Monday, November 10, 2008
Two Calif. midwives saving babies in Sierra Leone
Retirement is anything but slow for two Episcopal deacons saving lives a half a world away.
Each year, the Revs. Christie McManus, 60, and Patricia Ross, 57, journey to from San Francisco to Sierra Leone to help deliver babies in remote villages with some of the highest infant mortality rates in the world.
"Doing this fits in with my core values -- I have the knowledge and money and if I don't share it, that's not doing what I was created to do," said Ross, a certified midwife.
Both women, who worship at St. John's Episcopal Parish in Clayton, Calif., wanted to do something useful with their golden years. So they became MOMS -- Midwives on Missions of Service, which is a nonprofit helping West African women deliver healthy babies.
Together, the pair turned MOMS from a distance-learning course for midwives into a traveling midwifery and maternal health education program. MOMS has a board of directors and a few volunteers, but it's largely a nonprofit of two -- McManus and Ross travel several times a year to Sierra Leone for six-week stints to lead the courses and meet with government officials. Their next trip is in January.
In the past two years, the San Francisco women have trained 97 women in 33 villages in basic prenatal care, birthing techniques and postpartum procedure. They rely on small individual and corporate donations and donated medical supplies, and they host baby showers in the San Francisco area to collect baby blankets, clothes and toys.