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One Student's Amazing Work With Midwives for Haiti

Karen Werner, PhD, MEd's picture
BA in Health Arts and Sciences Blog
One Student's Amazing Work With Midwives for Haiti

In the fall of 2010, six months after Haiti’s devastating earthquake, Jenna Schmitz (BA HAS ‘13) moved to Hinche in Haiti’s Central Plateau, 37 miles north of Port-au-Prince. Trained as a Certified Professional Midwife at Birthwise Midwifery School (which has a credit-bearing partnership with Goddard College), Jenna volunteered with a Haitian-led organization called Midwives for Haiti.

In Spring 2012, Jenna returned to Haiti and, as part of her senior study project, worked with Midwives for Haiti to help develop their infrastructure.

After a period of on-site observation, Jenna identified an opportunity to develop a more effective and culturally appropriate training with traditional birth attendants (or matròn-s in Haitian Creole.) Matròn-s attend approximately 70% of deliveries in Haiti, all of which are out-of-hospital. Working closely with a Haitian midwife named Genette Thelusmond, Jenna co-created a program called the Matròn Outreach Program and established a key partnership with Haiti's Ministry of Health and Population.

Jenna eloquently describes the Matròn Outreach Program:

“Much of Haiti remains underdeveloped, with limited access to medical facilities, especially for people living in rural areas. This is where the work of matròn-s is crucial. Matròn-s attend births in areas where women would otherwise have no choice but to birth at home without a trained birth attendant present…Although matròn-s learn valuable skills from family members and friends, many have not been formally trained to recognize danger signs during pregnancy or to utilize life-saving maneuvers for labor and delivery.”

The Matròn Outreach Program offers a five-month training program as well as an ongoing support network, referral pathways, and supplies. Still in its first year, the results of the Matròn Outreach Program have already been remarkable.

Jenna’s senior study will document her work with the Matròn Outreach Program with an eye toward publication.

Beginning in Fall 2013, Midwives for Haiti has offered Jenna a paid position to serve as Matròn Outreach Coordinator.  Jenna plans to help Midwives for Haiti expand its offerings by creating a fundraising video. We’ll keep you posted for ways to support this vital work.

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