Tuesday, November 19

Buy a Bracelet and Change a Life

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‘Do Right’ Project helping hundreds of Kenyan mothers cope with child care problems

We’ve all seen them. They’re small, eye-catching and not too expensive. Many of us will have bought one on impulse, intrigued perhaps by the catchy message it carried. You might call them the universal fashion bauble.

They are, of course, bracelets and they are everywhere, on the wrists of old and young alike, from trendy joggers to roadside mama mbogas.

However, thanks to an enterprising young student, one bracelet – carrying the simple message ‘Do Right’ – has become not just a trendy fashion item, but is helping to fund a pioneering project, which is helping to change the lives of hundreds of Kenyan women.

The student is Davina Field Marsham, a Canadian with Kenyan roots, who came up with the idea as result of a school project. Asked to choose a subject, she opted to focus on the maternal health problems faced by mothers in Kenya, which she had seen first-hand, as during holidays in rural Kenya she had worked as a volunteer at clinics in the Kerio Valley and Isiolo.

Statistics show that only 38 per cent of women in rural Kenya give birth in medical facilities, despite the fact that 90 per cent bring their newborn babies in for routine vaccinations. The reasons are both cultural and economic. In many cases high transport costs drive mothers to give birth at home and without medical assistance. As a result, there are around 7,000 maternal deaths and 35,000 infant deaths every year, one of the highest mortality rates in the world according to the UN.

In addition, mothers often get little or no post-natal help and have no access to basic baby products. As Davina explains: “Apart from childbirth being safe, it should be special, enjoyable, comfortable, a moment of pride, to be cherished by the mother. The reality for many is very different. Instead they have no clothes for the baby, no clean blankets, and struggle to afford soap and other basics.”

Davina decided that the solution was a ‘postnatal bag’ to be given to the mothers, containing basic essential products and information useful to the new mothers, which might also serve as an incentive to motivate rural mothers to choose clinic births instead of home births.

When Davina handed in her high school project in Canada, her teacher encouraged her to take it beyond a hypothetical exercise and explore how it might become a reality. And that was when she came up with the idea of producing bangles for sale in order to fund the bags. The ‘Do Right’ Project was then up and running.

The bangles were designed and negotiations begun with Kenya Prisons for inmates to produce a range of eye-catching items as an income-generating scheme for the inmates. In addition, several corporates agreed to give their support with products and other assistance. These included Vaseline, Orbit soap Products. Insta nutrition-rich food Products and Ogilvy and Mather.

Since it was launched last year, close to two hundred women have received Do Right bags in four different parts of Kenya – Lewa in Isiolo, the Kerio Valley, Shela in Lamu and Kakuma refugee camp in Turkana.

Davina adds: “We now have a sales team of 35 students and are selling from stores, weekly markets and pop ups in shopping malls and bazaars. Fashion designers have teamed up with us and helping us train the women in Langata Prison. New medical service providers are also teaming up with us with a view to expanding the number of clinics we supply.”

She explains: “Our bundles are tailored to meet the specific needs of communities. For example, mosquito nets are provided in malaria zones and nutritious porridge is offered to malnourished mothers. Our bags also provide incentives for mothers to give birth in a clinic and as a result maximising her and her newborns chances of a safe delivery.”

The success of the ‘Do Right’ Project is only possible through the hard work of many throughout Kenya and the hope is that it will ultimately lead to more mothers choosing clinics over home births. But in the meantime, as Davina says: ‘The look of delight on the faces of the mums-to-be when we give them their bags is reward enough for our efforts.”

If you would like to buy a bracelet and support the ‘Do Right’ initiative or learn more about the project, go to the links below. Donations can also be made through MPESA on 0717515194. www.Doright.ca or Instagram: dorightkenya

Kits popular with mothers

The maternity Do Right kits are very popular with the mothers. They even encourage women who do not usually come to the clinic – because of fear of being caught for illegal circumcision – to come. All the items in the package are helpful and appreciated, especially the excellent blankets. – Nurse May Makau, Shella Dispensary Lamu.

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