Collaboration by definition is working together to achieve a goal. In business and in the nonprofit world it is multiple organizations partnering to realize shared goals. But does collaboration really exist? Can people really put their own agendas, their beliefs, to the side in an effort to work together? We constantly hear politicians talk about “reaching across the aisle” to do what is right for the American people. However, it rarely happens. There are many words spoken, but little action taken. Thankfully, collaboration does exist in our world. We have seen it first hand on many occasions during our volunteer experiences. I will admit, I was surprised by it at first. My previous perceptions allowed me to believe that nonprofit organizations did not work together. They all were in competition for volunteers, donors, money, and community support. I believed that the community at large, and those served, probably suffered at the hands of this competition. The last year and half has shown me otherwise. Yes, competition exists, but collaboration does too.
Healthier Mom and Babies is a perinatal outreach project that strives to reduce infant mortality and improve the outcomes of pregnancy for at-risk families. This is done through case management and health education for expecting mothers and their families. For more than sixteen years, Healthier Moms and Babies has been making better babies in Northeast Indiana. In Allen County, one in seven babies is born too soon. Premature deliveries have increased by over 30% in our area. These statistics are alarming. Healthier Moms and Babies, along with other organizations like the March of Dimes, are working diligently to improve the lives of expecting mothers which will lead to healthy full-term babies.
This week we volunteered at the “Healthy Baby, Healthy You” community baby shower. This event delivers critical pregnancy information free of charge to those who need it most. Expecting mothers learned about pregnancy-related topics, nutrition, immunization, and available community resources. All attendees received gifts for baby while enjoying a free a meal. We worked the registration tables. We signed in each person and gave them a schedule of events. More than 50 mothers-to-be attended the event. The ages ranged from teens to women in their forties. One women, we as a family, will not forget. She was there with her two small children and she was pregnant. She filled out a photo consent form, but struggled to put down an address. She struggled because she and her children are currently living in a homeless shelter. In that moment, we understood the need for this baby shower and the services provided by Healthier Moms and Babies. Many questions, thoughts, and concerns went through our minds at that time. Regardless, we must continue to better educate young women to ensure that healthy babies are born.
Too many babies are born premature. Too many families experience the grief of infant mortality. It is great to know that organizations like Healthier Moms and Babies are working to reduce these instances. It is also nice to know, and see, that collaboration exists in our community. Multiple organizations are working together to achieve a shared vision. A vision of a community where babies are born healthy and mothers are properly educated. Maybe our politicians should spend some time with these nonprofit organizations to see how you effectively “reach across the aisle” to collaborate.