenario 2 (above)
  • training 15 to 20 ASHA trainers to raise community health awareness. The ASHAs then train women’s groups in towns and villages throughout the target area
  • analysing all maternal deaths in the target area to identify preventable causes and facilitate corrective measures in partnership with local government

AA: Which scenario is most effective in your opinion?

HB: Clearly Scenario 3, but it is also the one requiring more time and resources.

AA: Thank you for sharing your knowledge and expertise! What is your vision for the future?

HB: We cannot rest on our laurels. We need to facilitate and provide support for Rotarians in many low resource countries to introduce more strategic programmes for the entire community based on the Calmed VTT template. Please contact me for further information and suggestions. Also, visit the Calmed programme website for more information.

We are in discussion to establish maternal and child health academies in partnership with governments and NGOs to provide academic support, carry out the work of vocational training teams and advocate to develop future programmes and future leaders achieve our goal of zero preventable maternal death.

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Preventing cervical cancer in Kenya

By Judy Wolf, Immediate Past President of the Rotary Club of Davis, California, USA

Kenya is a land of utter beauty, stunning exotic animals, crowded road-side markets, robust farmlands, and friendly people. Astonishingly, nearly 5000 Kenyan women are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year, and 50% will die from this disease.  A disease that is nearly 100% preventable.

Our vocational training team left for Kenya in October 2016 in hopes of making a difference in the lives of these brave women. We couldn’t help but feel a sense of pride, knowing that we were a part of a team, organized by the Rotary Club of Davis (United States) through a Rotary Foundation Global Grant, sent to Kenya to provide cervical cancer screenings, treatment, and education to women in the poor and needy region of South Nyanza. Kenya has a population of almost 13 million women aged 15 years and older who are at risk of developing cervical cancer. The bedrock of economic life in Kenya revolves around women working in their prime. And when we save women, we save their children as well.

During our first team visit, we set up medical clinics at Homabay County Referral Hospital and Kendu Bay Sub-District Hospital. The medical team, consisting of a medical director, four doctors, and a native Kenyan nurse practitioner, spent the first seven days at Homabay where 163 cervical examinations were performed. These routine examinations led to four women needing cryotherapy to freeze lesions and three women receiving the lifesaving Loop Electrosurgical Excision Procedure (LEEP). Sadly, one of the ladies was discovered to have terminal cervical cancer. Our team was in awe of her courage and strength as she sat with her husband while the Kenyan physician explained to her the stark truth of her situation.   We will never forget this beautiful woman and her husband.

Kendu Bay Sub-District Hospital was our next life-saving visit. There, the team examined 215 women and performed five cryotherapy treatments and six LEEPs. Thankfully, most of the women were found to be disease-free.

We are proud to report that our trip was successful. The team trained Kenyan physicians and nurses on how to identify cervical lesions, and now the trained doctors and nurses are equipped to carry out the work and train other Kenyan medical professionals.

We look forward to our second team trip in June 2017 to the same region to do follow-up examinations and treatment, and offer additional training. During our final trip in November 2017, we’ll hold follow-up examinations, conduct a skills assessment of the trained medical professionals, and donate medical equipment to each of the hospitals.

We are profoundly grateful to The Rotary Foundation and the clubs that supported this life-saving global grant. We share a sense of honor and deep satisfaction to have been able to serve the women of Kenya in partnership with our Rotary community.

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Empower others with your expertise

By Azka Asif, Rotary Service and Engagement Staff

As part of Rotary’s guiding principles and the Avenues of Service, Vocational Service calls on Rotary members to empower others by using their unique skills and expertise to address community needs and help others discover new vocational opportunities and interests. January is Rotary’s Vocational Service Month, a great time to reflect on how the concept of vocational service is implemented in your club and district.

