Fundraising for FON Maternal Health Initiative Off to a Great Start
This article by Mimi Budd, (15) 65-67, appeared in the Winter 2018 Newsletter.
FON’s 2018 fundraising effort has raised over $15,000 to date to support the Maternal Health Initiative. Announced late last year, the initiative addresses fistula repair and family planning as well as other health related issues of compelling concern to Nigerian women.
“This is the most successful fundraising effort in our history,” said FON President Greg Jones. “FON members stepped up with enthusiasm in a very short time. Funds are still being collected and a new round of support is vital to make this effort a strategic success.”
At a meeting on January 4, the Board approved a $10,000 grant to support DOVENET, an on-the-ground NGO headquartered in Abakaliki, Ebonyi State. EngenderHealth, a USAID-funded program with whom DOVENET partners, was awarded a $5,000 grant in December made possible owing to a generous donation to FON from Margaret Nelson, a friend of FON who expressed a passionate concern for the issue (see Fall 2017 Newsletter). EngenderHealth implements the Fistula Care Plus (FC+) project in Nigeria and several other countries.
DOVENET stands for Daughters of Virtue and Empowerment Initiative. It is a woman-led Community Based Organization in Ebonyi State in the former Eastern Region of Nigeria. It works with the National Obstetric Fistula Center in Abakaliki, one of the most prominent groups working on fistula issues in Nigeria. DOVENET has 8 staff members and more than 400 trained volunteers across the wards of Ebonyi State with three volunteers per ward. It is not faith-based. The DOVENET team focuses on creating awareness of family planning, fistula prevention and treatment, and reintegration services, according to founder and Executive Director, Chief Mrs. Ugo Nnachi in Abakaliki.
Mrs. Nnachi told FON that DOVENET activities include community dialogues, town hall meetings, home visits/pregnancy monitoring, church outreaches, edutainment including movies and drama, capacity building and training for other Improving and Promoting Community Health organizations. The group also works in five neighboring states.
Mrs. Joy Eze, DOVENET consultant and resource person, speaking to community members of the Amaozanu Autonomous Community, Ezillo Ward, Ishielu LGA, on the importance of family planning methods.
DOVENET volunteers reach out to women potentially needing fistula care and family planning services. The volunteers conduct home visits and go house-to-house to identify and refer women for services. Referrals are followed consistently to ensure that a woman reaches a health facility. Volunteers track each woman through referral forms and registers to ensure appropriate feed-back to volunteers and staff and to ensure follow up based on a woman’s needs according to Nnachi.
DOVENET staff follows the progress of women during and after surgery. Staff and volunteers follow up with women to provide counseling and ensure they are reintegrated into their communities. Although currently DOVENET does not provide job or skills-acquisition training, staff members do refer women who need skills acquisition to government-run community development centers in their Local Government Areas.
FON’S Fistula Initiative Committee provided an extensive review of DOVENET and its staff before recommending that the organization receive a FON grant. USAID and EngenderHealth staff in both New York and Nigeria provided positive recommendations for the organization. FC+ staff in Nigeria spoke positively of the DOVENET staff’s commitment, dedication and understanding of donor policies, requirements and procedures. Ned Greeley, committee chair and a former USAID official familiar with colleagues in Nigeria, described staff and volunteers as hard working and timely in their reporting. The Fistula Foundation, operating in Ibadan and Northern Nigeria, also endorsed the organization. DOVENET has received funds from the World Bank, in addition to USAID. DOVENET’s contract and funding through EngenderHealth terminates in June 2018, creating an opportunity and challenge for FON to support the continuity of DOVENET’s efforts.
In a phone conversation in early January, President Jones said Nnachi ex-pressed her gratitude and said FON funds will enable the staff and volunteers to reach out and help more women. “She was emotional when she described the positive impact fistula repair can make on a woman previously isolated and hopeless,” Jones said. “It was incredibly gratifying to hear that we are able to make a quantifiable difference that is so appreciated.”
The Fistula Initiative Committee expects that two San Francisco Bay Ar-ea residents, Angela Testani and Dick Morten, who are scheduled to travel to Abakaliki in February, will provide on-the-ground information about DOVENET and FON’s grant. Committee member David Strain has worked with them on projects to supply medical equipment to Ebonyi and to drill a well in Abakaliki. Angela, an academic medical center nurse who has visited Abakaliki twice before, and Dick, an RPCV from Sarawak and active in the NorCal Peace Corps Association, are traveling this time to complete the well. Both are active in the Catholic Archdiocese of San Francisco, where they became friends with Father Edward Inyanwachi, who spent years in the Bay Area. Fr. Edward, now a priest in Abakaliki, formerly served on FON’s Board and has expressed encouragement for FON’s fistula initiative.
Meanwhile, the Fistula Initiative Committee is continuing a search for partners and has received preliminary information about another well-regarded fistula repair and family planning effort in Ebonyi State led by Chidinma Peace Mbanasor. She also works in conjunction with the National Obstetric Fistula Center in Abakaliki where her emphasis is on facilitating job and skills acquisition for women after their fistula repair has been completed. The goal is to better integrate women back into their home communities with skills that enable them to support them-selves. Potentially, a job skills initiative would complement the work of DOVENET’s medical focus.
Friends of Nigeria is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization.
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