Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Birthing Project USA is saving lives

Birthing Project USA connects volunteers and pregnant women within the African American community and other underserved communities, with the goal of reducing infant mortality and strengthening at-risk families.  Volunteers are known as "Sister Friends" who provide support during pregnancy, childbirth, and the first year postpartum.  Chapters exist in cities across the USA and internationally.  The project's founder, Kathryn Hall-Trujillo, has been recognized as a CNN Hero.  Birthing Project USA has supported mothers affected by Hurrican Katrina, provided scholarships to adolescent mothers pursuing a college education, reduced infant mortality rates in high-risk communities, and mentored thousands of young families.  Donations and volunteers are needed to help this important work continue -- visit www.birthingprojectusa.org/intro.html to get involved.  Below, Birthing Project USA describes their accomplishments over the past 25 years and their goals for the future.

Birthing Project USA is the only national African American maternal and child health program. We encourage better birth outcomes by providing practical support to women during pregnancy and for one year after the birth of their children.
The first Birthing Project began in Sacramento, California in 1988 as a community service project comprised of volunteer Sister Friends who provided one-on-one support to pregnant teens and women, with a goal of lowering infant mortality.  In June 1992, The Birthing Project was featured in Essence magazine.  The response from women all over the country to become involved in their own communities was overwhelming.
The Birthing Project concept has grown into a nationally-recognized model which has been replicated in over 70 communities in the United States, Canada and Honduras. This sisterhood of Birthing Projects is provided with technical and practical support through our national resource center and is known throughout the country as Birthing Project USA:  The Underground Railroad for New Life.
At any given time, there are approximately thirty Birthing Projects in action - operating from homes, churches, service groups, places of employment, clinics, health departments and hospitals - any place where a group of ten women can commit to being "conductors" on The Underground Railroad for 18 months.
The Birthing Project USA mission is to assist local communities in improving their health status by addressing the systemic causes of their lack of well-being. The systemic causes usually include lack of education, lack of social justice, and economic disparities compounded by institutional, political and personal barriers.  Birthing Projects actively engage community residents in:
1)   Identifying their needs
2)   Planning, implementing and evaluating services
3)   Working collaboratively with other agencies, organizations and individuals
During the last 18 years, Birthing Project models have been developed to improve birth outcomes by intervening at critical periods in a woman's life.  For example, one of the most important determinants of a baby's health at birth is the physical, educational and economic health of the baby's mother when she became pregnant.  Our innovative programs allow us to identify our babies before they are born, keep a watchful eye on them during their childhood, invite them to participate with their mothers in our risk reduction program when they are in 6th and 7th grades, and participate in our Academy of Dreams during their high school years.  We also provide guidance and support to their fathers. 
Birthing Project USA provides the following services:
  • Provides information, training and support to women and organizations who are interested in starting a Project in their communities
  • Assists local projects to identify and obtain necessary community services and resources
  • Assists local projects in establishing collaborative efforts
  • Assists local projects in developing long-term strategic and action plans
  • Sponsors an annual training and networking conference for local projects, professional colleagues and other stakeholders
  • Provides Leadership Development and support for grassroots girls and women
  • Provides technical assistance and consultation to organizations, agencies and institutions that provide health and human services to African American and other underserved youth and women and their families
  • Also shares the history, experience and outcomes of this innovative model at your meeting, conference, summit or training. 

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