Societal pressures and egos is not something that I want to live with. I want to live in a nurturing, creative, loving, and supportive environment. And that’s the same exact environment that we should be offering to refugees. At least that’s what we are trying to build on every mission that we go on. We are building a “space” that is loving, calm, inviting, and open to anyone. This may be a fully built clinic or this may be on the side of the road out of a backpack. Location does not mater, what matters is what is in your heart. Making the world a better place for refugees is what our mission is! LOVE WINS!
Sisters In Health went to Lesvos to respond to the refugee crisis. We constructed a comprehensive integrative clinic in the main refugee camp. We saw at least 100 patients a day and set up ongoing systems within the camp to increase the overall functional capacity of the camp (that part is Scotts department). Unfortunately, when you are doing relief work things change minute to minute. The government decided that they wanted control of the refugee camps and a decision was made to remove health care from the camp except for one central location that would be run by MSF/MDM. We support MSF greatly and know that they are working night and day to provide respectful care to the refugees. We are extremely grateful for the time that we spent working along side the incredibly hard working organizations and NGOs that are responding to the crisis! We are eternally grateful for the opportunity that we got to do the work that we did in Lesvos and continue to do to bring aid to the refugee crisis.
BECAUSE OF YOU WOMEN AND FAMILIES WILL LIVE TO SEE THEIR CHILDREN GROW UP!
The support that we have received has been incredible! Thank you for the bottom of our hearts for all of the support and love. This organization and the aid that we offer does so because of the people who support us. I am only a vessel for everyone’s love and support! Thousands of women and their family members have been effected in the most uplifting and positive ways because of you and your support! I am able to bring that love and be that vessel because of every person out there reading this right now. Thank you.
Sisters In Health was created to give free gentle and loving health care to women in need. I "created" SIH when I was 13. I saw teenage prostitutes in Ecuador and I knew that I was going to do something! I believe with all my being that you can make the world a better place for women through health and wellness care. If we can keep women well and thriving they can change the world.
We are in the process of putting together another team to head to Europe to bring health care, peace, and love. Our first trip to bring relief to the refugee crisis taught us an immense amount of important lessons and we are excited and ready for our ongoing work. Our goal for our next mission is to provide mobile health care for women and children and deliver women's relief packs to the young women and female refugees (feminine needs, personal needs, and items for comfort). If you would like to help us with our next mission please contact us!
I am not going to lie. This work is the hardest that I have ever done. When we came back the first thing I said was I can’t go back. That obviously was the PTSD talking lol but non the less its bind bending to see what is happening. I feel like I have just come back from war.
When you are in it you just can not see anything but what you are doing. There is no pause button. You can’t pause time and take out your phone and then take respectful pictures while you are trying to provide care or put on dry socks. There is no time to blog or sit down and reflect. There is hardly time for a shower or to eat.
All you care about is that moment that you are sitting with a woman from across the globe. A woman that is just like you. She had a house, grew vegetables, loved to throw parties, had an amazing sisterhood in her community. She loved fashion and adorning herself with anything beautiful. Community is/was everything to her. She had a great life. Just like you she got up every morning and got dressed in clothes that made her feel good, she put makeup on because she loved to look beautiful she said, perfectly arched eyebrows with perfectly applied makeup. She got her 3 children ready for school every morning. Just like every other mom in the world this was not her favorite time of day either. She said good bye to her amazingly loving and handsome husband as he went off to work. L packed the 3 kids in the car for school then off she would go to her job as a Doctor in the hospital. Then one day everything changed. She knew that the fighting was getting close, she had family already fleeing. The bombing and fighting started to get close. It was time for them to move. Fleeing in the middle of the night with her community and family. This could be any of us. The government goes crazy and then life falls apart. Its not her fault she just wants to live in peace and harmony.
Along with 40 other family/community (40% of this group is kids and babies) members they leave. They form a united front and together they risk their lives so that they can watch the children grow up. For months they travel with smugglers. She does not want to tell me what she went through, but I know and she just wants to move on. Rape, torture, abuse. Its part of what happens when you take these kinds of risks. She tells me its worse than I could ever imagine. I tell her im not sure bout that. Its finally her turn to get in the boat, gun to head, pleading to get off. This is not what she signed up for and she was pissed. Slapped across the face by the smuggler. As a community and family they shelled out $60,000 (about $1200 each) to get on the rubber death trap to freedom. Not to mention the other $50,000 it took them to get from Syria to Turkey with smugglers ($1000 per body). $110,000 for a community to be smuggled out of the country with no guarantee that you will live. No food, no water, no belongings and in a lot of circumstances no money.
