Josiah is Freedom Tree’s most recent intern to join the people movement and work towards healthier births in the nation of Sierra Leone. This spring, Josiah was a part of the Curriculum Team, helping to develop the curriculum in Sierra Leone over the course of three months. Josiah is currently in his final year of his International Relations degree at the University of Calgary and we asked him how being a part of Freedom Tree has shaped his journey thus far.
How did you first hear about Freedom Tree?
I first heard about Freedom Tree at a conference in Montreal in the summer of 2013, shortly after its founding, and immediately was drawn in by their vision. Sierra Leone is consistently one of the highest ranked nations in the world for infant and maternal deaths in childbirth. The situation is a lot more complicated than one would think, however, and Freedom Tree recognizes that. They go beyond simply providing basic needs to the people of Sierra Leone – they aim to fully restore the birthing experience to what it was intended to be. Now, I truly believe that one day Sierra Leone can be one of the healthiest birthing nations in the world!
Why did you decide to join Freedom Tree this year and how has it changed your life?
Since I initially heard about Freedom Tree in 2013, it has constantly been on my heart. This year, I needed to fulfill a work-term requirement for a program within my degree, but also was wanting an opportunity to work with an NGO, and the idea sprang to mind. I got in contact with Freedom Tree in November of 2015 and the timing was perfect – they were planning their first long term trip with the goal of developing a curriculum for that Spring. The opportunity to be involved in pioneering this next step for Freedom Tree was such a perspective-shaping experience for me. I met incredible people in Sierra Leone and came to a new understanding of the issue at hand. It was a bit of a dream come true – despite a lot of tough work!
What does the curriculum mean to you?
The curriculum is truly a labour of love. It was designed in Sierra Leone, for Sierra Leoneans to teach to other Sierra Leoneans. Its main purpose is fulfilled in a village setting where maternal and infant mortality is high. I talk about it with a lot of pride because the entire program is asset-based and locally sustainable and was designed alongside the locals – with every single lesson practiced and fine-tuned in the villages. It is 10 weeks long, targeting a wide range of natal health and lifestyle components…I really think it covers all bases and serves such a unique purpose in Sierra Leone. I cannot wait to hear follow up news and see what impact it has!
What role do you think men have to play in healthy birthing practices?
In preparing for the Spring trip this past year, I was blown away by the immense importance of men getting involved in this issue! As one example, there are countless stories out there of stalled labours suddenly resuming healthily with the presence of the father in the room. Babies recognize their father’s voice and the woman’s body responds in a magnificent way when love and support is provided! There is something extremely significant to involving both men and women in the birthing experience together, and in Sierra Leone, that is extremely taboo. Without easy accessibility to clinics, it is important that a healthy dynamic is created during the labour experience, and believe it or not, the man can play a huge role in this. By shifting the way we see the importance of the father’s role, and even good relationships between the mother and the father, the labour process is directly impacted and can change for the better! I am so proud to be a representative of that and to have had the opportunity to talk with men in the country and teach communities about sexual health and what role a man can play. Even better, the first all-men’s team is planning a trip for November! I am so excited for them!
Stay tuned for new testimonials each month, highlighting the “People Movement” that is in motion with Freedom Tree! Want to join the movement? Contact Us