Special to the Philanthropy Journal
By Andrew Herrera
When Jaimie Kasopsky arrived at the hospital for her son’s delivery, she never dreamed the experience would be so traumatic. “They couldn’t find the baby’s heartbeat, so I had to have an emergency c-section,” Kasopsky explained. She arrived at the hospital at 6 p.m. and just 18 minutes later her son was born. He was not breathing and doctors had to resuscitate him. “We were very fortunate to live so close to a hospital and they were able to get him out in time,” she said. “Even the doctor said it was pretty much a miracle my baby was alive.”
This same situation plays out in forgotten communities every day around the world, but the outcome is often tragically different. Expectant mothers can live hours from a hospital and their only option is to deliver on dirt floors inside their homes, with no professional help. The lack of access to public health care and education often results in life or death situations for millions of women and children every day. It’s those barriers and many others that inspired Raleigh-based nonprofit,
Curamericas Global, to take action more than 35 years ago.
Since 1983, Curamericas Global has provided health education and care to more than 1.4 million people in impoverished communities in Bolivia, Guatemala, Haiti, Kenya, Liberia, Sierra Leone and the United States. They go where there is the world’s highest maternal and infant mortality rates.
Curamericas Global has made measurable impacts on the health of the communities by focusing on prevention, health education and establishing relationships within the community. The nonprofit’s work has resulted in reducing mortality by over 60% in Liberia, Guatemala and Bolivia. The true goal is to bring these communities life-saving, sustainable solutions that families can continue themselves.
Community involvement empowers these families to take control of their own health and future. Before Curamericas Global begins a partnership, it meets with community leaders to learn about their needs and hope for the community. Data collection is next, giving communities an accurate picture of the health issues that cause death and illnesses in mothers and children.
Community members also play an active role in the health and success of their neighbors by becoming Community Health Volunteers. Curamericas Global staff train these local volunteers, often local mothers, to work alongside health care providers so they can help educate other women in their community. These volunteers are the eyes and ears of the project, alerting health workers when a mother or child has fallen ill or if there is a new pregnancy in the community.
Once health experts identify the leading cause of diseases and death at Curamericas’ project sites, they go out to the communities to educate. A key difference is that health volunteers from the community go door-to-door meeting with mothers in their homes to talk about important health practices that will keep them and their children healthy. These practices are as simple as breastfeeding and hand washing. The groups also build wells and provide racks to keep dishes away from vermin and other potential sources of contamination.
Along with education at these sites, Curamericas Global provides life-saving services like prenatal checkups, immunizations for children and at-risk pregnant women, vitamins and family planning services. In Guatemala, Curamericas Global has developed four Casa Materna Maternity Clinics with six more planned in Guatemala and in Kenya.
These clinics are staffed 24 hours a day by local birth attendants and provide women with a safe, centrally-located and culturally appropriate facility for mothers to give birth and receive services. The partner communities that built and manage the facilities have not had any maternal deaths for the past three years. Providing emergency obstetric care and increasing use of birthing centers have been crucial to this success.
To carry out its mission, Curamericas Global depends on dedicated volunteers and donors like Jaimie Kasopsky to help make a difference. They reach over 100,000 people with a staff of just three experts. Last year, Kasopsky shared the story of her delivery during Curamericas Global’s Mom-a-thon. She wanted to shed light on the circumstances that women in these forgotten communities face. The nonprofit’s annual fundraiser encourages people across the Triangle and North Carolina to “run” a virtual marathon to raise money for the nonprofit. Starting in October, Curamericas Global shares real stories from 26 mothers and children at its project sites to show how the nonprofit’s work is changing lives in these forgotten communities.
By empowering marginalized communities to improve their own health, Curamericas Global is inspiring change for generations to come. “Curamericas work is so important – what they do can save a life, and that is ultimately the most important thing ever,” said Kasopsky.
As Executive Director of Curamericas Global since December 2013, Andrew Herrera has been responsible for leading strategic initiatives, development of the Board of Directors and the day-to-day operations of an international Nongovernmental Organization. He is currently pursuing an MBA at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.