When a disaster strikes or a humanitarian crisis occurs, COHI relies on an core group of volunteers and partner midwives to provide quality healthcare to women and infants in need. COHI's impact is defined by the competency and compassion each volunteer and partner midwife brings. Meet each of the heroes in the field with COHI and change lives, safely deliver babies, and improve maternal health.
About Melinda: Dr. Melinda Lopez is an Texas-based OBGYN with a background in advocating for and providing medical care to refugees and survivors of trauma. She currently works at a community health center in Austin and seeks out opportunities to respond to the needs of underserved women both at home and abroad. Prior trips have taken her to Tanzania, Mexico, Turkey, Egypt, and Jordan. She looks forward to returning to the region and working with local allies to address the needs of the refugee community.
Melinda's Impact: Melinda will be using her professional expertise as an OBGYN to provide direct services to refugee mothers and infants, and will conduct trainings for volunteers on sexual and gender-based violence protocols to improve the security and health of refugee women and girls in Lesvos.
About Vasileia: Vasileia is a Social Psychologist and Lesvos-native with comprehensive academic experience and publications regarding the issues of human and sex trafficking and sexual harassment in the Greek and European context. Vasileia has been a first responder working with refugees since the crisis hit Lesvos. She has extensive, hands on experience with assessing and managing the needs of refugees. Vasileia is currently a visiting scholar at the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, where she conducts research assessing the needs and risks of refugee children.
Vasileia's Impact: Vasileia is serving as our local expert on the ground, connecting COHI with local grassroots organizations and translators and locally coordinating our efforts, ensuring we meet the needs of refugee women and infants while respecting and adhering to local protocol.
About Siobhan: Dr. Siobhan McNally is a dedicated and passionate pediatrician and has recently returned from Laos, where she was the medical director of Lao Friends For Children. She has worked extensively and tirelessly for community health programs, both domestically and internationally, and has previously volunteered her time for COHI during our responses in Haiti and Afghanistan and as a past board member.
Siobhan's Impact: As a volunteer physician, Siobhan will provide hands-on medical care to refugee women and children arriving on Lesvos, Greece and will actively deepen our current clinical partnerships.
About John: John is a Clinical Team Leader and Registered Nurse at Marie Stopes International in London, UK. John has extensively volunteered his time and skills with health organizations in the UK, Palestine, Lesotho, and Tanzania, focusing on improving maternal and child health by working closely with local institutions and building upon local skills and knowledge.
John's Impact: John’s expertise lies in grassroots public health responses around maternal, neonatal, and reproductive health. He developed guidance protocols for volunteers about services available to vulnerable women and girls, and how to refer to and access these. These protocols are used to assess and refer over 1000 refugee women and girls daily. Additionally, John, Nicole and Patricia conducted a needs assessment and service mapping for refugee women around sexual and gender-based violence and women's health. He also provided hands-on medical services for mother and infant refugees as they arrive in Lesvos, Greece, as well as planning and capacity building with local partners.
About Nicole: Nicole is a Certified Professional Midwife (CPM) and is a passionate advocate for the midwifery care model both domestically and internationally. Nicole is a current Director on the Board of Midwives Alliance of North America and has volunteered previously in Uganda, Haiti and on the border of Juarez, Mexico providing prenatal care to mothers, delivering newborns and training community midwives.
Nicole's Impact: Nicole provided vital prenatal and postpartum care to 12 pregnant and nursing refugee mothers and their newborns in the refugee camps, and provided labor services for a refugee mother in need. Nicole conducted prenatal check-ups, complete with ultrasounds for refugee mothers’ reassurance and administered prenatal vitamins. Together with John and Patricia, Nicole conducted a needs assessment and service mapping for refugee women around sexual and gender-based violence and women's health.
About Trish: Trish is a Certified Professional Midwife (CPM) and currently serves on the Board of MOMS and volunteers internationally with MOMS in Sierra Leone, instructing traditional birth attendants to become trained Community Health Workers. Trish has previously volunteered with COHI in the Philippines providing prenatal and postpartum care and delivering babies.
Trish's Impact: Trish provided vital prenatal and postpartum care to 10 pregnant and nursing refugee mothers and their newborns in the refugee camps, and provided medical services to over 75 women and 45 children. Trish conducted prenatal exams and administered pregnancy tests to arriving refugee women, and provided medical care such as bandaging wounds and stitching cuts. Along with John and Nicole, Trish conducted a needs assessment and service mapping for refugee women around sexual and gender-based violence and women's health.