Who puts a baby on a rubber boat that everyone knows is a death trap? Women that are taking the power into their hands and escaping. They will do whatever it takes to give their children and families a better life. Everyone knows that people are dying on these boats on this 6KM pass…every single day. The person who risks that is a person who is beyond desperate but one who’s also braze, courageous, and strong! These women are the strongest women I have seen.
These women could be the next generation of change makers but instead they are stuck in hell.
L’s journey was awful. She knew she was going to die. 8 hours in the water up to her chin on the bottom of a boat filling up with water. 6 people did not make it. They were in the middle of the sea, dark, lost, and alone. The waves took 2 children and 4 adults off the boat and pulled them into the ocean. There was nothing that could be done. She and her family were still alive.
Please tune in to Front Porch Radio March 23 at 4pm. Julie Norris and I will be discussing the reality of what is happening to the refugees and all of the politics behind it. This is a conversation that you do not want to miss. No matter what your view on the situation are I ask you to please listen with an open heart because these are women just like you!
91.5 (winter Park, FL)
*If you are new to reading my blog (welcome everyone) please keep in mind that I write the truth and do not sugar coat or make anything fluffy. I report what I have seen with my own eyes and a lot of the time it is not pretty. In order to make the world a better place for women the world needs to fully understand what women are going through and what they have to face in order to survive.
I write about the survival of women.
Back On The Horse…or should I say airplane….
It’s been 6 weeks since we have returned home.
It is time to get back on the horse.
Reintegration was quite difficult this time.
So many emotions are wrapped up in what we do, how can they not be.
We are human after all.
And this is what reintegration does to you. It pulls every emotion out. The emotions that you have had for the last however many months, the trauma that you witnessed, the things that you had to see that you can never talk about…things that are so disturbing that you don’t want to say it out loud. You are forever changed by the things that you witness and the things that you can never “unsee”. The beautiful, amazing, and lovely aspects to this type of work supersede the ugly and the bad. But that is not always easy! Unfortunately its not the love, peace, and happiness that you have to recover from. Those are the memories you will always remember with beauty and love…these are the memories that keep you going.
Then you are once again reborn. You see the world in a completely different way. Every experience in life changes you for the better. This is like labor for many women…when they are in it, it is quite hard to see the end. It’s difficult to see through the intensity of the moment. But you know those moments are crucial so you push through to the other side. Then you forget what was so painful to begin with. And you do it again and again. Even though you know there will be more pain involved. This is not just childbirth but life for every single woman around the globe.
And then we get back on the horse.
Attacks, bombs, gun shots, fire...it seemed the the whole village was crumbling around her. They were coming for her and her family. Her husband knew that if they did not get out they would all die. She had already watched her sisters from her community perish. Over weeks that felt like years her husband was able to get the money together to get the family out. She does not want to know where the money came from. In the middle of the night the traffickers came to her village to get them out. They were leaving Afghanistan and heading to Europe. They were not allowed to bring any bags or personal items; only their cell phone and the clothes on their backs. They had no idea how they would eat, where they would sleep, or how they were getting to Turkey. They just went because they had to escape the most extreme violence that world has seen.
For 3 months they traveled across Afghanistan making their way to Turkey. On their way she was raped and tortured on a regular basis, her husband was tortured,and her children had to watch. The traffickers basically made them their slaves. And all they could do was just try to survive another day because eventually they would make it to freedom. Along the way she was wounded and her ribs were broken during the brutality. She also contracted a STI.
They were not alone. Thousands of families were escaping and unfortunately many of them were receiving the same treatment. Finally they made it to Turkey. Tired, sick, dehydrated, broken, brutalized, and terrified they were put on a rubber type dinghy that holds 40 people....there were close to 100 people on the boat. The crossing to Greece is one of the most dangerous parts of the trip. The waters are rough, freezing, and many people can not swim. As they were close to the shore the boat got swept up in a wave in the rough sea and capsized. Her, her husband, and children survived but her other family members were not so lucky. Neither were many others on the boat.
