The story

My name is Emily Little and I am currently a PhD student at UCSD, where I research culturally-mediated parenting practices, such as babywearing and breastfeeding (more about my research HERE). While traveling and doing research in communities around the world, I have often been struck by the  disconnect between our culture of overabundance here in the U.S. and the lack of access to basic services that is an issue in so many developing countries.

My most recent experience abroad was in Guatemala where I was completing research for my doctoral program and volunteering at a maternal health clinic, Casa Materna.

Casa Materna relies exclusively on private donors to sustain its services. During times of low funding, Casa Materna has been forced to shut its doors, leaving many expectant mothers without the services they need for healthy pregnancies and births. The Casa Materna coordinator told me that there was a time over Christmas when they had to shut their doors, and women would come and wait outside, sleeping on the benches on the porch for days on end, hoping for the doors to reopen.As a volunteer with Casa Materna, I was eager to help with existing projects and start implementing new programs to improve infant care. However, I was faced with the immediate barrier of lack of funds. I had proposed simple ways that I could potentially contribute as a volunteer, such as designing educational materials that explained skin-to-skin newborn care or giving a training to promote breastfeeding in one of the communities served by Casa Materna. These ideas were deemed impossible, as the funds to pay for gas to drive to the communities or to pay to print materials – costs which were next to nothing by U.S. standards – were simply unavailable. Seeing both the great need of the women and their families in the communities and the great potential of the Casa Materna staff and volunteers, this lack of funding to cover the most basic expenses was frustrating.

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