A Safer, Better Life for Mariam’s GrandchildrenWhen it was time for Mariam to go to the health center to deliver her twins many years ago, she had to travel 12 miles to get there — by bicycle. One of the babies didn’t survive.

Now there is a new maternity clinic in Mpiela, Mali, where Mariam’s daughters and daughters-in-law can go for care, and her grand-babies have a better chance at a safe start in life.

“I am very happy now to see women in Mpiela and neighboring villages enjoy safe delivery at affordable cost, compared to the risks our generation faced,” she said.

Islamic Relief USA donors provided this health care center as part of a comprehensive project that also brought clean water, education and free loans to start small businesses

Before this project, in Mpiela, only 16% of boys and 12% of girls attended the poorly constructed school. Community members got water from a well, and when that was dry, they walked to a stream 7 miles away. It was usually girls carrying the water — one reason they weren’t in school. And the water wasn’t clean, so it made them sick.

Islamic Relief USA donors gave Mpiela and other villages in Mali the improvements that community members like Mariam dreamed of, through a Child-Friendly Village project. The maternity center was built and equipped, and health-care workers were trained. Schools in 7 areas were improved and stocked with supplies. Interest-free microfinance loans were given to 7 women’s associations as startup capital for income generating activities. And the women’s association members were trained in vegetable production techniques, and business and marketing planning.

Now, Mariam’s community pumps clean water from a new solar-powered system near home. With more time and nearby water, they can grow vegetables, and the girls are freed to go to the renovated school — in fact, now they outnumber the boys. Mariam takes some credit for that number, as she speaks to the community to encourage them to keep girls in that school.

She uses the rest of her extra time to make and sell soap and mustard. She started her business with the help of the microcredit program.

And the new health center brings more than 100 babies into the world safely each year.

Mariam is glad the risks of childbirth have gone down and that life has improved so much for future generations.

“Today I am happy that my grandchildren and my daughters-in-law will have better living conditions” she said.