Here are some examples of Rotarians using their expertise to help meet their community’s needs:

  • For the past decade, the Rotary Club of Newport Beach Sunrise in the United States has supported a local career center. Club members have been trained to facilitate a series of workshops designed to assist adults re-enter the workforce after experiencing traumas and tragedies in their personal and professional lives. Members coach center attendees on preparing a job application, interview skills, business culture and etiquette, body language in the business environment, goal setting and dressing for success. The final phase of the initiative is a fun filled day of self-esteem building including a colorful graduation, new business attire, haircuts, manicures and massages for all the participants.
  • The Rotary Club of Madras Industrial City in India conducted a career guidance workshop for their Interact club to help students discover their interests. The District Vocational Service Chair arranged a half-day interactive session for students to form career goals and plan for their future vocations. A special workshop was conducted for girls and more than 200 students benefited from the project.
  • In Nigeria, the Rotary Club of Port Harcourt Airfield partnered with a local organization to host a free training program for impoverished people on making handcrafts such as beads, soaps, baking sweets, and repairing computers. At the end of the training, thirteen participants were given grants to start their own businesses.
  • The E-Club of Tamar Hong Kong in China organized seminars for youth in their community aimed at teaching them to balance everyday life and a career. Members of the club shared insights on different industries such as travel, jewelry, entertainment, and entrepreneurship. Youth were also taught to write a resume, cover letter and offered suggestions for successful interviews.

Read more stories about vocational service and gain inspiration for club and district service projects. Post your club’s vocational service project on Rotary Showcase and join the conversation in My Rotary’s discussion groups. Share your thoughts about vocational service in the comments below!

Rotarian Action Groups: How can they help make your project more impactful?

By RAG4Clubfoot, a Rotarian Action Group

Every three minutes a child is born with clubfoot. That’s nearly 200,000 children each year. Thousands of these children around the world are forced to live with this deformity that limits their mobility, ability to walk to school, play with their friends, and eventually work.

RAG4Clubfoot has a simple mission: to support timely Ponseti Method treatment and appropriate care for all children born with clubfoot. The Ponseti Method was developed at the University of Iowa, USA, by Dr. Ignacio Ponseti. The method is nearly 100% effective when used properly by a trained healthcare provider and is considered the gold standard for clubfoot treatment.

082We aim to connect Rotarians with partners that provide expertise on Ponseti Method and to establish a national clubfoot program with the goal of local sustainability. Our group works with Ponseti International Association (PIA) at the University of Iowa to provide guidance and technical expertise on Rotary-supported Ponseti Method training activities, educational materials, and other clubfoot related activities. PIA also provides assistance on monitoring and evaluation of training programs and the quality of care provided at newly formed clinics.

Our Rotarian Action Group, in collaboration with PIA staff, coordinates webinars for host and international sponsors focused on writing global grants and training on what is expected from both partners throughout the grant process. We assisted Districts 4420 (Brazil) and 6000 (Iowa, USA) on a recently approved global grant application for a two-year Vocational Training Team (VTT). The goal of the project is to train 65 orthopedic surgeons and to develop a sustainable national clubfoot program.

Throughout the grant process, we provided:

Connection opportunities

  • We connected host Rotarians with our partners at the Ponseti International Association (PIA). PIA is a professional organization that can identify qualified Ponseti Method in-country and international trainers.
  • After they had briefly met during the Sao Paulo International Convention in June 2015, we formally introduced an interested district governor from D5300 to the project’s primary host contact. District 5300 went on to contribute District Designated Funds (DDF) to the project.

Access to experts

  • Through our partners, we connected the primary contacts with experts to assist on drafting the grant proposal. Experts helped detail the specific objectives of the Ponseti Method training, the training curriculum, explaining how the goals would be met and the sustainability related to long-term outcomes.

Promotion

  • We promoted the project on the RAG4Clubfoot Facebook page, through our newsletter, and established a project page on our website. This dedicated page provides details on the project as it progresses.

We will continue to support and promote this project, and other similar projects in hopes of inspiring all Rotary members to get involved and take action to provide care for all children born with clubfoot. Contact us to get started on a similar project!

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January is Rotary Vocational Service Month! Lend your expertise to empower Rotary members to make their service projects more impactful by joining a Rotarian Action Group. Rotarian Action Groups (RAGs) are autonomous groups of Rotarians, family members, program participants and alumni who are experts in a particular field. Group members share their expertise by collaborating with clubs and districts on service projects. View a list of all action groups and contact the one you’re interested in joining.