When they made it to shore they then had to walk 40 miles to the registration camp where they had to wait days and days to register in order to get through the next leg of the trip. Unfortunately once they get to Europe they see that the fighting and hate is not over. Their chances of survival are much higher in their new life.
In the last several years millions of women and families have fled their homes due to war and violence. Many of those refugees travel through Greece often risking everything. When the refugees land they have nothing. The smugglers will most likely have stripped them of any assets and they cannot take bags onto the boats. They are probably only a third of the way through their journey to a new life...if they make it. Sisters In Health is teaming with a sister organization called Midwife Pilgrim and other small groups and individuals on the ground to set up a women's health tent "clinic" on the ground in Lesvos. Health Point Project is the name of the collective group on the ground that is providing medical and health care. Our main goal is to help ensure that women and newborns receive care before their long and arduous journey continues. Every day at least 4000 refugees arrive in Lesvos, about 1500 are women.
Sisters In Health is putting out an urgent plea for financial support. There are multi thousands of women arriving in Lesvos right now. Many women arrive pregnant or with young children. Everyday the situation grows more grim. Right now there is no specific Midwifery or Obstetrical support for women arriving. Babies are being born regularly without specialized care. Premature births, complications, hemorrhage, pre-eclampsia/eclampsia, STI's, and rape are all medical concerns that women arriving in Lesvos are facing. In mid December we will be deploying to Lesvos to bring aid, health care, peace, and love.
Many have asked what else they can do to help. Our community needs to lend a hand to our refugee sisters who have beaten the odds and survived.
The following is a story about a woman who survived; it is the cleaned up short version.
This is why Sisters In Health needs to be on the ground. Everyday women are arriving that need help. They need physical, emotional, and spiritual care. They need to be able to survive and live. Its that simple. The rescue effort in Lesvos consists mainly of small grass roots organization like us. Organizations that depend on the graciousness of their communities to help them make a difference to these women. Please help us give the women a better start to their new lives. What they have endured in order to survive in incomprehensible.
There are many ways to help.
Financial Donations (tax deductible)
Donate your time (Fundraising, online help, support, ideas, etc)
Join our team and come to Lesvos
What we are in need of:
Safe Birth Kits
Low resource medical and birth supplies
Dopplers (new or used is fine)
Hand Held Ultrasound
Neonatal Resuscitation Equipment
Baby Carriers and Slings (material/moby type)
Basic Birth Supplies
Sutures and Suturing Equipment (general and obstetric)
Love letters for the women, trinkets for kids, and anything you think that would be a loving token to give to the families to brighten their day
We will be having a fundraiser December 12 in the Orlando area. If you are in the area please come and support your global sisters!
Sisters In Health is actvley searching for organizations and individuals with the same missions, beliefs, and dreams. We do not want to reinvente the wheel, we want to provide effectve care! We would love to partner and align with others that want to make the world a better place for women!
Isn’t It Romantic?
“If you walk along the creek early in the morning you can see the women washing their saris and hanging them to dry in the sun. Its so beautiful and amazing”. These are the words that came out of a 20-year old backpackers mouth to me. She said it in this very romantic singsong sort of way with the vacant look that many backpackers traveling India trying to “find themselves” have.
“Women in the developing world just go outside their huts and squat and have their babies. No one interferes and babies are just born. If you just trust birth enough it will happen.” Words that have been said to me by someone that has obviously never seen birth in rural Africa where the neonatal and maternal mortality rate is somewhere around 1000/100,000 in many places.
The train stations in India are dirty, filthy, hot, smelly, and covered in feces and urine. This is where many women and their families live. Some are in transit and most are homeless. There is water so they can clean themselves and wash their saris. At any time you can pull up to a train station and see beautifully colored and jeweled saris flowing in the breeze (if there is any)…hanging off of poles, train tracks, and benches.
Sounds romantic doesn’t it?
