In January, Health Connect One trainers Brenda Reyes and Tikvah Wadley coached a group of doulas at SisterWeb in San Francisco. We had a conversation with SisterWeb’s Marna Armstead and Alli Cuentos afterward to learn more about the experience from the local organization’s perspective. Here are some brief highlights from the conversation:
Q. Can you share some background about Sisterweb?
A. SisterWeb was born out of a beautiful vision shared amongst the communities most impacted by adverse birth outcomes in San Francisco. From the Bayview to the Mission District, from the stories of doulas who were met with the financial and logistical barriers of on call lifestyle to the stories of mothers met with racism and fear-mongering during their pregnancies – we listened, and shared our own stories.
Many birth professionals from within these communities were looking for a way to organize our collective impact and work strategically together but lacked committed funding and people paid to help weave and sustain the “web”.
SisterWeb now carries out workforce development and ongoing coaching for women from underserved communities joining the birth worker industry. SisterWeb reaches birthing women and families from these same communities by way of doula care and other support services.
SisterWeb also impacts the entirety of the Medical and Family Support landscape in SF by way of our participation in community forums, task forces, and individual partnerships. It is our vision that SisterWeb be the working web of support for birthing families, doulas, doula mentors, and health care professionals from within historically underserved communities for many generations to come. We are part of the solution to restore our city, one birth at a time!
Q. What made you choose HealthConnect One to provide birth doula training?
A. What stuck out was how HealthConnect One has developed over time a pedagogy using popular education that centers the experiences of doulas of color, specifically black and brown doulas.
SisterWeb was able to bring in a lot of the local knowledge and wisdom but we worked collaboratively for months in planning a training that leveraged the historical and national perspectives HealthConnect One is bringing and the local wisdom of doulas in San Francisco.
Local knowledge is needed to be successful – a lot of people commented in the training evaluations that having both approaches made the training more meaningful and relevant than a training that was exclusively on-the-ground… knowledge from San Francisco. They appreciated the time-tested teaching methods of the HealthConnect One model – they’ve not just developed the curriculum, they’ve tested it over and over around the country and refined that knowledge.
Our participants are also walking away with resources – HealthConnect One’s manual and the connections to Brenda Reyes and Tikvah Wadley, who are very involved in national birth equity work, as well as access to Dona certification, which is huge, while at the same time having been up and close and personal with Sisterweb’s staff.
Q. Can you talk about how birth equity was incorporated into the workshop?
A. Training participants learned not just best practices of ‘doula-ing’ but best practices for being a doula of color working in communities most impacted by racism. … A lot of doula trainings focus on a body of knowledge that was centering white private doulas… Several people in the training commented that kind of doula work has its helpfulness but also has its shortcomings, and this was very much not that.