Lighting the Way in Uganda

SAFE Founding President and CEO, Jacquie Cutts, taking about SAFE’s work in Uganda to bring solar electricity to rural Ugandan health facilities in partnership with WE CARE Solar and their dynamite Solar Suitcase. No woman should die giving life!! Check it out (courtesy of Emory University).

New Women’s Group Launch Has Record-Breaking Attendance!

On December 29th, 2012, Butende Women’s Group had their official launch event. People turned out in record-breaking numbers–SAFE’s staff counted at least 853 people! Events included educational dramas and songs (performed by MABEDA, BUBEDA, and Butende Women’s Group), along with maternal and pediatric immunizations, malaria testing and treatment, HIV testing and counseling, general health visits, nutrition outreach, mosquito net distribution, malaria education, and sales of products produced by Butende. One group–MABEDA–charged admission to their performances for the first time, earning 95,000 shillings towards their group activities. Also of note, women from Butende Women’s Group were interviewed about their work with SAFE, which aired four times on the radio on Sunday! Check out the photos below:
More than 850 people attended Butende’s Launch Event.

Butende Women’s Group introducing themselves to the community.
Butende Women’s Group performing a song about health!

MABEDA (co-ed development association) performing a REALLY cool parlor trick on soda bottles.

Some of the items made by Butende members and eggplants grown in the SAFE-financed organic community gardens, all sold at the event to profit the new group.
Xylophone used in performances.

A member of the press (from UBC radio) bought one of Butende’s baskets.
A Member of Parliament from Iganga town attended the event and donated 30,000 shillings plus 10 water basins and 4 pieces of fabric to Butende to help them get started. She also promised to help all community groups access district funds to continue in their quest to develop their communities, particularly in terms of maternal and child health.

Pregnant woman being immunized at health outreach.

Child being immunized at health outreach.

Support Medie’s MPH Degree

Dear Friends of SAFE,

Many of you may know Mukalu Muhamed, (or Medie as he is affectionately known), SAFE’s full-time Program Manager. Medie is responsible for the day-to-day execution, evaluation, and improvement of projects on the ground. He also facilitates our internship program, site visits, and other activities related to the complete functioning of the organization. Medie started out with SAFE first as a volunteer translator in 2008, then stepped into the role of full-time Program Manager in the summer of 2010.

Medie is one of the most dedicated maternal and child health advocates we have ever met, and we are thrilled to have him as part of the SAFE team. In true leader-like fashion, Medie would like to pursue his master’s degree, with a focus in maternal and child health, so that he can serve Ugandan communities even better. There is a program in Uganda called “Save the Mothers,” which will allow Medie to pursue his Master of Public Health Leadership with a focus in maternal and child health through Uganda Christian University. The program is specially designed for working professionals, and is structured into three 3-week modules per year for two years. 

SAFE would like to contribute to his education, as we know that he will return that contribution to Ugandan women and children ten-fold in the years to come. We invite you to join us in supporting Medie’s education, for the long-term development of maternal and child health in Uganda.

One semester’s fees cost around $550, not including his school supplies and other pertinent costs. If you would like to contribute, please mail a check payable to Safe Mothers, Safe Babies with a note in the memo line that indicates its designation to Medie’s school fees, to:

Safe Mothers, Safe Babies
P.O. Box 84 1516
Pearland, TX 77584

If you would like to make your contribution in honor of a loved one for the Holidays, please email and let us know to whom you’d like us to send an honor card in your behalf.

Thank you for your continued support!

Save for SAFE Delivery: Launch Coming Soon!

One primary barrier to accessesing health care is lack of funds. While maternity care is supposed to be free in Uganda, shortages of supplies, sources of light, and transportation require that women and their families be able to purchase their own medical supplies (gloves, soap, razor to cut the cord, plastic sheeting to deliver on, IV and needle if fluids are required, sanitary pad), candles or paraffin (for a lantern), and public transportation to get to the hospital.
Enter Save for SAFE Delivery! A program devised by rural communities working with SAFE’s Program Manager, Medie, Save for SAFE Delivery creates small wooden saving boxes that women can by from community civil society organizations. As soon as a woman knows she is pregnant (or decides she wants to get pregnant), she purchases a box at a cost of $0.37, (which is affordable), and then drops 100 shillings or $0.04US into the box every day. On average, she’ll be able to save between $8 and $10USD by the time she delivers, which is enough to purchase the needed items, promoting the sustainability of other community projects, and more importantly, helping more women access timely medical care during pregnancy and delivery!!
Check out these photos, the program is being formally launched later this month!!
Community organizations painting the boxes blue to help them sell better.
Boxes have been constructed, moving to logo painting.

