The Bay Area is home to many fabulous organizations focused on reproductive health and justice working on local, regional, and national levels. To connect, share, and showcase the exciting work being done by all these organizations we will be profiling them here in our blog.
We started in October with a profile of ACCESS Women's Health Justice. Today we are focusing on the SFGH Volunteer Doula Group. Thank you to Monnie Reba Efross RN, MSN and Antoinette Mason, who took time to answer our questions, as follows.
What is a bit of SFGH Volunteer Doula Group's history?
Previous to the current program there were volunteer doulas starting in the 1980’s – some offered their services and some had informal training from the director of the current program Monnie Reba Efross. In the 1990’s a program was started by the nurse midwives at SFGH that lasted for about 2 years. The current doula program was started by a nurse midwife, a community doula and two nurses from SFGH in the fall of 2003. Within 6 months Monnie, a staff nurse in the Birth Center at SFGH assumed leadership of the program. Then it only had a few doulas and has now grown to have more than 100 doulas volunteering in the program.
What is the overall mission of SFGH Volunteer Doula Group? Who does it serve and how?
"Our Mission is to provide culturally appropriate doula services to the birthing women at SFGH, before, during, and after birth; and to empower and support both the birthing women and the doulas who serve them."
All of our doulas volunteer at the Birth Center at SFGH. In addition many of them provide outside educational and doula services. Each doula takes on a minimum of one 12 hour shift per month, with a goal of achieving 24/7 doula coverage on the unit at any given time. We have both birth doulas and postpartum doulas and many Spanish speaking doulas so the birthing women at SFGH get support they need while giving birth. Additionally, the doula program has expanded to provide birth education and support to students at Hilltop School in San Francisco as well as reproductive health and childbirth classes to women in the San Francisco County Jail and Jelani House drug rehab. program. We hold birth doula trainings three times a year for women interested in volunteering at SFGH and also for community health workers from local non profit organizations. One of our goals is to train more women from the community of birthing women at SFGH to be doulas.
What is one major success of the organization?
The longevity of this program as a volunteer run and supported program is a success in itself. We have several other major successes as well. We have grown to have a doula on the unit almost every day of the month! Additionally, our doulas have developed projects to provide services to the community we serve. The Birth Justice Project, our educational and doula support program for incarcerated women and women in rehabilitation homes has grown incredibly, now having 6 week long classes four times a year and providing on-call doula services to the women of these communities.
What would you like to see happen with SFGH Volunteer Doula Group in the next 1-5 years?
We have many goals for the next few years of the program. Crucial to the longterm sustainability of the program is to raise enough funding to provide salaries for a program director, an administrative assistant. We also want to fund stipends for our doulas so that some of the particularly high risk mothers at SFGH can be guarenteed a doula. We also want to inspire women who have birthed at SFGH to train as doulas and come back and work in our programs. For these women we hope to create more scholarship opportunities to take our trainings, and also stipends for the doula work. Considering the need for postpartum/breastfeeding support that women have after they leave the hospital we are working to create an inhome postpartum doula program in conjunction with the Homeless Prenatal Program and the SFGH public health nurses.
Is it possible for others to get involved, and if yes, how?
We are always looking for new doulas to join our program! To get involved as a doula you can contact our volunteer coordinators at email@example.com. In addition to volunteering as a doula on the unit, there are many other ways to get involved in the program such as our fundraising committee, our communications committee, and the volunteer coordinator team. If you are not yet a doula but interested in becoming one you can attend one of our doula trainings in the next year! Or if you just want to support the program, our website also has areas for donations, which are greatly appreciated.
Where can people find more information on the organization?
For more information about the program go to our website at sfghdoulas.org.