2017 was a big year for Andrea. She gave birth to her first child, Joe; she was elected as a youth leader in her community; and she joined the Kabalikat program of Save the Children.
She is one of the community volunteers called Kabalikat—roughly translated as shoulder to shoulder—who are trained by Save the Children to assist pregnant and lactating women, and help ensure they maximize available maternal and newborn healthcare services.
“I first heard about the Kabalikat program in 2016, when my sister became involved in it. I was pregnant then and stayed in our province. Even if I was far, my sister made sure I was going to my check ups. She would always call to see how I was doing. She took care of me and other pregnant women in our community,” Andrea shared.
Save the Children’s Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health and Nutrition (MNCHN) project supported by Johnson and Johnson, engages Kabalikat volunteers to better support women during their pregnancy and towards the first 1000 days of life of their child.
Andrea came back to Caloocan City just as she was about to give birth. “I was ready because my sister prepared everything for me. But I was still so nervous and scared,” Andrea recalled, “I remember I just went out to buy food with my sister then I suddenly felt my water break. We still continued on our way but when I felt pain that’s when we decided to go to clinic.”
It was Andrea’s first pregnancy and she had a tough time during labor. “I wanted to cry because of the pain, but when my baby was finally placed on my chest, it really felt nice,” Andrea said.
After giving birth, Andrea attended a series of Parent Education Sessions (PES) conducted by Save the Children. “The most important thing I learned from my sister and from attending PES is that I should not miss any vaccines for my baby,” she said.
“I thought at first that it was okay not to have Joe vaccinated. But I learned that it is better to complete the vaccines. I also exclusively breastfed Joe for more than 6 months. I believe that’s why he is not a sickly baby,” she added.
After completing all the PES modules, Andrea signed up to be a Kabalikat volunteer while also serving as a youth leader in her community. When asked why she wanted to be a Kabalikat volunteer, Andrea said: “I have a lot of friends who got pregnant early. These days, there are a lot of young mothers like me and there is a lot of stigma towards being a young mother. The information I learned from my sister, other Kabalikat volunteers, and PES was a very big help for me so I also want to teach it to others.”
“People judged me just because I had a baby early. I think that a lot of young mothers do not know how to take care of their child because of that kind of judgement towards them by our society. I want to encourage them to learn more about how to take care of their baby. It is hard to bring up a child but as mothers we have to secure their future,” Andrea explained.
According to Andrea, the Kabalikat program can help address early pregnancy in their community. “As I do my rounds around the community, I see a lot of young pregnant women. Through the help of Kabalikat volunteers, information about reproductive health and parenthood can be shared to more women while also ensuring the welfare of pregnant women,” she said.
“There was nothing like PES in our community before so many didn’t know about the things to do during pregnancy. Now they are enlightened on the concept of the first 1000 days. I realized that a baby really grows fast during this period and that they change everyday so it is best to focus on them during this time,” she added.
Andrea is hopeful that she and other Kabalikat volunteers will be able to better support the pregnant women in their community now that the First 1000 Days program is signed into law. “I already proposed a village ordinance adopting the First 1000 Days program through the health and development budget of the youth council to ensure that the young children in our community are taken care of,” Andrea proudly said.
Having to balance being a mother, a student, a youth leader, and a volunteer, Andrea says that information on pregnancy and parenting from education sessions with Save the Children has been very helpful. “This year I’m continuing school and taking my on-the-job training. Though my schedule is full, my whole family helps out in taking care of Joe. Through their support, I see him growing up a strong and smart baby,” Andrea said.
Save the Children’s MNCHN project in Caloocan City mobilizes Kabalikat volunteers and stakeholders, builds the capacity of local health and nutrition service providers, and establishes networks for quality health-care service delivery in order to reduce child mortality and improve maternal health. Health promotion & education activities will also continue to increase community awareness, knowledge, attitudes and interest on First 1000 Days services.