Leveraging our vocational skills to help disadvantaged youth succeed

By Quentin Wodon, Author of the Rotarian Economist Blog, President of the Rotary Club of Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., and Lead Economist at the World Bank

In the Washington Metropolitan Area, the Capital City of the United States, more than 17,000 young adults ages 18 to 24 are considered disconnected from work and school. Quite a few of them live in or near Capitol Hill, which is where my Rotary club is located. These youths often come from low-income families, are not in school and are not working. They typically face multiple challenges, including homelessness, issues with the courts, or substance abuse.

These challenges prevent them from successfully transitioning into adulthood. They are a serious threat to long-term community development, not only because of the risks of violence and criminality that arise when youth do not have the tools to succeed, but also because of the sharp impact that their current challenges may have on their future ability to make a living. For a community to prosper, all youth need to be able to grow and contribute.

However, there is hope. Programs reaching out to these youths have been proven to work. Latin America Youth Center (LAYC) is one of the few  nonprofits in Washington, DC, implementing rigorous impact evaluations of its programs. LAYC was founded in 1968 and serves 4,000 individuals per year.

The organization uses an innovative approach to address the needs of youth at especially high risk. Its flagship initiative, Promotor Pathway, is a long-term, intensive, holistic case management and mentorship program. Data from a five-year evaluation suggests that the program has led to positive changes in terms of increasing school enrollment, reducing birth rates, and reducing homelessness among participating youth.

Shayna Scholnick, the Director of the Promotor Pathway program for the District, was a guest speaker at our bi-weekly meeting of the Rotary Club of Capitol Hill in late August 2016. She shared some volunteer opportunities. There are many opportunities for our club members to get involved with this type of community-based partner.

We decided to support LAYC by sharing our professional skills. As part of our pro bono initiative,  described previously on this blog, we have put together a small team of five professionals to prepare a cost-benefit analysis of LAYC’s Promotor Pathway program.

The team includes Rotarians as well as non-Rotarians. Three of us are looking at the value the program’s benefits such as school enrollment, the reduction in homelessness, and the reduction in pregnancies. The fourth member of the team is researching other similar programs and the fifth member is looking at the cost data.

Together we hope to be able to demonstrate that the program’s benefits are much larger than its costs, which would help LAYC raise more funds and expand its program nationally. In doing this work pro bono, we feel that we are in a small way contributing to community development in our area.

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Strengthening clubs through local partnerships

By Quentin Wodon, Author of the Rotarian Economist Blog, President of the Rotary Club of Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., and Lead Economist at the World Bank

Most Rotarians are professionals with deep skills in their area of expertise, yet many club service projects do not make systematic use of their members’ expertise. We see exceptions when Rotarians who are passionate and knowledgeable about a particular topic implement global grants. But in terms of the service work, my impression is that the great initiatives we undertake are limited in impact simply because they may not be truly strategic or may not make full use of Rotarians’ areas of expertise.

One solution to increase the impact of our service work is the concept of Pro Bono Rotarian Teams. On 1 July, my club launched partnerships with a half dozen local nonprofits in our community as part of a pro bono initiative. These partnerships bring four benefits: better service opportunities for members and greater impact in the community; more visibility for our partners and our club; attracting new members; and strengthening teams. Let me briefly explain these four benefits in case they may inspire other clubs to adopt a similar model:

Better service opportunities and larger impact: Rotarians in our club, as elsewhere, are professionals and/or business leaders. We are building on these skills by organizing pro bono strategic advising with small teams of 4-5 individuals (both Rotarians and non-Rotarians) that support local nonprofits in solving issues they face. This makes our club more interesting for our members in terms of the service opportunities we provide, and it also increases the impact that we have in the community because our engagement becomes more strategic.

More visibility for our partners and our club: Higher visibility is achieved in several ways. First, we are sharing our work on social media using the main community blog, The Hill is Home. We publish posts not directly about our club, but about the great work of our nonprofit partners and the fact that we are working with them. We also started writing short articles about our partner nonprofits in the main monthly community magazine.

New members: Our club has been losing members for several years, but since 1 July, we increased our membership by 50% from 18 to 27. Our pro bono initiative and our partnerships with local nonprofits is helping us recruit new members.

