The following is the opening address from Midwives For Haiti’s longtime volunteer, Wendy Dotson, CNM, on the first day of classes for our 7th Class of Skilled Birth Attendants in March 2014. More stories can be found on Wendy’s blog:

I am so happy to talk to you today on the first day of your class. I have been coming to Hinche since March of 2009. I feel very fortunate to have been able to join Nadene and Steve with the beginning of Class 2, and Class 3, and maybe some others. This is my tenth visit to Haiti, so I forget some things.

Over these 5 years, I have seen this Midwives for Haiti Program grow and develop very much.  As you probably know, originally it was just a group of students under a mango tree at Pandiassou, with Nadene and some other midwives that she recruited! Now you have books in Creole, and Haitian teachers, and a beautiful compound, and good teaching tools, to make a great learning environment. We are very happy to see all this progress!

I was thinking of this progress, and I asked myself, is it really still helpful for the Americans to visit here? We have so many good Haitian midwives now, and Nadene and Dr. Steve have selected some of the best ones, to be your instructors and teachers. I wondered  “Maybe it is not important for me to come here, it would be better to send the travel money to the Midwives for Haiti organization?”

But I want to share with you the answer that I found to this question.

First, it is very important for me to come to Haiti, and work with you student midwives, because this work nourishes my heart. I come here because I hope for this project to become a true collaboration between Haitian people and Americans.  We bring medical knowledge and supplies, financial support, and administrative skills. But you teach me many things too.

I learn from the Haitian people about patience, and endurance, and about relying always on God and each other, for help. So I come here not only to teach, but also to learn.

I also come here because I believe that being a midwife is a spiritual calling. When we take this job, it is a responsibility to care for women and babies at their most delicate time. And if we have this responsibility, it is not only toward the women in our own towns and countries. We are responsible to help care for all women, and to help protect them as best we can through their childbearing time.

So even though I am an American midwife, I am a midwife first. And the women of Haiti need more midwives. So I come here to help you fill that need.

This week we begin with the most basic things about being a midwife. The things we discuss will be very simple, but they are also the most important.

Just like the stones that we put down to build a house, these ides are the foundation that will support everything else that you learn in the program. You will learn many skills, and have a lot of knowledge about pregnancy and birth and health care when you graduate. But if you fail to learn these first principles, you will not be a true midwife.

1) Love.  This is the guide that you must have in your heart when you do this work.  You must have love guide you as you care for women and their babies.

Love will cause you to speak kindly to all women, rich or poor, a pastor’s wife or a prostitute…

When you are very tired and want to sleep, love will help you stay awake to help a woman who is afraid and in pain.

Love will help you get out of bed and report to work on time, to help your sister midwife, when she is done her work and needs to go home.

If you act out of love, you will not fail as a midwife.

2) Respect. Respect is the little sister of Love, and it is the other side of the coin that you must carry in your pocket always.

Respect will cause you to not only to speak kindly to a woman, but to guard her health information, to protect the private things that you learn about her.

Respect will remind you clean your hands each time you touch  a patient, even a baby, even when no one is looking.

Respect will have you tell your name to each woman when you begin to care for her.

Respect will remind you that even the poorest, the most beaten down women, are not donkeys, or goats, but human beings, created in God’s image.

If you act out of Love and Respect, you will succeed as a midwife, and make all of us very proud.

I hope to see you again, and wish you God’s blessing on all your work.

Welcome to the Sisterhood of Midwives!

Note from the author: I have spoken to the students at the opening of several classes, but this one was special, as I delivered it in Creole, thanks to the translation help of Gladias, our Haitian college student who lives with us.  I believe so deeply in the potential of these Haitian students to help their country– it was a joy to welcome them to this program.