Elsie Cressman Award Winner 2019
Since 2014, Natalie has been the driving force behind Midwives for Wakunga, a not-profit which supports Kenyan people in rural areas, many of whom can’t afford transportation and services and who have a desire to birth in their villages, to be able to have a safe and supported birth close to home.
Midwives for Wakunga supports access to trained birth attendants and has successfully decreased the perinatal infection rate in rural Kenya by supporting access to clean water, clean birth kits and emergency skills training. This is important work that is supporting rural people’s choices to birth close to home. Local midwives have been, and continue to be, necessary for ensuring communities can access obstetrical care in rural communities.
In total, Natalie has visited over 15 villages and met with women and community leaders, provided emergency skills training and facilitated access to water tanks used to collect rain water. The collection of rain water has meant that women spend less time travelling to collect water, it has meant that girls have been able to attend school instead of helping to collect water and that some income is generating from the sale of rain water that is then used to purchase birth equipment such as gloves, cord clamps, scissors and soap.
Rebecca opened Midwifery Services of Haliburton-Bancroft (MSHB) in 2008. In doing so, she re-established access for residents to local obstetrical care, which had ended shortly before Rebecca’s arrival with the closure of the only obstetrical bed at Haliburton Hospital. Rebecca has championed birth close to home, including dealing with the arduous challenges of providing care in rural communities. She has spearheaded collaboration with local family health teams and is the driving force behind establishing a satellite newborn follow-up/bilirubin clinic, a breastfeeding clinic and expanding well woman care in her community. Rebecca continues to pursue the possibility of courtesy privileges at the local community hospitals with support from other community health care providers. She also dreams of creating a small birth centre adjacent to the Haliburton clinic to allow women another option to birth in their communities. Since establishing MSHB, Rebecca has attended and been on-call for the vast majority of births. For Haliburton and Bancroft, she has become of the face and voice of midwifery. Currently, her practice is delivering approximately 50% of all pregnant people in the area. This is a testament to the care that Rebecca and her practice provide. In the 10 years since Rebecca opened her practice, she and her team have delivered close to 500 babies.