A male community member and civil society leader preparing to paint white onto the boxes.
We love when men are involved in supporting maternal health. Don’t you!?!
Woman painting logo onto the boxes using a screen.

Finishing the first batch of boxes for one area.
Complete! “Pregnant women giving bank: Help families save funds for deliveries.”

Give the Gift of Life this Holiday Season…

During this Holiday season, join us in giving the Gift of Life… 

In the past year, your support has allowed us to serve more than 30,000 people in many ways–from solar lighting health facilities for safe deliveries at night, to providing access to clean and safe water, to planting community gardens, improving nutrition, and providing reproductive health education through the dramas and songs of community groups, to name only a few. Our goal for 2013 is to serve even more people. This Holiday season, we invite you to help us meet that goal by joining SAFE and rural Ugandan communities in giving the Gift of Life. Simply look at the catalog below and print an order form (below the catalog). Thank you, again, for your continued support and…

Happy Holidays from Safe Mothers, Safe Babies!
To print the order form, click the “download” button, then print. Thank you!

Save for Safe Delivery pilot project underway

Of all the universal truths of motherhood (and of parenthood in general), one stands out for being a reality that affects all stages of a child’s — and entire family’s — life. We’re talking about commitment — all kinds of commitment of course, but financial commitment specifically. No matter where you’re from, having a baby is expensive. And in many countries, the actual act of birthing a baby is expensive; that is, birthing a baby safely, securely, and sterilely, to ensure the health and wellbeing of both the child and the mother.

Having sufficient funds saved up can wonderfully support a healthy delivery; however, for many mothers in Uganda, having to take care of young children while possessing very limited means by which to make income can lead to great stress and potentially serious problems when it comes time to deliver their child. Without money saved up, mothers are unable pay for transportation to the hospital/health center, safe mama kits, or supplies related to antenatal care and a hospital stay, let alone the additional costs incurred if there are any complications with the pregnancy. 

In order to encourage effective budgeting for maternal healthcare costs, this summer SAFE interns Hitomi Hayashi, Dara Schmitt, Serena Rodriguez, Kate Fritton, and Michela Mickler launched a pilot program called Save for Safe Delivery. The purpose of the program is to promote savings among pregnant women to be used upon the delivery of their baby to cover the costs of transportation, supplies, and care. SAFE has involved local community groups in this project to communicate the details of the program, provide support, and conduct follow-up visits with the participants to check on their progress and offer encouragement. 

Women who participate will be asked to purchase a wooden box in which they will deposit, ideally every day, a small amount of money (100 UGX). On three sides of the box there will be a 7 x 11 grid, and each day the mother-to-be deposits money she will color in a box. During follow-up visits, a community group member will check to see that the participant is on track and to answer any questions and address any concerns. 

In order to gauge interest as well as the level of awareness of some of SAFE’s other programs among mothers-to-be in the community, the interns attended an antenatal clinic at Lubira health center and interviewed some of the women. The information they gathered allowed them to determine the feasibility of Save for Safe Delivery as an effective and useful program for mothers. Here are some of the questions they asked:

 – What is your name and age? How many children do you have? How many antenatal appointments have you had?
 – How much money do you have saved for your delivery?
 – Would having a box like this [presented box prototype] help you save? 
 – How much would you pay for this box? 
 – How much money could you put in this box per week during your pregnancy? Total? 
 – Do you know what eRanger is? Safe Mama kits? [Note: if they did not, the midwife explained] 
 – The eRanger will cost 3,000 USX and a Safe Mama kit will cost 10,000 USX. If you had
enough money would you use both? 
 – Would rather keep the box at home or at the health center?

SAFE is supporting this program financially to get the ball rolling, but the hope is that the money collected through box sales and the support provided by the community groups will ultimately allow the program to be self-sustaining. Save for Safe Delivery is another initiative that is truly bringing SAFE’s vision and mission to life! We look forward to sharing updates about the progress of Save for Safe Delivery with all of you!

