This blog post was written by Karen Anderson, Director of Foundation and Corporate Partnerships for Physicians for Peace. She is currently visiting the Dominican Republic as part of an evaluation exercise for the Resource Mother’s program and a burn care medical education initiative.
When I first learned about Physicians for Peace, I was impressed with how the organization recognizes the cultural differences between our headquarters in Norfolk and develops all our programming with our partners on the ground to ensure we are delivering the programs they need – not just what we think they need. Prior to the trip, however, I had not given much thought to the fact that there are also cultural differences within a country which we need to consider.
During a visit to the barrios of Santo Domingo, I met our Resource Mothers, women who mentor pregnant teens during their pregnancy and first year of their child’s life. It wasn’t until I saw these women together that I understood the tremendous value in recruiting Resource Mothers from the barrios where their clients live. Patricia introduced us to her client Johanna, a 17 year old pregnant with her second child. During her first pregnancy she did not receive any prenatal care, but now she has Patricia to go with her on those visits, be there when the baby is born and help her navigate her difficult emotional journey.
As I listened to the girls talk, it was easy to see a connection between the two of them. As the conversation moved from topic to topic, I came to realize that this program is not just offering these girls skills, education and comfort but also challenging them to see opportunities to improve their lives by counseling them on family planning and encouraging them to stay or go back to school. It takes tremendous courage to want more for your life. I don’t see how this program could come close to having such an impact if the messages weren’t coming from someone from their own world – someone who really understands the problems they are facing because they are facing them themselves. While there are countless women in the Dominican Republic capable of teaching these young girls about prenatal and infant care, there are few able to inspire them. They certainly inspired me.