Haiti Christian Mission Maternity Clinic
Madam LaPaix became a midwife in 2009, and had always been interested in midwifery since her childhood. In her hometown of Hinche in the northern countryside, many women died from childbirth complications and the lack of maternal health services. Read more >
It affected her life personally. When she was younger, she tried assisting her cousin through childbirth before she had any proper training or knowledge of midwifery. She was unable to remove the placenta after the child was born and consequently, her cousin died from blood loss. Her baby cousin survived, but as he is without a father, Ms. LaPaix took him in to raise. LaPaix knew that if she had been a midwife, she could have saved her cousin and the baby wouldn't have had to grow up without his mother.
This personal experience shaped her motivation to pursue midwifery, and she took it as her mission to save more Haitian women from dying in childbirth. Ms. LaPaix believes education is key: she and her fellow midwives can do more with training in infant/newborn resuscitation, hemorrhage control, seizure and epileptic management, and obstetric care.
Haiti Christian Mission Maternity Clinic
Madame Isma is a certified midwife trained by Midwives for Haiti and grew up in Hinche, Haiti. She has worked for our partners at HCM for four years, serving hundreds of women and babies. Read more >
Madame Isma lives with Madame LaPaix in a cozy apartment above HCM's schoolyard. Despite the close quarters, she really appreciates the camaraderie she's experienced from living and working alongside her fellow midwife sisters. Together, they have gone through times both beautiful and tragic and because of this, what she wants more than anything is to expand her family at the HCM maternity clinic.
On several occasions, she has expressed her longing for another member on the team — not only to help shoulder the burden of all those long shifts but to also share the very real experiences that only the midwives and Dr. Maxene bear witness to. The clinic treats about 40 patients per day and delivers an average of 30 babies per month. Additionally, Madame Isma wants headlamps because the power frequently goes out, and the clinic can become quite dark at night even with the small generator running.
Haiti Christian Mission Maternity Clinic
Dr. Maxene was born in Port-au-Prince and has been an OB-GYN for 14 years. When he was young, his little sister was very ill, and Maxene was at a loss as to how he could help her. Read more >
She died of what he later believed to be lung failure, but still does not know exactly what caused her tragically premature death. While coping with the loss, he vowed to become a doctor so that he would never again feel powerless in defending others against illness and disease.
When his father died in 1986, he struggled to afford schooling and would have had to drop out if not for a generous sponsorship by the Haitian Christian Mission (HCM). With the funds secured, he was able to finish high school and attend university. Since obtaining his doctorate, he has been working hard to keep his patients in good health.
Midwives on Missions of Service
Memunatu Bindi has seen it all in her 50-plus years. She was a scholar in high school and had hopes for more education when her father called her home, refusing to allow her to continue her education. She soon was married with children. Read more >
In the Rebel War, Memu and her children ended up in a series of refugee camps. Memu took every class offered, and volunteered with the sponsors, including Oxfam and Save the Children. She learned more languages, so she now speaks English, Krio, Mende, Kissi, and Fula.
While there, she was also diagnosed with breast cancer, and became a rare survivor of the disease in Sierra Leone.
After the war, she continued working in her community to tend those in greatest need. While raising her own children, she took in war orphans, then added Ebola orphans to her family.
When COHI-partner Midwives on Missions of Service (MOMS) came in 2014 to train in her remote village, she was determined to excel, and she did. At that same time, Ebola hit the region, and she lost her husband and several other family members to the disease.
Since then, she devoted herself to working for others, and she qualified as a MOMS translator for their curriculum. Over the years, Memu saved enough to finally enroll in school to become a Maternal/Child Healthcare Aide. Her training with MOMS as a Community Health Worker prepared her well for the entry exam.
Last summer, during the monsoons, part of her house collapsed in the rain. Her neighbors and friends rallied to help her rebuild. She is philosophical about such set-backs. She said, "Yes, it is another hard thing. I will work through it. Many good things also happen in life, and I focus on them."
Midwives on Missions of Service
Lydia Thomas is a Mende woman in her mid-30s, who grew up during the Rebel War. She was an orphan and knew no security during those times of running and hiding from rebels and soldiers alike. Read more >
She tagged along with other families as best she could, and was careful to be seen as an asset — or risk being left behind.
After the war, she attended a high school equivalency program and then entered a culinary school set up for kids whose education was interrupted by the decade-long war.
When COHI-partner Midwives on Missions of Service (MOMS) needed a cook to support one of its teaching teams, Lydia was hired. She proved a wonderful addition, cooking well and contributing her dry sense of humor and common sense to the conversations.
