In the Spring of 2017 I received an email from Christy Turlington Burns. It was through that initial introduction that I became enthralled with the foundation known as Every Mother Counts (EMC) and Christy quickly evolved from the super model I had known about since I was 10 years old to a genuine, passionate and driven advocate, founder & CEO (not to mention a mother of two). She was planning her annual trip to Guatemala and wondered if I might be interested in meeting to chat about one another's work within the country.
Photo borrowed from the EMC website.
For her five day trip to Guatemala, Christy was accompanied by an incredible group of EMC donors/supporters, each accompanied by a teenage daughter or son. All of the donors were women, mostly from the east or west coasts of the US, and each brought her own perspective and valuable input to the experience with backgrounds ranging from medicine to finance to design. It was inspiring to meet so many strong, intelligent women who are dedicated to making an impact and who believe in action over apathy. Women who not only invest financially in change, but who are actively on the ground learning about what that change entails - with their children at their sides.
The week included site visits to various EMC grantee partners. The first visit was to ACAM (Asociacion de las Comadronas del Area Mam) in Concepción Chiquirichapa, which is a collective of Indigenuous midwives who educate and provide maternal healthcare for women in the region. At the ACAM house, Comadronas (midwives) are on shift at all times to receive patients in labor. ACAM also operates a mobile clinic (which includes a bed, portable ultrasound, medications, blood and urine testing equipment, and more) used for regular site visits to remote and rural areas.
It is services like these that directly affect the communities of female artisans that I work with, which means so much on a personal level.
Photo of Comadronas laughing, borrowed from the EMC website.
Another day, in Guatemala City, we spent the afternoon with Asociacion Corazon del Agua which is a two-year education/training program for midwives. Students are recruited from indigenous communities throughout the country, many of whom learn about Corazon del Agua by word of mouth or via Facebook. Once accepted into the program, most travel to Guatemala City where they live in dorm style rooms, cook, care for the home/school, and study together while attending classes.
During our visit to Corazon del Agua, the current cohort of approximately 10 young women (most of them in their early 20s), shared with us their experiences of going back to their communities to do field work after having completed their first semester of midwifery school. I absolutely loved getting to know these young women, to hear their stories of how they decided to become a midwife and to see their photos of their most recent visits home where they were "being identified by neighbors as a resource for reproductive health information or being approached by a neighbors seeking prenatal care; so urgent is the need." Karen Nassi, Every Mother Counts Program Director
They were bonded, these young women. They laughed and embraced. They encouraged and supported one another as they gave us small group tours throughout the school. We saw exam rooms and the forms of birth control that they provide to their patients. There were diagrams of female and male anatomy on the walls, shelves were stocked with herbal medicines which they are learning to use and prescribe. The small school library was a thoroughly organized bookshelf of large volume physiology books. They spoke with clarity and they held their heads held high.
These young women, soon to be midwives in their communities, are not only enthusiastic and inspired, they are laser focused, informed and driven.
They understand the intricacies of their communities in a way no one else could - the cultural, religious, and gender influences at play and how to best provide safe and necessary healthcare to the women of their communities while walking that delicate cultural line.
This trip with Every Mother Counts was not only a wonderful experience for me, but a life changing one. It marked the beginning of a partnership between Luna Zorro and Every Mother Counts which I am tremendously proud to announce.
Stay tuned for regular updates on this partnership, including some very special handwoven products we're designing just for EMC launching next month!
To learn more about Every Mother Counts and to Donate to this incredible foundation, please visit their website HERE.