3 MINUTE READ | AUTHOR: FAHMIDA HOQUE | EDITOR: NADYA NASRIN
JourneyMaa is the flagship project run by Maa; every August, healthcare professionals and students travel to rural Bangladesh to provide medical aid, health checks, and education to pregnant women and young girls – for free. The volunteers all experience unique moments and we’d love to share them with you. Fahmida talks of her time in Bangladesh, with a focus on the mothers and their stories.
I didn’t entirely understand the state of maternal health in Bangladesh before this trip.
I do now.Fahmida Hoque
My reason for joining the JourneyMaa team began three years ago, when I first heard about the charity and its aims to tackle maternal health-related issues in Bangladesh. Upon hearing about the cause, I saw the charity go on an incredibly fast upward trajectory, from becoming registered to gaining recognition from the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, to winning numerous accolades and establishing an international healthcare project. I thought to myself, I have never seen such ambition and achievement from a group of like-minded individuals, and told myself that I’ve got to be a part of this. Since then, I have been volunteering for Maa as part of their fundraising team, but it was the drive to provide the healthcare to the mothers myself, and see the on-the-ground work that Maa does for myself, that ultimately led me to apply. And it’s been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
When the first day of health camps came around I found myself overwhelmed with excitement to get going. My first task was to help the Bangladeshi doctors during their one-to-one consultations with the mothers by making notes on their medical histories. A few medical histories in, and I am deeply immersed in the stories of the mothers. Speaking to the women was by far my favourite part of the whole trip. Many a times did I hear their stories of losing their children through unsafe deliveries at home, of struggling with multiple miscarriages, of their attempts to terminate their pregnancies themselves because they cannot afford to feed another mouth. I was left speechless.
One of the most eye-opening experiences from JourneyMaa was visiting the hospitals in Sylhet. We had the opportunity to visit the maternity and labour wards of a local hospital. Walking into the maternity ward – I was shocked. A huge hall filled with numerous empty beds, and right next to those beds, are mothers and their newborns asleep on mattresses on the floor. I approached one of women on the floor, and asked why this was the case. She told me that she couldn’t afford the money to pay for the bed, nor had her daughter – who had just given birth; laying weak and asleep on the floor. Neither mother, nor daughter, could afford to see a doctor post-labour to have the required postnatal check-ups.
And my heart broke.
I didn’t entirely understand the state of maternal health in Bangladesh before this trip. I do now. And it was this realisation that made me appreciate the ongoing, sustainable work that Maa does.
Not all moments were as difficult to take, however. One of my favourite moments during my JourneyMaa experience took place in Balagonj. Health camp one, day two, six hours into the day, everyone’s running around doing their clinical checks, helping doctor consultations, and during the hustle and bustle of it all, one of the mothers in front of me starts to experience really strong contractions and was in need of an ultrasound scan. I distinctly remember the moment the doctor took the ultrasound scan and the sonogram of the foetus appears, the room just went silent. This was the moment I realised, this is the first time I’ve seen a sonogram, but what also struck me – it was the mother’s first time too, even though this was her third child. There was something so special about that moment, something only myself and the mother would share. It’s these moments, these small but powerful experiences that made me realise that I’m part of something amazing here. So, if you want to be a part of the change, don’t think twice about it and apply. It’ll change your life, I know it changed mine.