In rural Kenya, mothers-to-be face challenges shared by expectant mothers in underdeveloped nations around the globe, transportation chief among them. They know they need to get proper care, but getting to a clinic or hospital often proves too difficult.
Baylor senior Jolene Damoiseaux (pictured above), a biology major from the Houston area, met many of these women while traveling in Kenya with Baylor’s Straw To Bread organization. What she discovered led her to turn her Honors College thesis project into “Mothers on the Move,” an organization that provides transportation to expectant mothers who would otherwise have none.
Damoiseaux first began studying maternal mortality in a Baylor research and design class as a sophomore, sparking a passion to serve.
“I started doing research on maternal mortality and asking bigger questions like why women die from preventable complications related to childbirth, why that contributes to half a million women dying each year,” she recalls. The trip to Kenya allowed Damoiseaux to put faces with the statistics of women she wanted to help. She stayed in Kenya for two months (long after the normal two weeks of the trip), interviewing 90 women to determine their needs.
“It became clear that all of the women in my study valued a health center delivery, but faced significant structural barriers,” Damoiseaux explains. “Ninety-two percent of the women reported a transportation problem that forced them to hike an average of five kilometers after the onset of labor to deliver at the nearest Sigoti Health Center. … Only 45 percent were able to safely deliver at a health facility.”
Her thesis project led to a $1,500 grant from the Baylor Interdisciplinary Poverty Initiative, which led to transportation for 56 women in the first 10 weeks of Mothers on the Move’s existence. The initiative will continue to fund Mothers on the Move into 2014, but Damoiseaux is looking for more donors to move the program forward.
And if helping so many mothers wasn’t reward enough, she got an unexpected surprise on a return trip to Kenya. One of the women she had interviewed earlier gave birth to a healthy baby girl. The baby’s name? Jolene Gloria Apollo.