Guest Blog: How WFF Helped Me Launch Safe Motherhood
February 25, 2019
Guest Blog by Sarah Omega
Sarah Omega is the Executive Director of the Let’s End Fistula Initiative (LEFI) in Kenya. WFF began funding LEFI in 2018 after it merged with Seattle-based fistula nonprofit, One By One.
Learning that One By One was merging with Worldwide Fistula Fund made me nervous at first. How would I and the Kenya program so dear to my heart rank against their other work?
Happily, the board invited me to speak at their annual May meeting and was very interested in hearing my future plans for Let’s End Fistula Initiative. They welcomed me, my husband Kennedy and daughter Jade to Schaumburg. They were very moved by my personal story of wanting to help others after my own long journey seeking treatment for fistula.
In 2018, I established the Let’s End Fistula Initiative (LEFI) as a local Kenyan NGO. At first I didn’t fully see why all this was necessary or why One By One and then Worldwide Fistula Fund encouraged me to do it. Now, I know the board was looking at the pilot year results for our Economic Empowerment programming and believed that others would want to fund LEFI, too! Becoming an NGO is the first step to helping LEFI secure new funders. With new funding, I could grow LEFI faster and not be solely dependent on WFF.
I could more quickly grow the number of Survivor Solidarity Groups from currently 11 groups with 216 women. I could more quickly increase the small seed loans and grants we make to group members as they launch activities for economic empowerment like small crop farming, raising animals, etc. I could more quickly scale-up ALL our programming in the future. Now I see that Worldwide Fistula Fund wants to help me implement strategies to ensure the long-term sustainability of LEFI.
At first, I also worried how I would be supported at Worldwide Fistula Fund. I had been speaking to OBO’s founder and then OBO’s programming officer regularly. Now, I speak with WFF’s Executive Director weekly, and she said Worldwide Fistula Fund’s goal is to teach me the skills I need as Executive Director of my own NGO. WFF started a Kenya Committee with Board members and some Seattle friends to support me. Seattle’s Kathleen Davis is the Chair. I worked with them to achieve our biggest goal in 2018...
In October, we launched Promoting Safe Motherhood: Preventing Obstetric Fistula, our new childbirth injury prevention program! With our curriculum specialist, I outlined what should be taught and incorporated data collection to track our activity and success. First, we trained our regional representatives. I was prepared with flip charts, slides, T-shirts, and everything else to ensure it was a success. A representative from the Ministry of Health officially opened the training, showing their support and our strong partnership. The Reps were so excited to launch this new program!
In November, we then completed our follow-up visits to our 11 solidarity groups and customized curriculum for each group. That means all 216 fistula survivors that make up the 11 groups are out promoting safe motherhood right now!
During this year of change, working with Worldwide Fistula Fund has helped me and Let’s End Fistula continue to expand programming. Together, we believe that strategies to significantly reduce maternal mortality and morbidity do not necessarily require sophisticated technology. What they do require is sustainable funding.
We are entering a new phase with prevention education. Our Safe Motherhood curriculum can save lives, prevent injury and improve maternal and newborn outcomes!
I look forward to welcoming WFF’s Kenya Committee Members Kathleen Davis and Misti McDowell as well as Executive Director Soja Orlowski to Kenya in March. They will visit me and my program to witness the great work we are doing and help us to make it better!
I hope to write to you all again soon with more great news for women in my country. Thank you for your support.