Sarah Odur -- Helping Children Survive
by Trina Chase, Africa Program Manager
Sarah Odur lives just outside of Lira, Uganda. With a house made of a concrete and a husband who is a soldier, her standard of living may be a bit better than many of the families around her. She is a gardener, growing the crops around her home and raises her five children -- ages 19, 17, 14, 11 and 9.
Sarah has recently decided to invest in mothers in her community by becoming a volunteer “Lead Mother” with Medical Team International’s (MTI) Child Survival Program. In June, she heard about the opportunity to volunteer and offered her services because she wanted knowledge and to help her community.
Her role as a volunteer Lead Mother involves both regularly visiting 20 homes near hers with basic health messages and training other Lead Mothers who do the same. She proudly recounts the important information she has learned and what she then passes on to the other mothers: to give birth at a health center (rather than at home or with a traditional birth attendant which has been the current practice), to attend ante-natal care (ANC) four times, to get vaccinated and to quickly bring sick children to health centers. In her rounds to the homes, she also checks on newborns, to make sure their umbilical cords are dry, that they are wrapped warmly, are in good hygiene, and that mothers are sleeping with their children under mosquito nets.
With a big smile, she says that one new thing she learned was the importance for a mother to give her first milk (“colostrum”) to a newborn—a message she passes on to others. Another new lesson learned was the importance of washing hands after using the latrine. As part of her role, she teaches other mothers about this and helps them construct tippy-taps (pictured) near their latrines for easy hand-washing. Sarah says that she is very proud of her role because she says that she sees her community changing.
Through the messages she brings and the MTI Child Survival Project, Sarah sees that mothers are now going more regularly to the health centers and bringing their sick children. She says that mothers in her community are also bathing more frequently and that men have become more active in bringing their wives to the health facilities for ANC and deliveries. Additionally, there has been an increase in children completing their immunizations.
Sarah admits that being a mother leader volunteer is not always easy. She reports that it is challenging to walk long distances to visit the other mothers, especially in the biting weather of rainy season. Although she thinks it could be easier if she were provided some means of transport, she remains committed, asserting that her motivation is seeing the improvement of the mothers she serves.
Laughing and covering her big smile with the back of her hand, Sarah says, “MTI is a great support to us mothers… from them, we get great knowledge and learn how to pass on these important messages to others.” Sarah concludes by saying, “I am so grateful for MTI for initiating Mother Leader Groups as part of this project and am so appreciative of their ongoing support.”
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