In celebration of National Student Employee Week, CHEER and CHEERing would like to recognize our student workers for their excellent work and the amazing support they provide to our organization!
Bhavana Annapragada, BTech, Student Research Assistant at CHEER
Bhavana is an Epidemiology and Biostatistics MPH candidate at Boston University School of Public Health. She is passionate about maternal health science, clinical research and community health. Bhavana provides technical assistance on focus group sessions, surveys, and conference planning for CHEER.
“My time with CHEER helped me to learn skills like thematic analysis, conference planning and the working & characteristics of community focus groups. I loved the focus and dedication of all the team members to always produce the best-quality results. My team was so helpful and understanding and I’ll always be grateful for their guidance.”
Bhavana also has research experience assessing COVID-19 infection and cardiovascular risk factors and outcomes among pregnant women. She will be joining Medtronic as a Clinical Research Specialist to pursue her clinical research interests after her graduation in May.
Rana Sabreen, BSc, ERASMUS Student at CHEERing
Rana is a student of the Erasmus Mundus Joint Master Degree in Public Health in Disasters (EMJMDPHID) programme at the University of Nicosia in Cyprus. She has a degree in Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Chemistry from Al-Baath University in Homs, Syria and is bilingual in Arabic and English.
During her internship at CHEERing, Rana led the team visits to the Eleonas refugee camp to support CHEERing’s Infant Feeding in Emergencies work; managed the medicine cabinet at the Elna Maternity Center, and hosted a course on the proper storage and labeling of common drugs.
“While working with CHEERing I have learnt about the importance of breastfeeding and proper infant nutrition. Being able to make a difference in the lives of mothers and children through counselling has been a very rewarding experience for me.”
Prior to her Masters Program, Rana spent four years volunteering with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, where she worked as a Medical Logistics Officer and hygiene promoter in camps for IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons). Now that her internship is coming to an end, she plans to pursue a career as a pharmacist or public health expert in the humanitarian sector.
Marina Menchini, BSc, Erasmus Student at CHEERing
Marina is a recent graduate in Human Nutrition from the University of Pisa, Italy. She has a bachelor’s Degree in Herbal Sciences and a TEFL certificate for English teaching.
“I have been working as an intern for CHEERing since February. As a graduate in nutrition, working with CHEERing helped me gain insight on the refugee issue in Greece, as well as hands-on experience in infant feeding in emergency contexts."
Marina’s work with CHEERing has involved creating simple tools to better assess a child’s nutritional status and facilitating a workshop on infant feeding with mothers in Elna shelter.
Prior to her internship at CHEERing, Marina worked for The Protection System of Asylum Seekers and Refugees (SPRAR) of Lucca, Italy, where she hosted nutrition courses for beneficiaries and volunteered as an interpreter. After her internship, Marina plans to sit the board exam to become a certified Nutritional Biologist. “I hope to be able to continue working in humanitarian contexts in the future,” she shared.
Thank you Bhavana, Rana, and Marina, for your contributions to our team. We wish you the best in all your future endeavors!
Uplifting Mamas Community Doula program was created to increase the number of persons of color doing birth and breastfeeding work in the Mississippi Delta. It is a collaborative effort between Early Dawn Birthing Services, and Clarksdale Baby University to improve breastfeeding support and maternal child health outcomes.
“We are doing this program through a grant from United Healthcare and we are going to train 20 women across the MS Delta to become community doula and provide one-on-one support during and after birth to their families, friends, and community. The other goals of the program are to increase exclusive breastfeeding beyond 3 months and increase the rate of completed postpartum visits at 6 weeks.” - Chelesa Presley, CLC, Doula, CHW, Owner and Co-Founder of Early Dawn Birthing Services.
Uplifting Mamas Community Doula program recently completed its first training in February. Eight women were trained during this intensive two and a half day course, in partnership with Toni Hill, the Traditional Midwife in Mississippi and lead Midwife at Blooming Moon Midwifery Services. “As Black History Month came to an end, we set a course of rewriting the narrative of black maternal-child's health in the Mississippi Delta and beyond,” Chelesa shared. “We will do some continual training with the trainees, such as breastfeeding classes through CHAMPS and some herbal training. It’s just amazing!”
