Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Article about our Giving Partner Mano a Mano in the Nobel Peace Prize Forum

I was excited to see this wonderful article about our giving partner Mano a Mano International.   This Minneapolis based organization, founded by a Bolivian man and his wife, is a true example of making change from the bottom up.  Mano a Mano has been collecting medical supplies to send to Bolivia, a country with some of the highest rural poverty rates in the world, for over 20 years.  In addition to medical supplies, Mano a Mano works with local communities to build health clinics and to help those who are most vulnerable living in remote areas.

I have been so impressed with the work Mano a Mano does in part because as a historian I have studied and taught about colonialism, and colonial histories teach us the dangers of attempts to impose change from the top down without the agency, consent, and collaboration of those being "helped."  At Bennison Gives we work with many grassroots development and health organizations that are integrally involved in local communities in some of the poorest regions of the world.  Mano a Mano is a terrific example of an organization doing tremendous good not only in providing medical services but also in empowering and engaging local communities in this change for good.  It is only in working together in partnerships with local communities, in the universal language of respect, love, and hope, that effective change transpires.

Please read this wonderful article about Mano a Mano in the Nobel Peace Prize Forum, and please see our website and Facebook pages to learn more about the life changing work they are doing in Bolivia.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Story from the field from our newest giving partner Compassion CBO

We are proud to welcome our newest giving partner Compassion CBO.  Many of our giving partners work with rural populations, Compassion works in Metropolitan Nairobi and parts of Kenya.  I was not aware of the extreme poverty and disease in the slums of Nairobi, and I have been glad to be able to talk to Evanson Njeru, founder of Compassion CBO who has dedicated his life to helping people in these settings.  

See below email I received from Evanson and the link to the story of Joy, just one example of many children.  This story comes to us from Compassion CBO's partner Safe World For Women, also doing wonderful work in places of great need around the world. 

From Evanson: 

Welcome Sarah  a girl like this needs a Pajama and several others she is now 9 years. I have already notified Karen and Marty you will soon get in touch with them. For the last 9 years i have been working with the children in Githogoro slum in Nairobi.

Warmest regards,


We are working with some members of the Compassion CBO U.S. team to send pajamas to children like Joy early next year.  

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Updates on maternal heath from Chad and Sierre Leone

In two of the most vulnerable regions of the world for maternal and infant health, Angela Gorman  of Life for African Mothers ( sends this update on her life saving work. In this email she refers to a BBC documentary her organization was involved with.  See about it here:

Angela also writes about the addition of Misoprostol to the essential drug list in Sierre Leone.  This drug has been called a "miracle drug" as it prevents hemorrhaging after birth, the leading cause of maternal mortality in developing countries.  Angela and her team raise money to send drugs like Misoprostol to clinics and hospitals in high needs settings, and with the addition of this drug to the essentials like they will more easily be able to save lives with the availability of this drug.

I love receiving updates like this one from the field, and I am learning along with you about the challenges facing women and children in these regions and the solutions (some simple) that can be done to save lives.  Thank you Angela and Life For African Mothers.  Please check out their website, see where they work and what they are doing, and see their link on our Facebook page!

Hi Sarah,

We have received two pieces of amazing news from two of our countries...

I had a conversation with Dr Grace Kodindo over Skype last week from Chad, the 9th anniversary of seeing the PANORAMA programme...

Things have certainly changed in Chad...all down to the PANORAMA programme, with a new maternity hospital and as Grace put it, "There is a new conscience." The President's heart has been melted and also his wife, so much so that they have enabled all pregnant women free healthcare throughout their pregnancies, including normal deliveries/C Sections, medications...absolutely everything. Things seem to have improved significantly. Grace is working at the Ministry of Health and also teaching at the university, particularly new doctors whom she teaches to "have vision." Grace tested the system recently as her niece was due to give birth, so Grace took her into the hospital where nobody knew her. Her niece was not asked for any money and all went well.  

The next piece of news is that I received a text from Dr Samuel Kargbo in the Ministry of Health in Sierra Leone. They have now added Misoprostol to the Essential Drug list! It's incredible because when I first went in January 2009, they didn't even have a protocol of any kind for its administration so we couldn't send any. In October 2009 they had one so we started sending it...the feedback situation wasn't great so we focused on specific hospitals. Now, Misoprostol is on the Essential List, which is amazing. I just had a phone call from the Programme Planner for Reproductive Health in Sierra Leone who has given us assurances regarding the feedback...this is her area of focus and I have introduced the Ministry team to IHP, the organisation which is donating this miracle drug to us. 

Thank you again for your support and very best wishes,

Monday, July 14, 2014

Baby Bundles

I'm finally sitting down on a quiet morning to put some thoughts down.  There is so much to recount as we have expanded our selling and our giving.  It has been such a privilege to witness so many acts of generosity and to see the joy on children and parent's faces when they receive pajamas.  I think a lot about how we can give more over time - many of the children we serve has so many needs that it is hard to know where to begin.  But I go back to the ancient Greek idea that any act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.  It also amazes me how important pajamas are - not only for sick children but also in their emotional resonance.  The act of putting on pajamas before bed recalls for many a sense of safety, warmth, love, and the ability to be vulnerable in letting one's body rest.  It is the universality of these feelings that I have seen resonate with so many in this pajama movement.

Angela Gorman, founder of an amazing organization and one of our giving partners Life For African Mothers (, told me of her work in providing life saving medication for pregnant and delivering mothers in Sub Saharan Africa.  She and her organization also give "baby bundles" to women in clinical settings in some of the poorest regions of Africa.  Angela told me the story of a young mother who rushed to get to the hospital to deliver her baby rather than deliver at home.  This mother was so determined to receive her baby bundle with essentials for newborns that she made it just to the front steps of the hospital where she delivered.

This story struck me because it illustrates how something as simple as a gift of essentials to a young mother, including pajamas and diapers, is not just about receiving the items, it is about educating young mothers about newborn health and, importantly, it encourages women to deliver in safer clinical settings despite traditions that encourage home births.  By offering a baby bundle, Angela and her team have increased the numbers of women delivering in hospitals and have reduced maternal mortality.  Life for African Mothers is also providing life saving medications, particularly medications that help to stop hemorrhaging after birth, one of the leading causes of maternal death.

I had just been thinking about Angela's story and how we could contribute to baby bundles in some of these hospitals when I received an email from Margo Harrison, a New York based obgyn who has worked at Village Health Works in Burundi, East Africa.  Margo sent me this article about the "baby boxes" that everyone who gives birth in Finland has received since the 1930s.

Women in Finland, no matter their background, also receive essentials for their babies when leaving hospitals.  The idea behind this is as much about education and supplies as it is about the ideology in Finland that every child starts out on equal footing, everyone has an equal chance, and everyone is equally as valued.  Margot suggested we should think about how to provide baby bundles to women at the Women's Health Pavilion that we have been working to build at Village Health Works in Burundi for safe deliveries.

In each of these cases, footed pajamas are an essential part of the baby bundle or box, as they insulate and help to regulate newborn temperature.  In Sub Saharan Africa or Finland or here at home, think about this the next time you "bundle" the child in your life whether it be in jammies or blankie or beach towel.  As my friend Katherine says, "these jammies look like love."  And yes, indeed, they feel like love too.