Stories of transformation: We’ve got them—do you?
I didn't notice Savita Rai at first. I was too busy watching the mothers' group. I was in her Indian village to see how PATH's Sure Start project was transforming a devastating situation—high rates of maternal and newborn deaths—into one of hope, and the mothers' group was where the action was.
A PATH-trained health worker was telling the circle of mothers a lively story embedded with information on best practices for pregnancy, childbirth, and infant care. Savita Rai squatted just outside the circle, not talking, her grandson playing between her knees. But when I asked her why she was at the meeting, she surprised me. She stood right up and spoke in a voice that was both commanding and wracked by grief.
She brought her two daughters-in-law to the mothers' group meetings, she said, so they could get the information she didn't have when her baby died. Her son's death could have been caused by one of many childrearing practices still used today. “We gave the babies cow's milk,” Savita Rai said. “We thought it was god's milk. I didn't know about covering the child to keep it warm. I didn't know about giving birth at the health center or vaccinations. I didn't know about any of it.”
PATH's Sure Start project is changing these often dangerous traditions by bringing lifesaving information to millions of families in India and providing the support they need to act on it. Now mothers, fathers, village leaders, and grandparents like Savita Rai can say, “I've learned how to take care of the mother and child.” And she has: she's making sure all her grandchildren are delivered safely in health centers, breastfed to protect them from infection and diarrhea, kept warm and dry to keep pneumonia at bay, and vaccinated against a range of diseases.
Savita Rai's story is one of many shared on a new interactive website about Sure Start. Visit the website, click on any one of the images and explore the stories of people whose lives have been changed. You'll also discover ingenious tools used to create community-wide transformation in birthing practices and infant care.
Throughout May, PATH is also inviting people to share their stories on its Facebook page and on Twitter by using the hashtag #PATHSureStart. Who couldn't you live without when you were pregnant? How did you prepare for your baby's arrival? What was the economic impact of having a baby for your family? Visit and share the new website, and join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter!
-- Lesley Reed, PATH
For more information:
-- Video: Miracles happen when moms have access to simple solutions. Watch "The Extraordinary Healing Power of Mom."
-- Photos: Knowledge is power. Just look at the impact of village health volunteers in Cambodia.
Photo credit: PATH/Gabe Bienczycki