In 2000, I took on a project with Plenty International, living in Belize for 7 months to implement a training of 12 Mayan women from 10 different villages in the skills of prenatal care and natural childbirth.
Over the duration of this project, twenty-two midwives and traditional birth attendants (TBA’s) have been trained and equipped to serve in their villages throughout the Toledo district .
Some have taken the initiative to learn more about health care so they can be called upon in their villages when there are medical emergencies.
First I visited each village with a translator to explain the project, so that their community could decide which woman would be chosen to receive the training.
The bus to the hospital in town, two hours drive away, only runs once a day. Most people do not own or have access to other forms of transportation. Births usually happen at home with a few family members in attendance to assist.
Mother and child health and safety can benefit greatly from presence of trained midwives, experienced in the delivery process and able to respond in the time of emergency.
I would alternate a week of classroom instruction with a week of prenatal visits in the villages. Classes were in English, the official language of Belize, and two Mayan dialects.
The students received textbooks and worked with models to learn human anatomy and physiology. Almost all were experienced mothers who understood the challenges childbirth can present.
Trainees also attended prenatal visits at the local hospital. Continuing education classes were also held after the initial training was completed.
Here I am showing the midwife (one of my trainees) how to do a quick assessment of the woman’s pulse.
This village was the most remote one that I worked with, nearly 3 hours from the hospital over rough mountain roads.
Graduation Day for the students in the first training program. Each graduate received a certificate and a birthing kit.