Educating Refugee Mothers

Kendice Hartnell (back right) is a graduate of the Childbirth Education program at the Institute for G.O.D. Int'l. She began working with refugees as a part of the program. Now a graduate of the program, she continues offering a variety of educational opportunities. 

This past year, the maternal and infant health team from G.O.D. Int'l taught two Childbirth Education courses to Burmese and Malaysian refugees in Nashville, with more than two dozen participants. Word travels! Our students told their friends about the education they received, and they are now bringing more friends to our classes. They've told us that they feel empowered and informed about their pregnancy and labor, something difficult to achieve in a second language and foreign medical environment. Because of this, they keep requesting more classes! We will hold another childbirth class in the spring.

We have also continued in our service as doulas to these mothers. Since July 2014, we have tripled the amount of refugee women served in labor and delivery. We are committed to continuing this service, increasing the amount of women we serve as best we can. We are also serving our first refugee midwifery client this year. She will receive comprehensive care through our Certified Professional Midwives Celesta Bargatze and Heather Munoz. 

Women gather in prayer after the refugees shared their stories. It was a powerful time for all of the women involved. 

We don't only educate these women. We also seek to get to know them, their history, and the things they've endured. We want to be a compassionate ear for them in more than just the labor experience, but in life. Recently, we hosted a Burmese history night where our friends came and shared about their experience as refugees. They gave a room full of women a better glimpse into their world by teaching us about their history and culture. Their experiences are our nightmares: rape, murder, burned villages, and survivors being chased across borders. After living in constant fear for their lives, many of them endured life in refugee camps--"living" in tents and eating rationed food. Giving them an opportunity to tell their story helps them to know that someone is listening, that someone cares. Perhaps the only thing worse than enduring that kind of a life is never getting the chance to publicly mourn, or to speak to others about the horror of war and life on the run. We might never be able to relate. But we can listen. 

Our lessons for them are far different, but nonetheless necessary for them as they navigate yet another foreign world. Though they now reside in a developed nation, hostility is in no short supply. 

This spring, we will teach families a Car Seat Training Seminar, as most of our students cannot read instructions for their car seats. Sometimes they cannot afford to buy car seats at all. Because of this, we are partnering with our local community to put on a car seat drive in an effort to offer them a safety restraint, and the know-how to use it correctly. 

Julie Carpenter, LPN and Childbirth Educator, instructs a mother on a proper latch--one of the key components of breastfeeding, the key to nutrition in a baby's first years. 

Mothers have told us that the education they've received not only helped them to navigate a foreign hospital system, but a new world--where they once felt very lost. They now have the confidence to find their way. I often get phone calls or texts from the ladies I have served. They will ask me questions and advice about everyday life, things like shopping, or cooking, or taking children to school. I'm happy they have friends to turn to when they are struggling. We are even welcomed guests at their life events, like weddings and baby dedications!

Most recently, they have asked us to do a women’s Bible study with them, as they are wanting to know more about the Lord. We hold these every Thursday night and have about fifteen ladies participate. We also facilitate childcare for their children. Other classes include drivers education and nutritious cooking. We are genuinely concerned with their holistic health--from mental and psychological healing, to giving birth, to nutrition, to learning the laws of their new land. Pray with us for our precious friends. Or, take it one step further--get involved with refugees in your own community!

Kendice Hartnell
Doula, Childbirth Educator, and Member of G.O.D. Int'l