Our program recruits and trains volunteer doulas that commit to serve at least 100 hours in 12-hour shifts at the SFGH Birth Center. SFGH Doulas provide judgment-free emotional and physical support to birthing women, thereby enabling them to have a sense of control and ownership in their birth experience. Our continuity of care through the entire labor and birth, through multiple shift changes among doctors, midwives and nurses, gives the patients a feeling of being cared for and valued. This respect can give them the confidence to birth in whatever way they wish.
SFGH doulas are able to be advocates and educators for everyone involved in a birth – from the women in labor to their partners, families, and even the medical providers. By listening to the woman and establishing trust with her, doulas are often able to convey and/or translate (sometimes literally between languages) the woman’s wishes to her family and medical caregivers.
In addition to providing free doula services, our program trains women from the patient population and local community health organizations to work as doulas. These local women and health workers are able to avoid the linguistic and cultural barrie
We have approximately 25 doulas volunteering at the hospital on a monthly basis. This translates to 200-300 women receiving doula services each year. We have trained an additional 30 doulas in 2010 who are at different stages in the volunteer orientation process of SFGH. This new group includes staff from local community organizations including Homeless Prenatal, Teenage Pregnancy and Parenting Program, Black Infant Health and Good Samaritan (the latter organization serves undocumented immigrants and victims of domestic violence). We have trained our first group of postpartum doulas and are in the negotiation process with the SFGH administration for designing the protocol for home visits by postpartum doulas.
What will it take for your project to be successful over the next three years? Please address each year separately, if possible.
Several factors will contribute to the success of our program. Having reached functional capacity as a volunteer-run and staffed organization for the past five years, we are preparing to expand with a plan for organizational development, capacity building, and fundraising.
First Year (Current): Create a Task Force to address priority areas to build our organization (this group was formed a month ago). The priority areas include, Education, Communication and Outreach, Finance and Fundraising, Membership and Community. Initiate English language Birth and Postpartum doula trainings (completed). Successfully negotiate with the SFGH Administration to expand our doula program to postpartum home visits.
Meet with the public health nurses to gain support for our in-home doula program.
Second Year: Continue to recruit and train volunteers for the program. Successfully initiate and complete Spanish-only birth and post partum doula trainings. Continue English trainings. Obtain funding thorugh grants or private donors to enable continuing trainings for local women who are unable to pay tuition. Implement the postpartum doula home visit program working closely with the public health nurses to set up a program that is also supportive of their home visit program . Continue building partnerships with government agencies including public health nurses and with local NGOs to effectively support and expand our client base. Approach the administration of the hospital to negotiate for a salaried position for the Director of the doula program.
Third Year: Develop diversified revenue streams: an individual donor base, ongoing grant funding, fees from trainings, and t-shirt sales. Develop our website as an effective fundraising tool. Continue funding for the Director position and obtain funding for a part-time Program Coordinator who would be recruited from the doula community. Continue to build and enhance our relationships with other community organizations.
What would prevent your project from being a success?
To date, our program has been a success but the primary issue we face is sustainability. For five of the six years of our existence the SFGH Doula program has been almost exclusively led and administered by a volunteer program director. We have had temporary support from volunteer doulas within the program and unpaid interns from San Francisco State University.
While we anticipate continuing to rely on volunteers from the community, we need funding to support administration of the program, especially in light of the anticipated expansion of our program. The vital time and energy commitment from the director and a possible program coordinator are incompatible with the current volunteer status. Lack of resources either funding or a decrease in our volunteers would prevent us from continuing successfully. In ability to create paid job positions to expand and administer the program could well result in the demise of the program as at this time if the unpaid director were to step down we don’t have a viable way for this project to continue.