Stronger service teams: Our pro bono teams work for a period of three months with local nonprofits, and they include both Rotarians and non-Rotarians. We hope that some of the non-Rotarians working with the pro bono teams will become Rotarians, but this is not the main goal of combining members and others in our teams. The main goal is to build strong teams and benefit from the expertise of friends and colleagues who are ready to help, but may not be interested in Rotary. Think of this as our own model for a Rotary Community Corps, whereby we all work together to support and strengthen great local nonprofits.

There are multiple ways for Rotary clubs to partner with local nonprofits in a strategic way, and some clubs have a long history in doing so. Our new model emphasizing pro bono consulting teams working closely with local nonprofits may not be the right model for all clubs, but it does appear to be working for us, and it ties in nicely with our efforts at improving our public image and recruiting new members. If you would like to know more about our new model, please do not hesitate to post send me an email through the contact me page of my blog at The Rotarian Economist.

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Inspire the next generation through vocational service

By Daniel Seddiqui, Founder of Living the Map

I first became acquainted with Rotary International while living in Evanston to coach the Women’s Cross Country team at Northwestern University.  In 2008, I embarked on an ambitious journey to work 50 Jobs in 50 States in 50 weeks. Throughout my venture, I’ve had the great privilege of speaking at Rotary clubs across the country about my Living the Map program. Now, after settling in Denver, I plan to finally become a Rotary member.

Living the Map offers a national education program to redefine the traditional college internship.  We provide a college credited opportunity for students to experience a rapid prototyping of work and culture related to their career and geographic interests. We aim to empower college students to make informed decisions about their future career paths and gain cultural awareness by exposing them to a variety of authentic work experiences in diverse environments during an on-the-job summer program.

College students work their choice of five jobs in five different states over the course of five weeks. The program also offers a cultural component, as the student lives with a different host family in each location they work. During the work experience, a qualified mentor on the jobsite supervises each student to give advice, field questions, and support the student’s learning objectives for that week.

Rotary plays an enormous role in our program. Rotarians have offered us unmatched support as host families for the program. We have worked exclusively with clubs across the country to help host students in their homes, providing them room and board. The host families often make the biggest impression on our students. Hosts provide students with intangible support and offer them comfort away from home. The kindness and hospitality students experience from their hosts has been transformative, and have offered our students a unique display of Service Above Self. Often our host families also learn something from the students. Rotary members have asked to continue hosting in the years to follow.

We collaborate with our partner employers to craft a meaningful work experience for students. Our employers offer students exposure, mentorship, and career direction, and also provide work assignments to help translate their classroom learning into real world experience. We are eager to continue working with Rotary members in this capacity.

As part of Rotary’s guiding principles and the Avenues of Service, Vocational Service calls on Rotarians to empower others through training and skill development. Rotarians have shown interest in expanding their participation in the program and joining us as partner employers. Rotary’s involvement is a great asset as Rotary members offer comprehensive experience in countless desired professional fields. Rotarians help upcoming young professions discover new vocational opportunities and interests. By working together, we inspire others to act with integrity by following Rotary’s guiding principles and empowering youth with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in their careers.

We invite you to have a role in Living the Map, as an employer or host family. Learn more on our website.

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Read more posts about vocational service 

Combining vocational service and fellowship

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By Dr. Charles Grant, Rotary Club of North Shore (Houston), Texas, USA, and Chair of the International Fellowship of Rotarian Educators

Last year when I received the June issue of the Rotarian magazine, I noticed the listing of all the Rotary Fellowships.  Before then, I wasn’t that familiar with fellowships, I thought they were just for Rotarians who were interested in the same hobbies like chess, golf, or yachting.  I didn’t know there were vocationally oriented fellowships as well.  I looked at the list and saw a few fellowships for professionals such as doctors, lawyers and police & law enforcement but I thought there were many missing, so I went on to Rotary.org to see if there were more and there weren’t. That’s when I decided I wanted to take action.

The last sentence on that page of The Rotarian encouraged those interested in forming a new fellowship to contact rotaryfellowships@rotary.org and so I did. Zuhal Sharp, the Service and Networking Programs Specialist at Rotary International, helped start the process of forming a brand new fellowship for educators. To qualify, we had to have at least 25 interested members from three different countries.  We had interested Rotarians from seven countries!  During this time I met Maria Bossa from the Rotary Club of Río Tercero, Argentina,  who is now our Fellowship Secretary.

