By Randy Fiedler
The nonprofit organization Mothers on the Move, founded by Arts & Sciences alumna Jolene Damoiseaux (BS in biology 2014), has won the Albert Schweitzer Prize Audience Award from the Nederlands Albert Schweitzer Fund, which provides money for local health projects in Africa. Damoiseaux started Mothers on the Move as a Baylor senior to provide expectant mothers in Western Kenya with free transportation to a health center to safely give birth.
“I am so excited that Mothers On the Move has won the Albert Schweitzer Public Prize — not only because of the prize money we can now use to continue transporting women to health centers, but even more because of the people that came together to make it happen,” Damoiseaux said. “Out of the 10 organizations competing, Mothers On the Move collected one-fifth of the votes, which came from all over the world — America, the Netherlands, Belgium, England, Iceland, Spain, Portugal, Indonesia, and even Kenya and South Africa among many more. I love that Mothers On the Move has not only brought together people between Baylor and the Nyakach Plateau, but that it has now extended far beyond what we had ever dreamed of.”
“(Winning the award) was an opportunity to share what we do in Kenya and teach others about a world very different from their own, as well as show the impact that service can have,” she said. “Mothers On the Move is on the radar now, and this is just the beginning. I am so excited for all that is yet to come.”
Mothers on the Move began as Damoiseaux’s Honors Program research project while at Baylor. She formally launched the organization in July 2013 to help pregnant women in the Nyakach Plateau region of Kenya, who face an average hike of three miles through rough terrain to reach the closest health center when it comes time to deliver their babies. Faced with such a hike, many of the women choose to have a home birth with a midwife. Damoiseaux had spent time in the area during two summer mission trips.
To help provide the Kenyan expectant mothers with transportation to health centers, Damoiseaux began Mothers on the Move with a $1,500 grant from the Baylor Interdisciplinary Poverty Initiative. Under the program, when a woman goes into labor, she can call a hotline and arrange for a motorbike taxi to transport her to the health center.
“I am absolutely loving this,” she said. “I didn’t know studying could be so much fun when you are doing exactly what you are meant to do. It’s the perfect career that combines my passion for service and my interest in women’s health.”
In addition, Damoiseaux is one of three students in the Netherlands who is taking part in the first “twinning” project between the Netherlands and Iceland.
“The Royal Dutch Organization of Midwives started this project to bring together midwives between the Netherlands and Iceland to protect and promote women’s birth rights,” Damoiseaux said. “We will be working together for the next three years I have left of my study, and I am excited to see what insights I can bring with me for my future plans locally and abroad.”
When Damoiseaux finishes her studies, she plans to open a midwifery practice named Mothers on the Move, the same name she gave to her nonprofit organization.
“I want to provide women in the Netherlands with prenatal, natal and postnatal care while also teaching them about women’s health abroad, and inspiring them for service,” she said. “I would love to continue what I started at Baylor by connecting pregnant women in the Netherlands with our pregnant friends in Kenya. Perhaps a certain financial percentage of each delivery I do will go to Mothers On the Move in Kenya. The options are endless.”