Kristyn Zalota is a Yale graduate, a trained doula and a childbirth educator who founded CleanBirth.org in 2012 to improve conditions for mothers in Laos. Women in this small southeastern Asian country, near Burma and Thailand, often give birth alone without safe supplies. Zalota raised donations to create birth kits including an absorbent sheet, a bar of soap, a sterile blade and a cord clamp which has proven to improve maternal and infant mortality rates.
Since this Mommy Minute report two years ago, the effort has grown. "Now we work with 31 clinics. We've trained over 180 nurses and local staff in Laos and we've provided 4,000 birth kits," says Zalota, a New Haven mom of two. "Also, an exciting development is that we partnered with midwives at the Yale School of Nursing and now, they come with us when we go to Laos every year." Zalota and the team just traveled to the country in March.
Zalota says the initiative is working: "Last year, we know for certain that 800 moms received the birth kit and one-on-one counseling with the nurses. And, of those moms, when they were interviewed postpartum, none of them reported any rate of infection. And, while we don't have a great baseline for it, we do know that prior to that, moms and babies were getting infections."
An upcoming fundraiser - to be held Saturday, June 6th from 5-8pm at the Barn at the Eli Whitney Museum in Hamden - is crucial to continued success. "It's a way that local families can come and support women - that are pretty far away - in a very meaningful way. Every five dollars supplies a birth kit," explains Zalota who loves collaborating with the local nurses in Laos. "I find it really gratifying to see these young nurses getting more knowledge....it's building capacity for a country that doesn't have a lot of investment in human capital like that."
The fundraiser will include a silent auction, Lao food and drink. A donation of $25.00 per person is suggested.
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