When she had spare time, she borrowed MOMS' reference books and studied them diligently; her favorite is A Book for Midwives, published by the Hesperian Foundation.
Her experiences with MOMS whetted her appetite to enter the maternity care field. She worked hard, saved her money, then entered a Maternal/Child Healthcare Aide school. Since graduating, Lydia has worked as an MCH Aide not far from her home village, and this past summer she qualified as a translator for MOMS' curriculum.
Lydia married a man from her home village, and they now have a little boy. She is determined that her son will always know he is safe and loved. She is also committed to ensuring that women have the best maternity care possible and give birth in a setting where they are comfortable and confident.
ActiveGuillermina Lockwood Moska
Administrator, Santa Inez Casa Materna, Waspam, Nicaragua
There was so much maternal mortality in the province when we began the Sta. Inez facility. There were no doctors and so many people dying in the settlements, so mothers began to come here. Read more >
Santa Inez was designed as a true birthing center: an auberge, where a mother-to-be could come with her family to wait, rather than being sent away during her delivery.
We are proud that as a result, mother and child mortality has decreased significantly. We provide expectant mothers with attention and care that keeps within their cultural tradition, including ultrasound examinations, early detections of possible problems, and a hospital birth. We see far fewer complications and provide food and shelter to these families.
Clinic Director, Santa Inez Casa Materna, Waspam, Nicaragua
I am a nurse with a specialty in maternal and infant care and I started my career at Santa Inez. We are employees of the state, and we bring attention to the contribution of the Moskitu people. Read more >
The Casa Materna Program, which is 34 facilities located throughout the 115 communities in the Upper Coco region, was designed because we have few resources, yet we need to pay attention to our expectant mothers. We are grateful for these gifts, for our culture, and the chance to speak for our people. Our facility houses between 7080 mothers at any time, and we provide maternal healthcare services around the clock.
Maya Gurung is 18 years old and lives in the village Gumda in the Gorkha region of Nepal and is one of seven children in her family. The daughter of a farmer, Maya has completed the 10th grade. Read more >
In Gumda village, Maya said there are no health services for women. Her own mother had seven children without any prenatal care and gave birth without a skilled birth attendant. Maya sees women, both young and old, suffering every day. There is a clinic in her village, but it isn't stocked with any medicines, and is used only for treating minor wounds.
Hira Maya Gurung
Hira Maya Gurung is 19 years old and lives in the Kasigaun village in the rural Gorkha region of Nepal with her parents and 5 siblings. She has been able to complete high school and would like to continue her education as a Community Health Medical Assistant. Read more >
Hira Maya always wanted to help her community, but she didn't know how and where to start. This CMA training would give her the opportunity to help her community and be of service to women and infants in her village.
Mul Maya Gurung
Mul Maya Gurung is 19 years old and lives in Mul kharka in the Gorkha region of Nepal with her parents and 5 siblings. She's finishing high school now, and has always had the dream to become a nurse. Read more >
She never considered it a real possibility, however, because of her limited financial situation as both of her parents are farmers.
Shanti Gurung is 17 years old and lives in Salleri, in the Sirdibas Gorkha region of Nepal with her mother and 2 siblings. Her father passed when she was 5, and her mother works hard as a farmer to support the family. Read more >
Shanti is currently in 10th grade, and can't wait to become a Community Health Medical Assistant. When her father passed away, Shanti found her calling in life -- she wants to be an asset to her community by help neighbors who desperately require medical care. She believes that her father could have lived if there were a medical provider in her village.
Bipana Gurung is 19 years old and lives in Khorlabesi, in the Gorkha region of Nepal with her 6 siblings and her parents. She always wanted to become a medical assistant and help her community. Read more >
So when she found out that Circle of Health International and The Journey Home Foundation were looking to sponsor candidates for the Community Health Medical Assistant scholarship program, she jumped right on the opportunity immediately. She strongly believes there should be maternal and reproductive health resources in each village.
Lila Ghale is 17 years old and lives with her 2 siblings and parents in Kerauja in the Gorkha region of Nepal. Kerauja is a remote village with few resources, and her father supports the family by farming the difficult terrain. Read more >
Lila feels her village is excluded from other nearby villages and towns due to its extreme remoteness. Many people do not like to come to her village because it is too far away and is hard to reach. Because of its isolation, there is no clinic Kerauja. Lila wants to be a Community Health Medical Assistant because she sees that medical care is desperately needed her village. Women give birth at home without medical assistance, and she knows of many complications that could have been avoided had there been a trained professional.