In honor of World Refugee Day, International Medical Corps is recognizing one of our inspirational midwives, once a refugee herself, Grace. Below, see a video of Grace accepting the Founder's Award at International Medical Corps' Annual Awards Gala for her unwavering commitment to building a cadre of skilled First Responders to serve their own communities in rural South Sudan. Grace has worked tirelessly to train midwives in a country with one of the world’s highest maternal mortality rates. The following video and text is Grace's moving acceptance speech from that night.
I feel very honored to be here with you at this fantastic function. I would like to extend my sincere appreciation to International Medical Corps for allowing me to do my important work. And to be here in the United States today.
I am a daughter of the newly born nation of South Sudan which has experienced more than five decades of civil war. I was born during the war. I grew up in the war. And I am still experiencing the war. They say in my country, if you go one night without hearing a gun shot that is considered a peaceful night’s rest.
When I was a child of 6 years old in a refugee camp, a group of nurses came to provide health care to the people. What motivated me to choose this career was the nature of their lifesaving work. And honestly as a young girl, I just absolutely loved their uniforms.
My father was killed during the war. Our home burnt into ash. I was forced to look for a job at the age of 11 to earn my school fees. But I worked hard. And went on to receive my degree in nursing. Since then, International Medical Corps saw the potential in me. I was able to continue my training. As well as to train other midwives. Since 2008, Kajo Keji midwifery school has graduated more than 105 midwives and nurses.
As a midwife, the smile of a mother hearing her baby cry for the first time moves me more than words can express.
Dealing with life is not an easy thing in South Sudan. But as a health worker. As a mother. As a teacher. I can see that we are making progress.
I thank International Medical Corps for recognizing my work. Everyone in this room and around the world who supports us in our mission. Thank you very much. God bless you.
International Medical Corps supported Grace’s advanced midwifery and leadership training, paving the way for her to educate future health workers in South Sudan. In a country where up to 90% of women give birth far from formal medical facilities and without the help of professionally trained assistants, midwives can be the difference between life and death for new mothers and newborns. With just 307 registered midwives available for a population of 2.4 million women of reproductive age in South Sudan, schools like the NHTI are making a remarkable impact for maternal and newborn health. Today, Grace helps oversee the NHTI’s strategic plan providing quality learning opportunities for nurse midwives, and is being mentored to take on the role of school principal in the coming year. Thanks to her leadership and hard work, 48 midwives and 20 nurses to date have graduated from NHTI and are able to provide care for countless expectant mothers and their newborns. Grace and her fellow International Medical Corps health workers are directly helping South Sudan reduce child mortality and improve maternal health.