Happy Thanksgiving from Safe Mothers, Safe Babies!!

Mother and baby in Kalalu Parish, Uganda. Photo Credit: Katherine Meese.

Today is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday where we spend time with family and friends, eat good food, and remember all the things we have to be thankful for. And so, it is with immense gratitude in my heart that I list out a few of the things that SAFE’s leaders are grateful for:

  • Our passionate and dedicated volunteers… SAFE is fortunate to be led by some of the most passionate, caring, and dedicated young professionals we’ve ever met. We are grateful that so many people are willing to give of their time, talent, and resources to help us in achieving our mission to empower women, their families, and communities to realize good health and development.
  • Our supporters… SAFE’s work, and all that we are able to accomplish with it, is made possible by the generosity of the public. We are grateful for the contributions of time, money, and expertise from our many supporters.
  • Our staff… SAFE is fortunate to have some incredibly talented and dedicated Ugandan staff members, without which our work would not be nearly as successful. We are grateful for all of them, especially for our Program Manager, Mukalu Medie!
  • Last, but definitely not least, we are thankful for the Ugandan men, women, and children who work tirelessly in partnership with SAFE to improve the health and development of their communities. We are impressed by their tenacity, by their creativity, and by their willingness to work with us towards achieving our common goal: improving the health and well-being of women, children, and communities.

We have SO much to be grateful for, so from all of us at Safe Mothers, Safe Babies, we wish you a Happy Thanksgiving and a big THANK YOU!!

On behalf of the entire SAFE Team,
– Jacquie Cutts
President and CEO
Safe Mothers, Safe Babies

Improvements at Lubira Health Center

   Installing the solar panel on the roof of the health center

SAFE interns Kate Fritton and Michela Mickler were also busy this summer in Uganda, working on the eRanger program and a new project called Save for Safe Delivery (stay tuned for a future blog post!). Kate and Michela focused their work at Ibulanku and Lubira health centers, and were particularly interested in determining how to implement changes at Lubira that would facilitate better organization and the improvement of health care delivery. Ultimately, SAFE hopes to start the eRanger program at Lubira health center, but before this can be done, it must be ensured that the health center will be able to  support the program, and this will be done by remedying a few problems.

Kate and Michela met with Cecilia, one of the midwifes at Lubira, and discussed some of the challenges the health center faced, including a lack of supplies, understaffing, poor lighting in the Labor and Delivery Ward (as a result of a theft of the solar unit), and security, to name a few.

Building a temporary outhouse for the midwives at Lubira

Lubira attempts to move towards solutions to these problems, but a health center is only backed by the community which is serves. In order to provide better services to the community, Lubira and the community must work together to ensure an organized and supportive institution is place. And SAFE is happy to say that this is just what is happening!

During a subsequent meeting with community group leaders, Kate and Michela learned that the community had raised funds on their own, and with those funds had purchased curtains, an infant resuscitation table, a weighing scale for mothers, and a new control panel for the solar unit at Lubira. With all this great new equipment, however, group leaders expressed concern about the safety and security of these items and stressed the importance of improving Lubira’s security measures.

Tidying up the garden around Lubira

This is where SAFE comes in. Kate and Michela organized a plan for Lubira staff to complete a daily check of the equipment and to keep a detailed written record of their findings to maintain a keen level of awareness of the valuable items in the health center.

A few days later, in celebration of these positive steps towards a more secure and effective health center, excited community members cleaned the labor and delivery ward, trimmed shrubbery on Lubira’s property, and formally presented the donated items to the health center. They also hung the curtains in the ward, providing more privacy to mothers in labor.

SAFE is hopeful that these small but effective community projects will help attract more women to Lubira health center to deliver their babies. Eventually, as Lubira’s organization and reputation builds as more improvements are made, the eRanger program will have the support it requires at to be implemented at Lubira and to provide a sustainable system of transport for more women in labor.

Small steps amount to big steps!

How do community members in the Iganga District view maternal and child health?

Thank you to Serena Rodriguez for the photographs and testimonials.

This past summer, SAFE intern Serena Rodriguez turned her vision into reality by implementing the Photo Voice project in several communities in Uganda. According to Serena, the aim of the Photo Voice project is to “enable women, men and health center staff from rural villages in which Safe works to record, reflect on, and communicate the challenges and barriers they face to good maternal and child health and the strengths and triumphs of their communities, or individuals within their communities, to address those challenges and barriers.”

