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Hands Across the World teaches mothers about health care
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Sunday, August 04, 2013

Female students kept approaching Brianda Cediel with questions about women’s health.

Cediel is the founder and executive director of the nonprofit Hands Across the World. The organization teaches Central Minnesota immigrants language and life skills. It celebrates its 10th anniversary this year.

Most of the more than 100 students in its programs come from Somalia, although it serves immigrants from around the world.

Parents and children work together on an art project during a parenting class for new mothers recently at Hands Across the World in St. Cloud. The St. Cloud nonprofit is celebrating 10 years in operation this year.
Parents and children work together on an art project during a parenting class for new mothers recently at Hands Across the World in St. Cloud. The St. Cloud nonprofit is celebrating 10 years in operation this year. / Times photo

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The organization always has adapted its curriculum to the needs and wants of its students. After pregnant students started asking about women’s health and pregnancy, it partnered 18 months ago with St. Cloud Hospital’s Women’s & Children’s Center to provide education.

Somali women are particularly interested in the pregnancy classes.

“This is a learning opportunity for them,” Cediel said. “The main reason why is because the women coming to this country haven’t seen how the baby is forming in the womb.”

Child birth in Somalia is dangerous.

Somalia has the third-worst infant morality rate in the world, according to the Central Intelligence Agency’s World Fact Book. About 102 infant deaths result from 1,000 live births in 2013.

The country has the second-worst maternal mortality rate. According to the CIA, 1,000 female deaths resulted from 100,000 live births in 2010.

“There are a lot of myths and fears,” said Deb Hall, director of outpatient and outreach services for the hospital’s Women’s & Children’s Center. “Any time a mom understands what will happen and what to expect, it’s a better experience.”

The pregnancy class is offered as needed. But women’s health, parenting and infant care topics also are covered in a general health care class, which is held every other week during the school year at the Mary Center in St. Cloud, where Hands Across the World is located.

St. Cloud Hospital has covered issues such as immunizations, infant choking and infant CPR. Registered nurses teach the classes.

The classes use plastic models, videos and pictures to explore everything from labor to the delivery of the baby. They also discuss the importance of child spacing and allowing the woman’s body to heal. Birth control is not discussed because the hospital is a Catholic facility.

“We adapt the curriculum to what the students are interested in,” Hall said. “They have never seen the inside of a body. What we take for granted, they see as all new.”

The classes have been tailored to the immigrants’ cultures. Somali elders and older women attended the first pregnancy classes. The classes also were open to midwives who practiced in Somalia.

The two cultures were able to learn about each other.

“There was a really good discussion,” said Sharon Dunham, Women’s & Children’s Center education specialist. “It facilitated a learning process for both parties.”

Word spread once the elders and older women gave their approval.

That approval is “enormous,” Hall said of the Somali population.

Instructors work with the students to pace the classes and provide education on topics for which they want information.

Topics, such as males respecting women, are also covered by an imam in Minneapolis. An imam is a person who holds a leadership position in the Islamic faith.

It helps show the students the importance of the education.

Mothers want the same thing around the world, Hall and Dunham said. The classes help immigrants achieve the common goals.

“They want to be healthy,” Hall said. “They want their kids to be strong.”


 





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