Empowering Local Leaders to Solve Local Problems Worldwide
As a global community we committed to improve the health and survival of mothers and children by 2015 through the Millennium Development Goals. We are failing to do so, as many areas of the world are not on track to achieve these critical benchmarks, and the challenges they face are complex. It is a travesty, with today’s knowledge and technology, that every minute a woman dies from preventable causes in childbirth. Moreover, when mothers die, their children are at greater risk of illiteracy, malnourishment, and failure to meet their life potential. Not only is maternal health a global health emergency, but it propagates cycles of poverty that cause generations of suffering and despair. This is why I have committed to work through World Connect to improve the lives of women and children and firmly believe that to alleviate poverty on a grand scale we need to invest in and empower women to be changemakers.
I started my journey four years ago under a mango tree in the Dominican Republic with a group of women in an impoverished neighborhood that suffered frequent blackouts and lacked potable water. Despite what seemed to be insurmountable challenges the women passionately discussed how they could improve the health and well-being of their families. I was there to “help” them start a rural health clinic. Honestly, I wasn’t much help as I sat there in awe as the women mapped out the health services they needed and how they’d like to see them delivered. First step, a doctor. I brought doctors to the community to be interviewed by the group. Second step, elect a member of the group to be trained as a community health worker. To my delight within two weeks they had hired a physician, found space in the community to house the clinic, and elected a rural woman to serve as their community health worker. Here I learned my first and most important lesson in development; empower women and things will get done.
To continue to empower women as changemakers, we recently expanded our programs at World Connect with new grant making mechanism, World Connect Grants – connecting mothers to mothers worldwide, designed to address social problems affecting women, children and communities. We created this giving channel for champions of women’s health and well-being to directly improve the lives of others through health, education and income generation projects. Community leaders, mostly women, who identify solutions to challenges affecting their communities are given funds to turn their good ideas into reality, thus supporting local social entrepreneurs. Relatively small grants to fund good ideas can do miraculous things in communities, especially in countries where many people live on less than a dollar a day. Through these grants, community leaders, will have the funding they need to help turn their good ideas into reality by tackling the very real healthcare and poverty gaps they face. World Connect plans to support a variety of projects through this program from improving clinical services and health education to building water systems so that women can avoid walking hours a day to find water.
World Connect was founded in 2005 with the mission to improve the health and well-being of women and children in underserved and under-resourced communities worldwide. I was hired as the first employee in 2006, and now serve as Executive Director. In all of our work, we empower local leaders to solve local problems. From 2006-2009, under the name Infante Sano, we focused primarily on maternal, newborn and child health programs in the Dominican Republic, which included training and equipping four hospitals as well as operating two maternal and infant rural health clinics and garnered national recognition. Since inception, World Connect has trained hundreds of healthcare professionals, donated over a million dollars in essential medical equipment at a fraction of the cost, improved the health and well-being of over 35,000 women and children, created opportunities for almost 7,000 youth, and supported more than 150 communities in five countries: Belize, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Haiti, and El Salvador. Due to the incredible success of our programs World Connect has recently expanded into Ecuador, Mali and Rwanda. To learn more about the transformational impact of our programs, please visit http://www.worldconnect-us.org.