Maria had been using Rotary Discussion Groups to exchange ideas and had started the Rotarian Educators group which has more than 200 members and is one of the most active groups in My Rotary! She always had the dream of transforming the group into a fellowship. Maria found out about my fellowship idea and contacted me telling me she wanted to get involved. Through our collaborative efforts, we were able to make Maria’s dream a reality.

At the start of the 2015-16 Rotary year in July, I met with Belinda Kaylani from the Rotary E-Club of Houston, USA, on her first day as District 5890’s Fellowship Chair to discuss the idea.  She helped me get all the required signatures and documents for our proposal which was submitted and approved in December 2015!

The International Fellowship of Rotarian Educators was formed to promote quality education (both public and private) as well as training and development initiatives such as continuing education. We also hope to provide access to education, especially for girls, in many developing countries.

Get involved

It is important to note that one does NOT have to an educator by trade to be a part of our fellowship. Anyone who has a passion for or interest in education is encouraged to join.  Frankly, I don’t know of any Rotarians who aren’t interested in education.  We all know that education is the key to a better quality of life!  Contact me for more information.

Throughout the month of June, we’ll be celebrating Rotary Fellowships Month by sharing inspirational services stories from various Rotary Fellowships. We hope these stories inspire you to join or start a Rotary Fellowship.

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Stopping mothers from dying: a Rotarian’s quest for vocational service

By Past District Governor Dr. Himansu Basu, Rotary Foundation Cadre Technical Coordinator in Maternal and Child Health

Three mothers and twenty babies die every five minutes; the majority of these deaths occur in Africa and the Indian subcontinent. I was always aware of the huge global burden of maternal and new born deaths, many of which are preventable.

When my Rotary district was chosen to be a part of the Future Vision Pilot in 2010, we saw an opportunity to support a project focused on maternal and child health. I realized that to make a meaningful and sustainable impact, the programme would have to be strategic with measurable impact and evidence-based components. It became clear that such an innovative programme would need to be tested as a pilot with close monitoring and evaluation.

Collaboration

Many of my friends and supporters in global professional organisations, governments, NGOs and of course Rotary at all levels helped develop the initial programme. Through these collaborations, the Calmed (Collaborative Action in Lowering of Maternity Encountered Deaths) programme was conceived.

It became obvious that although maternal and child health was a designated area of focus for Rotary International, the problems were not very visible to many Rotarians and non- Rotarians. Many didn’t know about the high life time risk  of woman dying at childbirth: 1 in 40  in Nigeria, 1 in 250 in India and 1 in 5900 in the United Kingdom.* Even though these deaths were largely avoidable, they continued to occur in areas with limited resources.

Leveraging the Rotary Network

As part of the pilot, we also identified a need to mobilize and strengthen resources available within Rotary, including professionals (doctors, nurses, midwives, hospital workers and volunteers) who would support effective maternal and child mortality reduction programmes.

As chairman of International Fellowship of Rotarian Doctors, it was natural for me to promote the Calmed programme to a global audience through Rotary International conventions, regional and district conferences, international institutes and other meetings. I accepted the Medical Directorship role with the Rotarian Action Group for Population and Development, a RI group of technical experts who advise on Rotarian-led maternal and child health programmes.

As a Rotary Foundation Cadre Technical Coordinator in Maternal and Child Health, I remain engaged and connected with Rotarians seeking assistance with programmes and projects related to reproductive, sexual health and family planning.

What is the Calmed programme?

 The Calmed programme utilizes the train the trainer model to build medical expertise in emergency obstetric and new born care. The programme also raises awareness of pregnancy and child birth related issues in rural villages with limited access to larger health care facilities.

The third component of the programme analyses all maternal deaths to identify avoidable causes and makes recommendations for corrective action (Maternal Death Surveillance Response- MDSR). As the state of the art programme evolves, we continue to add new elements and technologies such as Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC), anti-shock garments (NASG), Golden Hour concept, etc. to address identified needs.

Calmed Vocational Training Teams:

There are three Rotary Global Grant funded Calmed programmes that are currently taking place in:

  • Sikkim, India l Target population 0.7 million – introduced in 2013, with repeat visits in 2014 and 2016.
  • Bhuj, Gujarat, India l Target population 2.5 million  – introduced in 2014 with a second visit in 2016.
  • Madhya Pradesh, India l Target population 3.5 millionpreparatory work is in place and the visit is planned for October, 2016.