Everywhere you look in India you see beautiful colorful saris hanging on walls, railroad tracks, and trees. This is not because there is a lack of lines to hang their saris on; it is because the women have no home to attach a clothing line to. The romantic scene of walking along a creek and seeing saris drying in the sun is not romantic at all. It’s desperate, sad, haunting, and debilitating. The saris are hanging in that particular place because the women that they belong to are homeless or living in slums and squalor. They have no running water, no sanitation, no toilet, no electricity, no income, and no way to feed their children. The beautiful and colorful sari that is drying so peacefully in the sun is a cloak to hide the desperation. The desperation of the women hidden behind the blinged out rainbow sari.
Recently there was an article about how women in Uganda are turned away at clinics and hospitals because they do not have a plastic sheet with them to birth on. A thick, dirty, hot plastic sheet…more like a heavy-duty garbage bag. The article failed to add how the women get slapped around and degraded beyond belief. Women do not make it…they die because they cant get care…because they have no plastic sheet to birth on. This is the reality in Africa, India, SE Asia…I have seen it with my own eyes. Women of the world deserve so much better than this. Why is this ok anywhere in the world? We should all be worried about our global sisters.
The woman drying the rainbow sari was married at 10 years old. She did not go to live with her husband until she was a teenager, but nonetheless her life was set out for her before she even knew what life was. Her whole life has been about finding a husband. She has been primped, prepped, and paraded in front of suitable families until “the right one” came along. Its all a financial transaction, her feelings do not matter. Her parents are following tradition and doing what they think is the best thing for her. She has never been educated and she knows what her role in life is…mother and wife and that is it. And now here she is 16 years later washing her saris on a rock and living in the middle of nowhere with 6 children that she can not feed. Even though she knows that life for her has been horrifically hard, she does the same for her daughters. She works to find them the best mates she can so that they can have a “better life”. But they don’t…the circle continues. So every day she puts on her blinged out sari only to try to survive another day. No one has ever told her that her life matters, that she is her own person, that’s she is smart and beautiful, or that she matters.
Romantic isn’t it?
Its nightfall and labor starts. She lives in the middle of nowhere…in rural India. It’s her first baby and she is 15 years old. The closest hospital/clinic is 4-5 hours a way at least. But that does not matter because she has no way to get to such a place anyways. There is no money for transport anyways…its not even a thought. All the women in her village have been giving birth in the village as long as she has been alive. Everyone she knows just about has lost a baby at birth and some women have lost their lives at birth as well. It’s just the way it is for her and her village. She labors through the night alone…this is woman’s work after all. In the morning with increasing pains her sisters and aunties come over. Between the groups of them they have had so many babies they know what they are doing. She labors through the day into the night. There is no clean water, electricity, or sanitation in her village. The pains are getting so intense she is not sure she is going to make it. She knows something is wrong but what can she do, she grits and bears it. At some point one of the women tells her to start pushing. So she does…she pushes and pushes and pushes for hours. Nothing is happening. The women attendants do everything they know to get the baby to come. They strangle her with the hopes that she will pass out and the baby will come out. That does not work. They shove their hair and fingers down her throat in hopes that the vomiting will act like the pushing mechanism. That does not work. And finally they do intense fundal pressure (they try to push the baby out from the outside). None of it works.
She pushes through the night into the next morning, and then she starts to bleed heavily. The TBA of the group decides that she needs to get to a clinic or hospital. Hours and hours go by as transport is arranged. After a long 6-hour journey on the back of a cattle transport truck she arrives at the clinic. By the time she gets there the baby is no longer alive, and she is hanging on by a string. The C-section will cost $121 and she has to pay for upfront. She is yelled at and hit and slapped by the doctors. The family brought the money with them, but what they had to promise for that loan will essentially break them for the rest of their lives. Luckily she lives but looses her uterus and thus her ability to have more children. All she can think is “how lucky am I really?”
Sounds romantic doesn’t it?
This is the harsh reality for MANY women living in the developing world. I will not sugar coat it. Life in the developing world for women, especially for birthing women is not romantic…its down right horrific. Women wear the weight of the world on their shoulders and under their saris. Here in India they do it wearing the most beautiful and vibrant saris you have ever seen. They cover their faces and become just another brightly colored woman. No one tells them how important they are. No one tells them that they deserve happiness and that they deserve the world to be better to them and for them.
No matter how difficult, desperate, haunting, or just downright insane it is…. I will always fight for women. We will spend our lives making the world a better place for women and their families. The women of the world deserve better!