For thousands of Haitian mothers and babies, the Global Birthing Home Foundation has been a blessing, enabling them to build a prosperous future.

Founded in 2004 by local doctors Stan Shaffer and Betsy Wickstrom, the Johnson County non-profit corporation planned and oversaw the development of "Birth House," a maternal health and birthing center in Torbeck, Ontario. southwest of Haiti. Since its opening, the foundation has helped support the healthy birth of nearly 6,000 babies in the center.

The House also offers many other health services, including prenatal and postnatal care, infant care, family planning, checkups, vaccinations and home visits. In 2017, the group provided more than 53,000 patient consultations to Torbeck and surrounding communities.

Shaffer and Wickstrom traveled to Haiti in 2003 and were inspired by the organization's mission.

"We went to talk to students at a conference on obstetrics and they showed us around the Port-au-Prince General Hospital," said Wickstrom, a specialist in fetal medicine. for the mother. "We saw first-hand the low level of prenatal and maternity care in this country. Treatable complications have become serious and life threatening.

"Brilliant, experienced and hard-working healthcare providers worked without the minimum of equipment, drugs and supplies. It was heartbreaking. "

The two men asked themselves the question, "Why can not we do something with simple measures that we take for granted in the United States?" Said Wickstrom.

"We did not want to reinvent the wheel, but the more research we did, the more we understood that we had to start from scratch. We also wanted to know the root causes of why these women did not seek or receive antenatal care. "

In the coming months, Wickstrom, Shaffer and their team have developed plans to tackle these roots and remove barriers to education, transportation and access to care.

The group then returned to Haiti, located a property for the Birth House and opened the doors less than a year later.

From the beginning, one of the Foundation's key objectives has been to maintain maternity staff and resources at all times.

Today, the 33-member Haitian staff includes professional midwives, nurses and community health workers. Together, they provide maternal and child health care to a population of dozens of small towns and villages in the area.

"One of our founding principles was to train Haitian staff to run the House independently," said Wickstrom. "Their hard work, diligence and excellence in clinical care are responsible for our success and zero deaths. We provide education and support to do this life-saving job, but they are the ones who do it. "

Director of midwives and the Maison de Naissance since 2014, Rosena Baptiste has observed and supervised the decisive impact of the Foundation in her country.

"Maternal health care is now available to all mothers," she said. "The quality care we offer contributes to reducing maternal and child mortality in Torbeck and surrounding areas. All women have the opportunity to give birth in optimal health conditions and our services are highly appreciated by local authorities and the people who benefit from them. "

Extensive experience and training are at the heart of this care.

"The staff has extensive experience in caring for patients with various problems," Baptiste said. "It makes it easy to tell the difference between a normal pregnancy and a high-risk pregnancy for the mother and / or fetus. They also benefit from ongoing training.

"Patient management is done in teams, which facilitates the sharing of knowledge and experience between more experienced and less experienced team members and helps all participants grow. And equipment and supplies are always at your fingertips.

Over the last 14 years, the impact of the Global Birthing Home Foundation has extended well beyond the medical care provided to mothers and babies.

"My hope was to prevent women from dying in childbirth," Wickstrom said. "I never imagined it would have such a huge effect on the whole community."

Economic conditions have improved around the birth center.

When you cross the area of ​​the birthplace, the houses have a concrete floor rather than soil. The unplanted lands are now planted and there is a lot more cattle in the fields. "

Looking ahead, Wickstrom wants to help ensure that every mother and every baby has a healthy life, no matter what country they live in.

"Our hope is to take what has been a very successful program and get funding to replicate the program in Haiti and in other countries. That's why we call ourselves the Global Birthing Home Foundation. "

For more information or to donate, visit the site Global Birthing Home Foundation.