A group of seven central Albertan doulas, including one from Blackfalds and one from Lacombe, will be heading to Honduras this June as part of a humanitarian trip.
Trained professionals offering companionship and support services throughout the birthing process – from preconception to birth to initial post-partum – the doulas will work with non-profit Dar a Luz Honduras to bring compassionate maternity care to women who previously have had none.
Or, as Blackfalds’ Melyssa Robertson and Lacombe’s Jenn Hamborg put it, show them “love with no borders.”
“That’s our tagline. We are doulas that always try to provide this compassion care because we understand it’s something all women should have,” said Robertson. “We’re not going to try and change how they’re system is, but we can go and make differences for these women.
“We can show everyone that it’s OK to be treating these women with compassion and care and respect, even if they are poor, even if they are of a lower class or a different background.”
The opportunity to go on the humanitarian mission came about last fall, and the group, who are all part of the Red Deer Doula Association, were soon in touch with Sylvia Bahr, the woman behind Dar a Luz Honduras who has spent more than a decade working to improve maternity care in the country.
Honduras, which is a developing country, had more than 66 per cent of its population living below the poverty line as of 2016, and as a result faces challenges particularly in health care, Early childbirth – those between the age of 15-19 – is prevalent. So, too, are high delivery rates, with some hospitals delivering more than 60 babies per day, causing strain on resources such as space for those going into labour and adequate bedding for the birth process.
Unlike in Canada, where families are welcome and mothers bring their own bags of personal items with them to hospitals, Honduran women are not allowed to bring personal items, nor partners or family members for support, which is where the importance of doula work will come into play.
While the doulas recognize they won’t be able to change the system itself, they believe offering that support and compassion for the women they work with will help lay the foundation for that change.
“In training they tell us how a birth can empower women, how it can shape so many things. It’s not just the physical aspect, but the emotional aspect that can empower women for the rest of their lives,” said Robertson.
“Hopefully these women we work with will come away from their births with a positive experience, and feel safe and empowered. If they feel this way, they will pass that on to their daughters, nieces and granddaughters and that’s what’s going to change the Honduran birth culture.”
Robertson, who has been a doula since September of 2014 said her own doulas had that effect on her – so much so that she chose to become one herself. Both she and Hamborg said they were honoured to have the opportunity to do the same for the women they will meet in Honduras later this year.
They have been asked, however, if they’re excited for the trip, or told how much fun they’ll have, but neither said it’s the kind of trip to necessarily be excited about and are more looking forward to how the experience will better their understanding of challenges people deal with beyond Canada’s borders, as well as how it will shape them as people going forward.
They are positive they’ll encounter some difficult situations, but intent to go in with open minds and open hearts.
“The whole world is not like us, but everyone is deserving of love and I think that’s why I’m adamant about love with no borders,” said Hamborg.
“It is going to be heart-wrenching, it’s going to be difficult, it’s going to be emotional. It’s also going to be really rewarding.”
Other doulas participating include Kaitlyn Boese of Penhold, Deanna Daniels of Three Hills, Christa Duquette of Olds, Chelsea Bootsman and Laura Gauthier of Red Deer. They will be joined by Shelby Lee from Moncton, New Brunswick.
In order to go on the humanitarian trip, each doula is tasked with raising a minimum of $3,500 individually, but will not be capping their fundraising as there may be additional expenses each will have to pay for out of pocket. While they all have their own events and ways of fundraising, in general, they are still in need of support.
They’ll have a large fundraising event through a silent auction in Red Deer on April 26, 2019 at the Canadian Brewhouse from 6 p.m. until 10 p.m. Items are still being collected for the silent auction as well.
Those who want to learn more or contribute can join the Facebook group, Doulas on a mission, or visit the Red Deer Doula Association online at www.reddeerdoulaassociation.com.