Jamaa Birth Village in Ferguson recently announced scholarships awarded to nine women who will be trained to become doulas. A birth doula is a trained companion who provides continuous support to pregnant women during labor and childbirth. This most recent cohort will become among more than 150 doulas trained by Jamaa’s midwife and doula team over the past five years.
“The first requirement is they had to be a woman of color. The second requirement is low incomes or having been financially impacted by COVID, if you were a middle-income person – maybe lesser hours, lesser income,” said Midwife, Doula and Jamaa Birth Village founder and Executive Director Brittany “Tru” Kellman.
“All in all, you absolutely could not afford to pay for the training on your own. The third requirement was to have a dedicated passion to serve and support women in their communities.”
Each woman also completed an application, with questions and an essay portion.
The scholarships were paid for by community donations to its Doula Training Scholarship fund.
“We have a tremendous amount of people who visit our website, and they donate to the Doula Care Scholarship Fund by selecting that option,” she said.
Receiving full $900 scholarships are Tabitha Murugi, Maria Elena Jones, Kabria Johnson and Sharneice Haskin. Partial $500 scholarship recipients are Danielle Moore, Dashia Marr, Sarah Martin, Aesha Foster and Aja Montgomery.
Eight of the nine are from the St. Louis area. Murugi will receive virtual training at her home village in Kenya. She found out about the training opportunity on Jamaa’s social media, which led to the village to village effort.
“And next year, depending on COVID, if it cooperates with us, I plan to travel there with one of my team members so that we can train multiple other people in her particular village to become doulas to assist in their maternal health crisis,” said Kellman. “Her being already trained and being a part of a village is going to help to facilitate that a lot easier, so she can continue to assist them.”
Doula training at Jamaa is 32 hours, in four eight-hour sessions. The upcoming session is in November. Local training is combines virtual and small group hands on training – with accommodations for COVID-19 safety precautions.
“For people who feel comfortable, we’ll be meeting in person. We’ll have small groups that will meet together on the last day of training, so that we can go over the in-person, hands-on activities that are really essential,” Kellman said. “We will practice social distancing and make sure that we practice guidelines to keep everyone safe while training everyone properly.
“Alternatively, doula students who don’t feel comfortable even meeting in a small group of four people, they can choose a family member or a friend of their choice to practice the hands-on activities to make them feel safer or if they are compromised.”
Kellman said these women are being trained to become doulas and to become entrepreneurs.
“I’m excited about this because they have the opportunity to have their own businesses,” she said, “to become black woman entrepreneurs and run their own doula business. On the fourth day, we go over all of that information so that they are prepared to start.”
Doula care services are currently not covered by Medicaid in Missouri, Kellman said. “This is another barrier for women who are low income and marginalized and need additional support,” she said, “so supporting the Doula Care Fund or supporting teaching doulas who can assist low income women can really, really help to make a difference.”
For more information about Jamaa Birth Village or the St. Louis Doulas of Color Collective, visit JamaaBirthVillage.org