Chelesa also runs the Diaper Bank of the Delta, the center hub in the MS Delta for advocacy, support, resources, and compassion for families with young children. The organization seeks to lighten the emotional and financial burdens on families in need by providing emergency baby supplies like diapers, wipes, gently used baby clothes, toys and more. Their amazing work was recently featured in this Washington Post article.
Read more about Chelesa and her involvement with the CHAMPS program here.
You can register for the next training here or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Olivia Kral Perry, CLC, is a Mississippi WIC Breastfeeding Peer Counselor and mom of two. She was nominated by her team member at MS WIC who described her as having “true passion for the incomparable value of breastmilk, and a compassionate heart towards serving mommas and meeting their needs, where they are.”
In her role as Breastfeeding Peer Counselor III, Olivia provides moms with breastfeeding information and support throughout their pregnancy and postpartum. She also runs a lactation page on Facebook where she answers lactation questions and provides help to moms around the world. “I offer to help moms who are not on WIC through Facebook because the more babies we can get breastfed, the better our public health would be. I am trying to help as many moms as possible to breastfeed successfully” – Olivia Kral Perry
Olivia enjoys being able to offer moms new breastfeeding information and being able to help moms who are the first in their family to breastfeed to have a successful breastfeeding journey, so they can share that experience with their family members. When asked what motivates her work, Olivia shared that she is motivated by her experience breastfeeding both of her children. “I am the biggest advocate for breastfeeding babies in the NICU because both of mine were born preterm. I struggled to keep supply up with my first born and he had a lot of issues on formula. So, with my second child I was determined to keep my supply up and I ended up breastfeeding her for 18 months. She is now the healthier of my two kids. I am very passionate about helping NICU moms to keep up their breast milk supply and successfully breastfeed their babies.”
Congratulations Olivia, thank you for your passionate and compassionate service to breastfeeding moms in the Mississippi Delta!
Glocal Roots is an international organization that helps people with refugee backgrounds to, once again, become autonomous, independent, and self-reliant members of society. They were nominated for their wonderful work with mothers and babies and the support that their “We are One” Center provides to women at the Samos refugee camp, Greece.
Founded in December 2017, this small, but efficient grassroots organization is led by a team of highly skilled professionals and run by dedicated volunteers who are committed to achieving positive change in the world. Their work in Greece focuses on providing resilience resources such as safe spaces, women’s circles, computer lab, workshops for war rape survivors, and sexual violence related advocacy.
Glocal Roots’ We are One Center is a safe space for women to get away from the camp and to develop the connections and strong support networks they need to deal with trauma and find confidence in themselves again. Furthermore, Glocal Roots uses a combination of digital and in class curriculum to provide comprehensive education to women living in refugee camps, and to prepare them for future employment certification, community, and skill building. Under normal circumstances, the center is visited by 300+ mothers and babies a day, who come seeking support, a sense of normalcy, or a break from staying in stressful and insecure environments.
The COVID-19 lockdown further highlighted the need for such safe spaces for women who live in the camp. Liska Bernet (Founder and Director of Glocal Roots, Greece) explains how the COVID-19 pandemic greatly impacted the organization’s work. “During the lockdown we had to close our center and find new ways to support women who live in the camp,” she shares. “Women have reported that the lockdown has had quite a severe impact on their daily lives. They have reported that harassment and domestic violence in the camp increased during the lockdown and that they did not leave their tent unless they really had to. This, of course had a negative impact on the mental health of many women.”
The good news is that the center has now reopened and they have resumed providing essential support services for women, albeit in a limited capacity due to social distancing measures. “Glocal Roots is pleased to share that we have also added weekly family planning workshops as well as prenatal care workshops and Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) workshops in partnership with MSF,” Liska says!
In the past, Glocal Roots has partnered with CHEERing to provide trainings on safe breastfeeding and to get insights on how best to support pregnant women at their center.
Congratulations Glocal Roots, we thank you for your commitment to supporting women and children in refugee camps and providing avenues for them to uplift one another!
CHEER Champion of the week
Each Monday (besides public holidays), we will recognize a CHEER Champion for all the support they have provided for CHEER, CHAMPS, or the general public.