I want to empower and educate pregnant women to make informed decisions about their bodies and their children.

Shumana Begum

JourneyMaa 2018 Volunteer, Maa

I came across Maa through social media and followed the JourneyMaa 2017 team’s trip. I was taken aback by the amazing work they were carrying out in Bangladesh. I also have family members in Bangladesh who were at a disadvantage due to poverty and the lack of education. For example, my aunt’s decision to deliver at home meant that my cousin suffered from asphyxia (problems breathing), which in turn lead to developmental delays. Another family member had complications but could not act fast, which meant that she lost twins at 8 months. She was turned away from numerous hospitals (they did not have the facilities) and made the 6 hour journey from Sylhet to Dhaka in order to get the relevant care. Maa’s mission of empowering women and mothers through the use of educational workshops and health screens inspired me to join the JourneyMaa team in Bangladesh.

On the first few days of the health camps I was involved in the health screens which included blood pressure, blood sugar and urine analysis. It was nice to be able to use the skills that I learned on the wards on the mothers. On the last few days I had the task of carrying out history checks as well as carrying out evaluations which I thoroughly enjoyed as it gave me a chance to get to know the mothers better and get an insight into their lives.

After arriving to the first health camp; and I got a glimpse of the mothers waiting to be seen, my heart started racing because months of fundraising and raising awareness about Maa had led to this day and I was finally in a position to help. My favourite part of the health camps was the educational workshops; it was heart-warming to see the attentiveness on the mother’s faces. It was evident during evaluation that they all took something away from the workshops.  They were more aware about red flag symptoms, nutrition, regular check-ups, playing with your child etc. I loved how some mothers were discussing what they had learnt between themselves but most mothers expressed how they would try their best to implement what they learnt but sadly finances was a limiting factor.

One of the most memorable experiences that moved me was during a trip to a private hospital. A  mother just had a stillbirth (at 6 months). This was only due to finances; meaning she could not get the right treatment at the right time. She kept crying and repeating the following sentence ‘money will always come and go, but I was too late and I have lost my child’. All I could do was hold her hand tightly and try to comfort her. On the way back, everyone sat in the car in silence and I finally had a chance to digest what I saw. My eyes started welling up and I felt so helpless because the lack of finance was a common theme in both the health camps and hospitals.

When I think about the JourneyMaa trip the word gratitude stands out. The mothers left me in awe, their gratitude, strength and positivity despite all their struggles reinforced my enthusiasm for working with Maa and improving maternal health.  It also made me so much more grateful for the NHS. I could have easily been in that position and that could have been me.