Service Projects for December 2008: Operation Holiday Card and Earth Birth

(Scroll down for today's Q&A.)

It seemed like a daunting task to pick service projects for us to do, until I read what hedra said--we get a holiday season every year. So I'm just picking two for this year, and will pick different ones next year.

If you do not want to participate in either of these projects, please don't feel bad. Just pick something else to support. These are the two projects that struck my fancy this year.

Operation Holiday Card
Operation Holiday Card collects holiday cards to send to American servicepeople at military bases in the Middle East. The cards can be purchased or homemade (please no glitter!) and you should write on the back if the card is for Christmas, Hanukkah, or a general Seasons Greetings card. Since you send the cards to the collection point in the US and the cards are all forwarded together in bunches, people from all over the world can send cards if they'd like to.

Cards must be received by December 3! So this is a project for today or tomorrow, to be in the mail by Wednesday. Send cards to:

Operation Holiday Card
226 Albany Ave
Shreveport, LA 71105

For more information on the project, go to the website.

Earth Birth
From the description on their Facebook group:
"Earth Birth Global Women's Health Collective is a project run by midwives and health care professionals to help mothers in war and trauma affected areas give birth safely and peacefully.

Our pilot program is based in Gulu, Uganda. We are setting up small on site birthing centers in Internally Displaced Person's camps where women can come for comprehensive services, counseling, education and care. We have linked with community organizations and hospitals in these areas to help "child mothers" gain access to jobs, school and childcare so that they can mother with every possible opportunity. Our goals include community sustainability, lowered maternal and infant mortality rates, lowered HIV/AIDS transmission rates from mother to child, access to supplies and local medicine, access to trauma therapy and counseling, the experience of a 'positive' birth to facilitate empowerment and mother/child bonding and the ability to articulate one's story.

The war in Northern Uganda has largely been reproductive. Women have been raped as tools of war and are now giving birth to babies which have historically been abducted as soldiers for the war. Often these women have a hard time bonding with or knowing how to care for their children with limited resources and trauma counseling. The ability to articulate one's story is an integral theme of the Earth Birth project. Women have always told stories as a form of information transmission and ownership of events. To have safe spaces for the sharing of taboo and traumatic events allows for understanding and processing of events in context, ownership of experience and networking among women- all of which are integral to a healthy women's movement and improved practice of motherhood. Our spaces function as a community centers for story circles, workshops in active listening and sharing.

Traditional birth attendants live throughout the IDP camps, most of them victims of war and mothers themselves.The TBA's are currently unemployed and do not have formal training. Our international group of midwives work with the TBAs to develop practices that are community centered, culturally competent and sustainable. These women are the cornerstone of the birthing center sites. The TBA's are offered professional development, training, counseling and jobs."

Earth Birth needs donations of money, and ridiculously small amounts make a huge difference: $10 buys a box of gloves, $50 funds the training of a Traditional Birth Attendant, $300 buys a midwife pack of supplies, and $3500 can supply an entire site.

Reading all this just made me start sobbing. Imagining being raped, and then having no help giving birth, no hope for my future, for the baby, for anything. And then thinking about how elemental and simple and yet deep birth assistance is, and how I can help give these women as good a birth as possible under the circumstances.

Please give, any amount you can:

The project is also looking for donations of maternity clothes and baby supplies, but they need to be shipped to Uganda. It's super-expensive for those of us in the US and canada to ship to Uganda, so we should donate to local groups. But if you live near Uganda and have items to donate, send them to:

Earth Birth
C/O St. Monica's Girls Centre
P.O Box 669

Gulu, Uganda

The clothing line LOVEMORE (organic onesies and baby clothes) is also donating 15% of all profits to Earth Birth.

I just donated to Earth Birth, and will be getting cards tomorrow to have my kids sign with me and send to Operation Holiday Card.