When LaVern Morris arrives in the Dominican Republic this month, it will be a reunion six years in the making. On Feb. 18, Morris, a physician liaison at Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters (CHKD), will travel to Santo Domingo, where she will deliver 480 bilingual children’s books to the Resource Mothers program, a project that pairs experienced mentors with young, pregnant mothers from some of Santo Domingo’s poorest neighborhoods. Morris served as regional coordinator of the Resource Mothers program in South Hampton Roads (Va.) before helping Physicians for Peace develop its program – known locally as Madres Tutelares – in the Dominican Republic in 2005. She last traveled to Santo Domingo with Physicians for Peace in 2006.
“I’m excited to meet with the Resource Mothers, and to talk with them one-on-one about some of the new challenges they face, since the program has grown so much,” said Morris.
Since its founding, the Physicians for Peace program has expanded from 10 to 20 barrios in East Santo Domingo, and it has provided hundreds of young mothers with the support, education and guidance they need to have safer pregnancies, healthier babies and brighter futures. Morris was instrumental in laying the groundwork for the current program and in coordinating important training workshops on topics such as building trust with clients and their families, working effectively with hospital and clinic personnel and preparing first-time mothers for labor, delivery and parenting.
“The more we worked together, the more I realized that, even though their environments and cultures were different from those at home, young mothers and babies in the Dominican Republic and the U.S. face many of the same problems, and they need similar support,” Morris said.
On this new training mission, Morris will present information on literacy to the Resource Mothers. Specifically, she will help them teach their clients how to develop critical early reading skills in children, beginning at six months of age. She hopes the colorful children’s books she leaves with the program will serve as a springboard for creativity – and become one more tool for the Resource Mothers as they promote trust and strong relationships with their young clients.
“The Resource Mothers program is really about building a strong family unit, and reading to children, telling them stories, has tremendous benefits for both mom and baby,” Morris said.
Morris isn’t the only Virginian who has left a lasting mark on the Dominican program: this month, Inside Business newspaper will honor Physicians for Peace Board Chairman Ed Karotkin, MD, as one of its 2012 Health Care Heroes. Like Morris, Karotkin played a lead role in establishing the Resource Mothers program in Hampton Roads, through CHKD and Eastern Virginia Medical School, and in Santo Domingo, through Physicians for Peace.