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In 2009 one woman went to Kenya.

She taught four Kenyan women how to
respond to life-threatening symptoms in pregnancy and childbirth.  
Then these four taught 12 more.

They taught more women and those women taught even more.

Now, there are over 15,000 Kenyan villagers poised to save lives.

The power of one.


In May 2011 Safe Passage to Motherhood sent a team back to Bware, Kenya for the fourth time. The team was composed of Mari, physician's assistant, Jenn, certified nurse-midwife, Lee, photographer and videographer, and Maya, pre-med/research assistant.

The team had the opportunity to work with well-established HBLSS teams and expand on prevention in the community. They spent time teaching, learning, assessing and evaluating.

Highlights of the May, 2011 trip:

  • The Core Group has grown from 15 to 25

  • 2-4 more lessons were taught at the teaching sites

  • The local Ministry of Health requested HBLSS be taught in their Municipalities

  • Three core groups now include men

  • Schools have expressed interest in having master trainers teach health practices to the girls

  • Utilization of the clinic continues to increase


In the year since the last visit the Bware HBLSS teams has established relationships with several interested communitites in the outlying areas. This year not only were trainings done in several outlying villages but over 80 community members from Uriri, Migori and Achuth Village participated in a "Prevention" summit held in Bware at the end of our stay.

Another important finding of the trip was the inclusion and support of men in the HBLSS network. Safe Passage to Motherhood encourages and welcomes male participation in the trainings and we were pleased to offer certificates to the first three men in Bware.

Safe Passage to Motherhood was asked to meet with the BEKKAS group (six school consortium). The lead teachers have identified issues of hygiene and sanitation as a priority with respect to educating the students. Specifically, the teachers find that girls tend to miss a week of school every month due to menstrual challenges including lack of latrines, inadequate handwashing facilities, lack of privacy and lack of sanitary products.

We are intrigued by the prospect of working with the community, and see the issues of education of girls fitting beautifully with the overall goal of empowerment of women through HBLSS


Past Projects


In 2010 three healthcare practitioners returned to Bware.  Their mission was to assess the number of participants and communities that had been trained in HBLSS, determine the quality of that training, and listen to the local trainers share their successes and challenges in conducting training sessions.

From this feedback we will develop more ways to support the sustainability of the program, with increased emphasis on education and prevention, especially among the youth.

As a result of the HBLSS training there have been significant improvements.

  • Births have tripled at the clinic.

  • The clinic is experiencing a significant increase in prenatal, postnatal and baby visits.

  • There have been no reported maternal deaths since our training began in 2009. In addition, the clinic has been promoted to a Health Center by the Ministry of Health.  This brings two big benefits:

  • A second full time nurse has been hired

  • The clinic is eligible for a larger range of medications and medical equipment.


25 Master Trainers continue to meet weekly and walk great distances to talk with their neighbors about how to save lives in a manner that is simple and sustainable.


In July 2009, Safe Passage sent one Certified Nurse Midwife to the rural village of Bware, Kenya. Using the HBLSS course, developed by the American College of Nurse-Midwives, she trained four women on how to share skills that save the lives of women and children during childbirth.  

Under supervision, those four women became lead trainers who taught 12 more women. Those 16 “master trainers” trained 28 second level trainers All in two weeks. Within two months, the original group had trained 400 others in the Bware area. In another two months, they had trained 500 people in villages within two  kilometers.  


After five months, over 2000 people had received training in how to recognize and respond to danger signs of pregnancy and childbirth . Eight months later, the number of trained Kenyans had cascaded to nearly 15,000 having received HBLSS training.  


Safe Passage to Motherhood works with small communities with high mortality rates for women and infants. We train one small group of women at a time, one village at a time. Operating in a culturally sensitive manner helps us to create lasting relationships, foster good will and empower people to carry on the teaching in their communities. Women who receive initial training go on to teach others, thus insuring that life saving knowledge continues to spread. 

Our training approach encourages more play.  We set aside time from the training sessions to play jump rope as a way of connecting adolescent girls, women and even some boys and men. The rope became a symbol of connection – between black and white, community and ministry, men and women, youth and elders.  


In October 2008, Safe Passage to Motherhood was invited by the Ray of Hope Foundation to go to Bware, Kenya to assess their maternity services and introduce the Home Based Life Savings Skills (HBLSS)program. 

The assessment showed that most women were unaware of common problems during pregnancy and birth that can be addressed by a skilled attendant. We learned that most babies are born at home despite danger signs. We confirmed that  women and babies are dying unnecessarily.  In 2007 the clinic had only 38 births.   We learned that women wait too long when they are in labor to ask for help. They often  begin walking to the closest birth center after they've been laboring for a day or two . They arrive exhausted  often to find out that their baby is dead or very ill.     The clinic is blamed for the death not the process prior to arrival.   

By the end of 2008, 55 mothers had birthed at the clinic and in 2009 the number jumped to 155 who delivered at the clinic and many more who increased their prenatal visits. 

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