Bradford maternal mortality campaigners meet Sarah Brown in Downing Street

 Isabella Ricordo, Katie Dearden, Kimi Omolokun, Megan Crowley with Sarah Brown

Isabella Ricordo, Katie Dearden, Kimi Omolokun, Megan Crowley with Sarah Brown

Four Bradford schoolgirls met with Sarah Brown in Downing Street recently  in recognition of their outstanding effort in raising over £40,000 to combat maternal mortality overseas. 

More than half a million women worldwide die each year because of complications related to pregnancy, and it is this statistic that inspired the four girls from St  Joseph’s College in Bradford to come up with the ‘Pack for Mums and Babies’.

Sarah Brown, Patron of the White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood said:  "I am very pleased to be welcoming Isabella, Katie, Kimi and Megan to Downing Street to celebrate their outstanding fundraising to stop women dying needlessly in childbirth. I am incredibly impressed by the determination, commitment and compassion each of these girls has shown and their actions are already making a real difference to women's lives.

"Tackling maternal mortality is an issue that is very close to my heart and the packs these girls have devised are simple, effective way for anyone to show their support for Mums and babies this Christmas."

Isabella Ricordo, Katie Dearden, Kimi Omolokun and Megan Crowley were just 14 years old in 2008 when they won a national business competition run by Partners in Innovation to find a ‘Solution For The Planet’. The girls chose to focus on the problem of maternal mortality – every minute, a woman dies through childbirth or pregnancy-related problems, the vast majority in the developing world.

The international aid agency CAFOD adopted the idea to become part of their range of  ethnical ‘World Gifts’ for 2009, where people can purchase a World Gift for Christmas and in doing so, make a donation towards a specific fund which will support  people living in poverty in the developing world.

Kimi Omolokun, 16, said on meeting Mrs Brown: “Eighteen months ago we were just friends with an idea at school. Now we’ve worked with a international aid agency, travelled to Nigeria, raised over £40,000 and to be invited to Downing St is unbelievable. It’s so inspirational to meet Mrs Brown, and to find out about the type of work she does that gets us towards our shared goal of saving lives”.

Megan Crowly, 15, said: “It’s great that we’ve now got this extra perspective, the political side of how you make change happen. We’ve done the fundraising, we’ve met the nurses, and girls our own age in Nigeria who are benefitting from the work of charities, and now to get to Downing St kind of completes the circle for us.”

Katie Dearden added: “But we’re not finished with this. We all want to go back to Nigeria after we’ve done our GCSEs and A Levels, and coming to Downing St today has shown that we really can do it, make a difference, and we’ve got to continue with that. We want to raise more money, and to sell more virtual packs.”

The girls’ winning idea was to raise money through promoting virtual packs that could be delivered to mothers and their babies. For £30, a pack could contain all the essential life-saving items, dependent on each individual woman’s requirements. Examples of ‘items’ in the virtual pack include the training of a traditional birth attendant, a water filtration kit, essential medicines, and a mosquito net.

After winning the national business competition in July 2008, they approached CAFOD asking how they could turn their idea into reality. The girls travelled to Nigeria in September, visiting villages and primary health-care clinics to see the difference their idea would make.  Peter Nanle, CAFOD’s programme manager in Nigeria said: “The work they are doing, their commitment to this cause is amazing.  Through their idea we could save thousands of lives in Nigeria alone.

CAFOD’s manager for the Leeds region, Margaret Siberry travelled to Nigeria with the girls and supported them with the project.  She said:  “I think what makes their idea so special is that it comes from their heart; that they’ve realised that the basic things that are going to make a difference to mums and babies in Africa are clean water, immunisation for babies, trained healthcare workers who can help deliver their babies safely. All those things put together as a package is quite unique.”

“I’ve been wowed and overwhelmed by them:  composed, compassionate and articulate young women with a passion for justice.” Margaret Siberry added.

“They’ve gone from being four ordinary teenagers to four outstanding role-models in the space of twelve months and they’ve certainly been able to give the best gift to other women this Christmas.”


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