Rotary; Opens Opportunities
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Saving mothers and babies

Have you ever decided to help someone and spent months planning the project, motivating and inspiring people about it, and securing funding for it? And what if you realized, once you’d put in all the work, that although the project was a nice idea, it wasn’t what the community really needed?

That’s just what happened to a group of Rotarians from New Zealand when they set out to build a well in Mongolia.

A project launched by the Rotary Club of Waimate is credited with saving hundreds of lives through childbirth training in Mongolia. The team includes, from left, Jo Palmer, Julie Dockrill, Samantha Turner, midwife Bev Te Huia, Gary Dennison, and Amarjargal Luvsandagva.

But instead of bringing clean water to a single community, the Rotary Club of Waimate developed a pioneering childbirth education program that has become a national model and that’s saved the lives of hundreds of mothers and babies.

“Maternal health … seemed to fit best with the needs of Mongolia,” says Gary Dennison, leader of the club’s Mongolian Maternal Health Project.

Dennison says the initial link to Mongolia came through a friend’s son, a geologist, who was working in the country’s mining industry and who raised the possibility of creating an improved freshwater supply for a needy community there.

But then the geologist’s wife had a chance meeting with an Australian who worked in a Mongolian maternity hospital, and that encounter led to a plan in 2013 to deliver much-needed childbirth education to Mongolian health workers to help reduce the country’s high infant and maternal mortality rates.

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