Algonquin Times Logo

By Safia Hashi

A sixty-second window of opportunity, the “golden minute” is the difference between life and death for a newborn entering the world.

The Breath of Life Campaign wants all babies to have a fighting chance at life.

This team of Algonquin teachers and students are travelling to Tanzania in June to help babies breathe and end neo-natal mortality rates.

The interdisciplinary community stems from six programs: registered practical nursing, Bachelor of Science in nursing, paramedics, child and youth worker, early childhood education and dental health.  The group is split into two streams, each focused on a millennium goal of the World Health Organization: maternal health and child health.

They will work with the training programs Helping Babies Breathe and Helping Babies Thrive to implement a training plan in the Bunda district of Tanzania.

Students will use the training programs in place under the Canadian Physicians for Aid and Relief.

These initiatives include a focus on neo-natal resuscitation techniques to help clear the airways for babies in their first breath of life. “We’re focused on the golden minute, because that first minute of life is crucial in the birthing process,” said Jenna Boucher, a second-year student in the child and youth worker program.

The team assembles every two weeks for a meeting headed by Sherry Poirier, a professor in the School of Nursing who started up the pilot project. Their first meeting began on December 17th, 2013.  Students were required to complete an application and undergo an interview process.

“Students are always looking for an opportunity to become involved,” said Poirer.“I have a strong interest in international health issues and teach community health so I knew it was time to embark on the project.”

She has worked with Algonquin and CPAR on several projects including Small World Big Picture, whom she has travelled to Tanzania with some students before. “We had a good working relationship with the country to begin with, “ she said.

Poirier knew she had a great team soon as it was formed, with a diverse blending of novice “kind-hearted” students and those experienced in international health promotion. Natasha Caroli is a first-year student in registered practical nursing that has previously worked with children in developing countries. She says her travels abroad were some of the most rewarding experiences of her life.“It is so humbling to volunteer your help with no strings attached”, said Caroli, who has visited Africa in the past.

“There is no better feeling than the pleasure of knowing you can help someone with no gains.”

Boucher joined the opportunity for the simple act of sharing in another’s happiness. “You have this one life,” she said. “Why not go out and make someone else happy, giving more people a reason to smile and dance.”

The goal by the end of the term is to raise $30,000 towards buying training materials, shipping material and delivering the program.

They have been working throughout the school year both on and off campus to achieve this goal. The college has been receptive to their efforts.

A volunteer- based home team is currently in place at Algonquin.

Their fundraising so far has included bake sales, auctions, book sales in Student Commons and partnerships with popular burger chain The Works.

Students can look out for karaoke dinner nights, Fish and Chip sales on St. Patrick’s Day, and further opportunities to contribute.

“The Breath of Life campaign is about giving Algonquin students an enriching learning opportunity that makes them want to become global citizens,” said Poirier.

“We need the entire Algonquin community to get behind us.”