ASIA NEWS NETWORK
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Publication Date : 11-05-2014
Volunteers are mothers who may be poor but are respectable members of the community and willing to lend their time for the cause
How far would a mother go for a cause she strongly believes in?
For Filipina Mary Jane Mangui, 31, it meant turning down a good-paying job in a large milk company in Malaysia, where she worked as a domestic helper not too long ago.
Mangui is one of the pioneer members of Breast-feeding Patrol, a community support group established in 2007 at Block 37 Health-Care Center in Mandaluyong City by Dr. Shari Sabalvaro, who now serves as the city’s infant and young child feeding (IYCF) coordinator.
Through the support of the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef), 24 health care volunteers underwent the IYCF training program under Sabalvaro and the Department of Health to deal with the need for a breast-feeding support group for mothers at the community level.
The volunteers are mothers who live in depressed areas and have not finished formal education but are respectable members of the community and willing to lend their time for the cause.
Mangui and her fellow volunteers learned how to counsel mothers in their neighborhoods on such valuable information as the importance and proper way of nursing babies, its benefits for both mother and child, the value of mother and child bonding, proper milk storage and complimentary feeding.
Sabalvaro and the volunteers are vigilant in policing Milk Code violations. Medical representatives from companies producing infant formulas who come to the center are quickly turned away.
Under Executive Order No. 51 or the Milk Code of the Philippines, using health workers and health facilities in promoting and marketing infant formulas is strictly prohibited.
During calamities like floods or fires, the volunteers are tasked to survey and counsel stressed mothers in evacuation centers, encourage them to continue breast-feeding and report donations of formulas.
Sabalvaro recounted one mother who could not produce milk for two months but was able to after counseling with a Breast-feeding Patrol volunteer.
“The good thing is that when someone in the community needs breast milk, she is one of those willing to donate. So whatever you have given them, they are quick to give back,” she said in Filipino.
Today, 26 barangays in this city have their own Breast-feeding Patrols, having followed the example set by Block 37. Sabalvaro said it was the barangay captains themselves who eventually approached her to train mothers in their villages.
Sabalvaro said the volunteers later gained confidence to help their fellow mothers.
“They feel empowered because of the knowledge imparted to them. They have become assertive,” she said.
Sabalvaro is confident that members who have moved to other locations will continue the work wherever they are.
Mangui said she would remain a Breast-feeding Patrol volunteer even if she would return to work overseas.
While working as a domestic helper in Saudi Arabia, Mangui encouraged her Arab employer to breast-feed in the morning and at nighttime. In Malaysia, she likewise taught the sister-in-law of her Chinese employer, who wished to return to work, how to cup-feed a baby using her milk. The woman, in turn, taught her mother-in-law how to do it.
The gesture led to an offer to work as an assistant nutrition analyst in a big company producing infant formulas, with a salary three times what she was then being paid as a helper, plus travel benefits.
But she refused. “I said I’m happy being a domestic helper and breast-feeding advocate.”
As a volunteer, she said her experience was something she had not only been able to impart to others but had been able to apply to her own children as well.