The diocese of Toronto will be donating $500,000 to The Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF) to support maternal, newborn and child health in Indigenous communities in Canada and in several African countries.
The money comes from the diocese’s Our Faith – Our Hope fundraising campaign , which ran from 2010-2012 and which has brought in a total of $33 million so far to support a wide array of local and international mission initiatives.
In a press release, Archbishop Colin Johnson, diocesan bishop of Toronto and metropolitan of the ecclesiastical province of Ontario, said he was “delighted” that the diocese was supporting work with women and children outside its own jurisdiction.
“In Africa, it is the church that has the trusted responsibility for medical and social support of vulnerable people to a degree unknown here. In the North, the needs of families are enormous…This is such a great ministry and good news in action,” said Johnson.
PWRDF executive director Will Postma described the news as “very encouraging.”
“The fact that faith-inspired giving is translated into really important deeds of mercy and compassion where the needs are highest-that says a lot,” he said. “Our work is bringing maternal and child mortality rates down and we are making a difference.”
The majority of the money-$343,000-will go to PWRDF’s All Mothers and Children Count program in Burundi, Mozambique, Rwanda and Tanzania, where there are high rates of child and maternal illness and mortality. In Mozambique, for example, there are 500 deaths per 100,000 live births, compared to 12 per 100,000 in most of Canada. The funds will go toward helping PWRDF pay its share-$2.79 million-of the program, which has a total budget of$20.5 million over five years. The rest of the program’s budget consists of matching funds from Global Affairs Canada.
The program aims to combat these high rates by upgrading healthcare facilities in rural areas and providing better access to clean water.
Peter Misiaszek, director of stewardship development for the diocese, told the Anglican Journal that the PWRDF’s capacity to receive matching grants from the federal government was one of the main reasons the diocese chose to donate the money.
PWRDF’s Women Empowerment Project, which, through Cooperation Canada-Mozambique (COCAMO), helps women in Mozambique secure access to bank loans for the purposes of creating small businesses, will receive $55,000 of the remaining funds.
The balance of $52,000 will fund a Canadian delegation to the diocese of Masasi to learn about the programs in action and to act as “champions for the food security and maternal, newborn and child health work of PWRDF” when they return to Canada.
The donation also provides impetus for a completely new program to foster more culturally sensitive maternal and newborn health services for Indigenous communities in Canada’s North and in Mexico and Peru.
In an interview with the Journal, Zaida Bastos, development partnership program director for the PWRDF, said this new initiative comes in response to a need identified by PWRDF’s Indigenous partners in Canada and beyond.
According to Bastos, statistics around rates of child and maternal mortality in isolated Indigenous communities can be as high as those for developing countries. This is caused both by lack of access to high quality health care in remote communities, and by the alienation many Indigenous women feel while in care facilities outside of their communities.
“Birthing, in all cultures in the world, is a community issue; everyone is involved, there are rituals, there are traditions that come with the whole process of birthing,” Bastos said, noting that hospitals are, for many Indigenous women, a “very cold environment that has separated them from their culture, that has quite medicalized what should really be a moment of celebration.”
In addition to working with Canadian midwifery organizations, PWRDF will also partner with Indigenous midwifery organizations in Mexico and Peru, which have outlined similar concerns, to “find a set of good practices that can be recommended in how those services can be delivered in a way that is sensitive,” said Bastos.
A total of $50,000 has been set aside for these programs.
National Indigenous Bishop Mark MacDonald told the Journal he is “excited to hear of this initiative, having just had a number of conversations with folks in Northern Ontario about the urgent need for this work.”
Editor’s notes: An earlier version of this story identified several Canadian midwifery organizations that PWRDF will be working with. PWRDF says the agreements have not yet been finalized.
A correction has been made to this story. The contribution from the diocese of Toronto will not trigger new funds from Global Affairs Canada.