Members of the local Covenant Women Ministries are continuing a tradition of assembling and sending midwife kits to the Congo in Africa.
The group, formerly known as the Mission Circle, have been offering these midwife kits, as well as bandages, for about 40-45 years.
“The midwife kits are used when a mom gives birth,” noted Val Carrier. “The nurses use these kits to provide hygiene during birthing and dress the baby up to go home in a little matching jacket and bonnet.”
The members make the matching jackets and bonnets from a nice light cotton. Most of the other items either are purchased or donated.
Besides the jacket and bonnet set, the kits contain one three-foot square of Muslin (unbleached cotton), one receiving blanket, two face cloths, two bars of Ivory soap, two razor blades, two dish towels, and six eight-inch selvedge ties.
The items are packed in a large Ziploc bag.
“They just don’t have anything there,” noted group member Betty Batiuk, adding the midwife kits cost, on average, about $8 to assemble, but in the Congo the kit is worth about 10 times more.
This year, the Covenant Women Ministries has a total of 22 midwife kits ready to ship. Normally they prepare about a dozen, but last year they missed sending the packages because they didn’t have all the supplies.
“It takes a lot of time, from gathering the pieces, buying other items, and doing the sewing,” Carrier explained, indicating they began making up the kits back in April, with two months off in the summer.
Batiuk said she isn’t entirely sure how the project of assembling midwife kits got started by the group. She recalled a former pastor had siblings working in the Congo and they may have asked for the donations.
“And we’ve just kept going with it,” she added.
In addition to the midwife kits, the Covenant Women Ministries also roll bandages made from recycled sheets given to them by hotels in Fort Frances and International Falls, Mn.
But Batiuk said these sheets are in very good condition—better than what most people have in their homes.
“Sheets are torn into two-inch by four-inch widths lengthwise and sewn together to make a strip three to five yards long,” Carrier explained. “These strips are then rolled up and bound by a selvedge tie.
“The rolls of bandages are sterilized before use at the hospital, and they get used for anything and everything that requires a wrapped bandage.”
Jim Sundhom, director of World Relief, noted bandages are of great value to hospitals in the Congo since reusable bandages created from used sheets would costs hospitals there as much as $180,000 a year to replace.
“One we get the midwife kits sent by the end of November, our next project is to focus on rolling bandages,” Carrier said. “We know how important these things are, and we have the passion to have them and get them sent.”
But shipping costs for the midwife kits and bandages have escalated to $2 per pound over the last five years. And this cost does not include the shipping from Fort Frances to Chicago, where the head office redirects the shipments to hospitals in the Congo.
“The bandages are really heavy,” Batiuk remarked.
In order to raise funds to help cover the cost of shipping, the Covenant Women Ministries will be holding a bake sale this Friday (Oct. 26) from 10 a.m.-noon at Howarth’s Home Centre here.
“We hope people come out to support us,” Carrier said, noting the congregation of their church and the local hotels all have responded quite positively to their efforts.
“In North America we take a bandage for granted,” she added. “But in the Congo, a bandage of this calibre is a luxury item.”