So far, these teams have trained 39 approved Master Trainers (goal is 100). These Master Trainers have trained 264 doctors and nurses (goal is 500) in emergency obstetric and new born care, as well as 95 ASHA trainers.

Impact of Calmed Vocational Training Teams:

The primary aim of the programme is to enhance trained workforce in the emergency care of pregnant women and babies and to improve participation of village women groups in raising awareness for health care issues during pregnancy and childbirth. Doctors and nurses in target areas have reported increased confidence in tackling emergencies since the inception of Calmed. A three year follow up from Sikkim shows progressive reduction of maternal deaths to a quarter of yearly deaths in the population since Calmed was introduced 3 years ago.

What can you do?

  • Invest in women and children’s health as it is vital for sustainable economic and social development.*
  • Unleash the power of vocational expertise of Rotarians and professionals, the Calmed VTT programme is a template for action.
  • Share Calmed’s success stories and consider introducing the programme in areas with high rates of maternal and child mortality.

Please act now! Visit the programme website and contact me with any questions or comments. Together, let’s stop mothers from needlessly dying!

The Rotary Calmed programme is an award winning programme having received two coveted national awards – The Times Sternberg Award in 2015 and Rotary GBI Champions of Change Award of 2015-16.

*[World Bank 2014], *[PMNCH, 2013]

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Improving maternal and child health in Uganda

By Past District Governor Ronald Smith, member of the Blue Bell Rotary Club, District 7430 (USA)

I began planning a vocational training team with my son Ryan in 2006, who at the time was a medical student at Drexel University in Pennsylvania, USA, with an interest in doing a rotation in Africa. This idea, combined with my friendship and previous matching grants experience with a governor classmate, Francis Tusibira “Tusu”, who I met at the San Diego Zoo at International Assembly, led to forming a vocational training team.

Later, as we met at various Rotary International conventions, we collaborated on several medical center Matching Grants. When Tusu and I were District Rotary Foundation Chairs in District 9200 (east Africa) and District 7430 (USA) respectively, we began exploring the idea of exchanging medical professionals.  As a District Rotary Foundation Chair, I was interested in learning how vocational training teams would be developed and managed under the new global grants structure.  Combining my personal interests with the support of my district and the Rotary Club of Blue Bell, a detailed plan evolved.

During a personal visit to Uganda in January 2013, I met with the Rotary Club of Kampala North and faculty at Makerere University in Kampala. The need for improved maternal and child healthcare education in suburban and rural areas of Uganda emerged through meetings and discussions between faculty and Rotarians. Visits were made to more than eight health centers and interviews held with health officials and the ministry of health uncovered a need for midwife education in emergency obstetric care and childbirth interventions.

The plan that emerged aimed to:

  • Exchange healthcare professionals to develop sustainable results.
  • Develop a sustainable computer network for educating healthcare professionals.
  • Improve community health center infrastructure with equipment and supplies.

Team members were selected from both Drexel University faculty in the United States and from Makerere University in Uganda. In Uganda, the team provided healthcare to patients along with obstetricians and pediatric training for health center staff. Drexel faculty was trained in Helping Babies Breathe, an infant resuscitation technique used in resource-limited settings, and Helping Mothers Survive, an innovative training initiative designed to equip health workers with the knowledge and skills they need to prevent mothers from dying during birth. The team helped set up health camps, trained midwives, and provided a computer network that will not only assist with continued self-training,  but will also be the back-bone for distance education learning. During the vocational training team from Uganda’s visit to Drexel, they were trained in developing distance education courses focused in healthcare.

These teams of doctors, nurses, midwives and information technology faculty have now exchanged twice.  Both teams immersed in one another’s environments and cultures. Through the personal and professional relationships that have been made between the two medical schools, these universities have now signed major collaboration agreements that will sustain this effort well beyond the vocational training teams. Additionally, the Ugandan health centers will become Centers of Excellence in Midwife Training and demonstrates how Rotary clubs and universities both in Uganda and the rest of Africa can work together to develop sustainable technology-based healthcare education systems.

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