Ultimately the Photo Voice project serves to raise awareness within communities in the rural Iganga district about the barriers that families face in maintaining good maternal and child health, but also celebrating the “strengths and triumphs of these communities to address these challenges.”

Community discussion about the goals of the Photo Voice project

Serena accomplished these goals by organizing meetings with several communities in the Iganga district including women’s groups, men’s groups, and health centers, to explain the goals of the project and gauge interest. Photographers were then selected, often by nomination from fellow community members, and Serena held one-on-one meetings with each participant to go over the aims of the project and the participant’s role. With Medie as the translator, the participants discussed what they perceived as challenges to good maternal and child health in their community and what they thought the successes of their community were.

Community member learn how to use the cameras

After these brainstorming sessions, participants were taught how to use the cameras and off they went!

Participants taking photographs

After a few days of taking photographs, participants met with Serena to discuss what they had taken pictures of, and to select their favorites to display at community health fairs! Serena also followed up with the participants by asking them questions like:

• Why did you choose to participate in the Photovoice Project?
• How do you define maternal and child health?
• What does it mean to have a healthy family?
• What are some challenges in your community to good maternal and child health?
• What are some of the strengths in your community when it comes to maternal and
child health?

Discussing photographs at a follow-up meeting

One-on-one follow-up meeting

One woman, Beatrice Bagaga, is the mother of four children ages 17, 15, 13, and 11. She represents MABEDA women’s group in the PhotoVoice Project and she wanted to participate in the project because she felt like it was a good cause.

Beatrice Bagaga

According to Beatrice, maternal health “means taking good care of yourself during pregnancies so that you can have a safe delivery. Good child health is taking care of your
newborn so that the baby has a healthy life.”

Beatrice describes how poverty prevents many members of her community from buying good, healthful food for their families, as well as purchasing supplies for a safe delivery.

She also explains that “women fear going to the hospital for care. They fear that the health center will test them for HIV which will create stress and deteriorate their health. Some women have confidence in local herbs so they decide that instead of going to the health center, they will just
take the local herbs.”

Despite these challenges, Beatrice knows that her community works toward promoting good maternal and child health.

“There are some health workers in the health centers who are willing to help the women who go for care. There are willing people at the health centers. There are also programs who help those

who have HIV and other infections. The dramas created awareness for people. They know they
have to use family planning and that they should go to the health center. They should go for antenatal services when pregnant.”

Below are some of the photos that Beatrice and other participants took, as well as photos from the community health fairs!

Beatrice Bagaga


“I wanted to show the importance of breastfeeding in this photograph.”

Beatrice Bagaga
“This woman is making a mat. I took this picture to show that it is important for women to do something in their home which can help them in the home or to make money. For example, making mats can help in the home and make money.”

Alisa Esther
Kalalu Women’s Voice

“She is picking greens from the garden with her child on her back.”

Community members check out the photos!
Knowing what good maternal and child health means from a young age!

Serena hopes that the Photo Voice project will be expanded over the next year, by providing more in depth photography training as well as holding exhibitions of the photographs in the U.S.. In fact, just last month, Serena presented the project at the Global Health Education Symposium at UTMB in Gavleston, Texas. Congratulations Serena!

Become a SAFE Domestic Intern!

Safe Mothers, Safe Babies is continuing to grow into new geographic regions and sectors, necessitating that we add to our team! Join our team of dedicated people who are passionate about maternal and neonatal health, and help our organization run smoothly from wherever you are located! Our domestic internship positions have various duties and time commitments — we really appreciate you volunteering as much or as little as you can to SAFE’s projects. We are seeking a number of highly motivated and passionate individuals to fulfill specific needs as follows:

  • International Operations Director
  • Director of Evaluation and Impact Assessment
  • Fundraising Administrative Director
  • Fundraising Activities Director
  • Talent Director
  •  Executive Assistant
  • Grant Researcher/Writer

      Our interns come from all walks of life and all sorts of disciplines and education levels — if you are interested in learning more about global public health and making a difference in your global community, Safe Mothers, Safe Babies is for you! Contact us if you have more questions:) Please see our website for descriptions of positions.