One of my cousins, Pam Sampson of Northampton, MA, died in childbirth in Dec. 2013. She was able to deliver a healthy baby boy but never got to see him, as she died of preeclampsia, a rare condition in which the placenta attacks the mother's body. A healthy 32-year-old before contracting preeclampsia, Pam had a degree in sports management and loved to travel. "We all miss Pam tremendously and always will," her uncle told me.
In the United States, about 10 women die in childbirth for every 100,000 deliveries. In countries like Tanzania, where AHEAD Inc. is active, the maternal mortality rate tops 400 maternal deaths per 100,000 births. Preeclampsia is a threat in Tanzania too, but the cause of death more often is banal, like having complications and no way to get to a hospital because you live in the country. I visited Tanzania with other AHEAD volunteers in 2008 and saw firsthand such dire situations in what otherwise is a captivatingly vibrant society. Now I am on the board of directors for AHEAD, which has been providing transportation to regional hospitals for at-risk expectant mothers, among other grass-roots initiatives that have saved thousands of lives over a period of more than 30 years. Founded by an African American pediatrician and his wife, who has a master's in social work, this organization gets results because of its grass-roots orientation. Their website will open your eyes.
AHEAD Inc. is an organization dedicated to solving dire problems faced by Africans that are barely imaginable to Americans. While doing this AHEAD also provides flexible opportunities for volunteers to go to Africa and apply whatever skills and knowledge they have to attack these problems.
AHEAD has a 30-year track record of saving lives, for example, through immunizations, and giving people hope through training opportunities. Lately AHEAD has concentrated on reducing the unacceptable mortality rate of mothers giving birth by finding ways to get them to a hospital.
As a volunteer, I worked with youth seeking to learn a trade to make themselves employable. What AHEAD accomplishes on many fronts is extraordinary, but so much more could be done, at the grass-roots level where AHEAD works, if funds were available. For example, less than $100 will give a young man or woman a year's training to qualify for electrical work.
I am a board member now, and I urge you to give a few dollars that will go father than you could imagine by donating to AHEAD.
As those who visit AHEAD at work in Tanzania and the Gambia know firsthand, our planet is like a boat. If we work together we will float.
AHEAD Inc. has been reaching out to improve the quality of life for orphans and other vulnerable children, women and youth in underserved communities in Tanzania and The Gambia for over 30 years. What I have found in my experience that makes AHEAD unique, is that its staff and volunteers reach out to wherever the need is: inside hospitals and health centers; on the road with mobile health clinics; and, in the open spaces of villages where resources are scarce and where outside aid rarely finds its way. I have found that AHEAD's work made a direct and significant impact the health and well-being of lives in the communities it served as evident in the following: AHEAD has raised the immunization coverage for children five-and-under from 27% to 98%; Increased prenatal visits from 4% to 70%; constructed 6 healthcare facilities for maternal and child services; constructed 2 dormitories for girls attending secondary school; and provided tuition scholarships for students attending secondary and vocational schools, to name just a few.
We first learned about AHEAD on our first trip to Tanzania for the 4th Diaspora Heritage Trails Conference, though we had heard about them on WPFW, our local public radio station. This decades-old organization was born from Julius Nyerere's call to Africans in the Diaspora to come help build his new nation, when the young pediatrician Dr, Irving Williams and his accomplished wife Elvira took their four young children and starting providing child wellness services. Seeing the great need they started a nearly 40-year effort improving maternal and infant health outcomes, helped build schools, have established water purification services, traveling medical care, internship and scholarshjp programs in what has proven to be more than just a flash in the pan but a lifelong effort that is still building bridges of friendship and health. We recognized them this year at the 7th Annual Julius Nyerere Commemoration where we dedicated all funds raised to AHEAD because of our support and belief both in their commitment and the critically important work to which they have dedicated their lives and organization.
My husband and I have been supporting AHEAD for many years and find that every dollar of our donations is used for specific needs in the Tanzania community. The golf tournament we ran to raise funds for AHEAD went to purchase a much needed ambulance for rural areas. My mother and daughter traveled with AHEAD to Tanzania and worked with villagers - and saw first hand how the money is spent. There is no waste and the programs they run are MUCH needed and benefit many. It is an excellent organization and we have no doubt that they make a huge, positive impact.