Are you interested in learning a little bit more about our programs and considering applying?
What will a doula gain from this experience?
This will undoubtedly be different for each doula, but our intention is for the participating birth worker to learn from a new culture and gain new tools to bring back to their respective communities. There is an expression stating that the purpose of immersive travel is “to make the strange familiar and the familiar strange.” Witnessing a completely different culture’s approach to birth will break down our own attachment to “the way things are supposed to be”. The doulas will gain a quick education in resiliency from these strong birthing people, nurses and midwives, will learn lessons on the power of non-verbal communication, witness the transition from maiden to mother, and will open their hearts to many new little lives coming earthside.
One of the elements we are most excited about is growing our sisterhood. Women from all over the world are coming together to share in this experience. We cannot wait to learn from each other and hear each others’ stories.
We also intend to enjoy Tanzania and Ecuador! We will immerse ourselves in the local land- eat the cuisine, spend a day on safari/ textiles markets, and support local craftspeople.
Cultural Appropriation vs Cultural Appreciation
As doulas, we are first and foremost of service in our local communities.
However, there is so much to be gained from travel and cultural immersion. The question however is how to respectfully integrate what we have learned abroad?
This is a question we regularly ask the midwives and healers in Ecuador. How can we share their teachings and ancestral knowledge with our communities while honoring them?
If we learn how to rebozo, we will whisper a prayer of gratitude to these women and their lineage.
If we offer to “close the bones”, we will share with our clients who we learned this from.
If we make an herbal bath for a postpartum person, we will thank the plants for the powers, and simply be conduits to their medicine.
The midwives in Ecuador are eager to share their knowledge as it is a dying art. Times are changing and their children are going to school and moving to cities. The youngest midwife in the community for many years was Lucmila (who is now in her fifties), and luckily her daughter Martha (in her thirties) has stepped in hoping to revive the sacred birth wisdom.
In return for their teachings, with financially compensate them. We have created reoccurring and sustainable income for this community.
And we also hope that their children are curious as to why groups of foreigners keep traveling to visit and learn from grandma, and that they too may want to preserve the magic.
In Tanzania, the biggest question is how to break cycles of colonization as groups of foreigners. Medical colonization is still very real, and we see doctors coming into the clinics as teachers and continuing this cycle of hierarchy and therefore oppression.
This is the beauty of doula work. We are there to serve. To spoil the laboring people and love on the nurses. We strive to make their days brighter and to humbly learn from them. The nurse midwives at the clinics regularly offer us opportunities to step out of our scope of practice (just unaware of its limitations), and we get to tell them no- you show me. You teach me.
We also financially compensate the clinics for allowing us to be there.
In 2019 we fundraised and purchased an untrasound machine for the Karatu District Hospital.
We had many more plans around creating local doula training and sponsoring doula support at these clinics but the pandemic halted our plans.
The founders of Wombs of the World strive to prioritize social equity and cultural competency. We are always open to feedback and conversation to improve our impact. Please reach out if you would like to talk.
So, is this volunteer-tourism?
The beautiful aspect of serving like this in a clinic is that we share an entire experience with a woman. Present with her throughout the entirety of her labor and birth, and a day postpartum. Unlike volunteering at an orphanage, for example, the women also get to go home. It's the element of “dropping in and dropping out” of volunteer-tourism that rubs us the wrong way. This is an educational trip designed to deepen our doula practices, and if one mama can go home feeling better about her birth experience, the impact that could have on her family and community is limitless.
In Tanzania, we are partnered with SAFE WATER NOW, and Asheville-Tanzania non-profit that makes ceramic cylindrical water filters that last up to five years. We have provided the clinics with 75 of these filters and sent many midwives and mothes home with them as well. We also financially supported the start of a woman-run sewing collective in the community to make reusable pads and slings to weigh the babies, and the start of a soap-making project, so that all the resources we wish to offer the clinics are made locally available versus us filling our suitcases.
In 2019, we fundraised to purchase an ultrasound machine for the Karatu District Hospital. We hope to do more work supporting their development. They are very excited about having more resources to offer better maternal health.
We hope to establish deep roots with the clinics and staff we will be working with, to make this experience sustainable.
Our partners BOMA AFRICA are a non-profit tourism business, working towards opening a new birth center in their region. We hope that our traveling doulas will further support this project and in time be a regular asset to the new clinic.
Is Wombs of the World a non-profit?
We are not, nor do we intend to be. We started the process many times over and it is not right for us at this time. We are however looking to partner with a non-profit, if you are reading this and think you may know a good match please let us know!