Mariam Ugarte, a health teacher at PACC Career Centre, recently spent 2 months in southern India. Mariam went to India to teach maternity nurses the new WHO (World Health Organization) guidelines on Humanized Labour and Delivery. The trip, Mariam’s fourth visit to India, was organized by Rural Development Trust (RDT), an NGO founded in 1969 by Spaniard, Vicente Ferrer. The RDT works to eradicate extreme poverty in the south of India and works with the lower castes (mainly Dalits ) and tribal people of this area. They have 5 major areas where they work: education, ecology, women, health and housing.
Mariam is a nurse who has worked with women in obstetrics for more than 10 years. She was a caseroom nurse at the Jewish General Hospital. As she started her career, she also continued her studies and obtained a teaching degree. This led to getting a job at PACC Career Centre as a health teacher.
In 2014, she watched a documentary that would change her life. The documentary, on rural development, awakened Mariam’s long lost dream of working in international development. Mariam approached the NGO and asked about volunteering in India. They accepted her request and asked her to create a course to update the labour and delivery room nurses. She spent four weeks teaching at the Kalyandurg and Bathalapalle Hospitals of RDT. Teaching a diverse group of learners with different levels of English gave Mariam the opportunity to use her pedagogical skills to create teaching materials that allowed all students to learn.
Mariam returned to India in August 2016 to interview nurses as she completed her Master’s degree in Human Systems Intervention. In December 2016, Mariam was back in India to work with this group of nurses and doctors. The training was so effective that Mariam was asked to provide follow-up support. Upon returning to Canada, Mariam gave coaching sessions via Skype.
In 2018 she returned to India for 6 weeks to teach the workshop Respectful Maternity Care. The 36-hour workshop was taught in one week. Approximately 80 participants successfully completed the workshop. Both nurses and a few medical residents enrolled in the training.
In the fall of 2019, Mariam returned to India for two months to teach “Care for a positive childbirth experience”, a WHO initiative. The workshop teaches the new WHO guidelines for Respectful Maternity Care. The workshop’s objective is to humanize labour and delivery. Mariam designed the workshop with a Spanish midwife, Marivi Ruiz, whom she had met during an earlier trip. The workshop uses creativity, participation, meditation, visualization, experiential learning to teach students the required skills.
Spending time in India has had a powerful impact on Mariam. “Volunteering with RDT has made me appreciate life more, has made me a better person, a better teacher and nurse.”
Although conditions in India are vastly different from those in North America, Mariam adapted to daily life in India. She befriended her students. She planned special outings for them and they, in turn, would invite Mariam to their homes.
Mariam hopes to have the opportunity to return to India to continue her work with women and health. As she says: "As a teacher, I always strive to inspire my students. Now, I have found my source of inspiration."