Jacqueline Kamel, 28, was born and raised in Mississauga, Ontario (Canada). She graduated with a degree in Developmental Psychology from the University of Windsor and a Masters Degree in Social Work specializing in International Social Welfare from Columbia University in the city of New York. Since September 2015, she has been working as a program intern with Save the Mothers. Communications intern Fortunate Kagumaho sat with Jacqueline to converse, record her thoughts, and bring you this blog.

“I have always had a strong passion for working with young children and their mothers both locally and overseas,” she says. “I have over six years of (work and volunteer) experience in hospital and community settings. While completing my graduate studies, I interned on the Labor and Delivery, and Neonatal Intensive Care units at Bellevue hospital in New York. After completing my graduate degree in Social Work I worked as an intensive child and family therapist at a large children’s mental health agency for three years in the Toronto area before switching to program coordinator for Children’s Mental Health Respite Services.

“While working on the labor and delivery unit, I witnessed the devastating effects that come from lack of access to prenatal care such as premature delivery, still birth, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, babies born already addicted to narcotics and/or who have contracted infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS. I regularly heard the tragic stories of abuse, lack of respect, value, and dignity afforded to the refugee mothers who had chosen to travel to the USA to deliver their children, and witnessed the detrimental effects it had on their physical and mental health.

“My passion for child and maternal health became apparent while working as a child and maternal health clinician on a labor and delivery/NICU floor. I regularly screened refugee women from East and West Africa, the Middle East and South East Asia for post/ante partum depression. Hearing their stories opened my eyes to the vast disparities women and children face in the developing world and furthered my desire to advocate for their health and well-being. I then had the opportunity to volunteer as a children’s mental health consultant in my country of origin, Egypt. There, I witnessed the astonishing disparities orphan girls and young women face when it comes to health, mental health, and access to community resources. It has since become my life’s mission to serve those who are most vulnerable and who continue to be vastly overlooked and unequally cared for.

“I have found the staff and students of Save the Mothers to be uniquely skilled, passionate and welcoming! It is truly an inspirational place to work and be. I’m really looking forward to being part of the team and feel so grateful for this opportunity!

“There’s no question that education around child and maternal health in Uganda is relevant and essential. Although there are many positive developments being made in Uganda already, Save the Mothers is playing a crucial role in training local leaders on how to advocate for the rights of women and children and change the country’s policies around how to deliver and maintain a higher standard of care for expecting mothers and their babies.

“My hope is that this internship will be the first step to a lifelong career in international development. My goal is to dedicate my life’s work to improving the physical and mental health of women and children in the developing world.”