Monday, May 28, 2012

My Passion - Eleanor Shepherd

“When you don’t have a clue what to write about, write about your passion.”  This advice to authors running on empty, appeals to me today.  One of my passions, I realized in conversation with friends on Saturday, is work being done to help mothers and children in the developing world.  It is not only because this work is the bread and butter of my husband, Glen and mine also for two days a week.  The efforts to help grab my heart and get me choked up, when I hear about conditions there.  I immediately want to tell everyone about it, so they will engage in this work too.
What is it like in the developing world?  It is filled with ordinary people like you and me, except they had the disadvantage of being born in a part of the world that has not enjoyed the economic prosperity and political liberty we so often take for granted. 
The truth of this hit me again when our daughter offered us a gift of medicines sent to the developing world in our honour, as the Christmas present from her baby daughter, Sanna.   My joy is to go out and buy clothes and toys for our little granddaughter who brings such pleasure to us.  She is our first grandchild and I cannot do enough for her.  If her mother even suggests she could use something, I run off to the store to get it for her. 
The note our daughter gave us with her gift, reminded me again of how fortunate we are.   If Sanna had been born anywhere in the developing world, she may not have made it, and we might have lost her mother as well.  It is so common for mothers to die in childbirth.  Chances are Elizabeth’s elevated blood pressure would never have been diagnosed.  Not having delivered eighteen hours after her water broke, she would likely have suffered from infections, spreading them with Sanna, with no antibiotics to treat them.  Had Sanna weathered all of that stress, emerging with the cord around her neck, would likely have been the end for her.  Today I would be living with grief and loss, instead of gratitude and elation.  These reflections increase my compassion for so many grandmothers in the developing world, who having survived overwhelming odds themselves, are hit with the sorrow of the loss of child and grandchild. 
While these thoughts are sobering, hope keeps me going. The United Nations established Millennium Goals that include the provision of care for women giving birth and for children under the age of five who often die of easily preventable diseases.  They have set specific targets for the reduction of the mortality level of women and children. We are working to see those goals realized.    
Health Partners International of Canada (HPIC) is working with partner agencies to establish a training program for rural medical teams in the developing world so that they can recognize and address some of the high risks in pregnancy, and therefore save the lives of mothers and their babies. 
The nurse, who administers a rural health station, in the developing world often handles many different diagnoses in the course of a day.  She may observe in a child, unique symptoms she has never encountered before.  To help her, HPIC and its partners are producing a pediatric handbook, developed by a doctor who spent his career working in rural Africa.  Hard copies and electronic versions will ensure widespread distribution.  This guide will save the lives of many children. 
The initiative that most excites me is in some senses the simplest, but may well be the most effective.  A kit of basic medical supplies will be available from women in the community who receive a level one training in health care.  They will know how to deal with the most common health problems, arising in the developing world.  The kits will equip them to address these situations.  For examples, we know many of the children who die in the developing world, do so from dehydration brought on by diarrhea.  This can be effectively addressed and cured and children’s lives saved.  Mothers who if they were well nourished would have the strength to deliver their babies will be able to receive vitamin supplements.  None of this is rocket science, but it makes a huge difference in the lives of families in the developing world.             
I love being a mother.  I love being a grandmother.  I want others to share that joy.   Helping make it happen ignites my passion.
Health Partners International of Canada website is
Winner of 2011
Word Guild Award
Christian Leadership

Winner of 2009
Award of Merit
Human Interest Article

1 comment:

Peter Black said...

Thank you for sharing your passion for the well-being of mothers and their babies in the developing world, Eleanor.
This is surely close to the heart of God. May you and Glen have great joy, and share present and eternal rewards for responding to this particular aspect of His call on your lives.

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