Birth Center Saves MotherBaby Lives in Philippines

by Mercy In Action Vineyard, INC
Happy Family
Happy Family

Expecting a new child was not a new experience for Mary Grace. She had carried 6 other pregnancies to term and had given birth to each of them in the local government hospital. Now expecting for the 7th time Mary Grace was hoping for a new experience. An experience that was everything that it was meant to be. 

Mary Grace remembered well each of her other births. She remembered the pain of the contractions and the intensity of the labor. But what she remembered most was the feelings she had as she labored alone. She was scared and did not have a labor companion to comfort or reassure her. She remembered the rough treatment she encountered and the lack of compassion she felt from her care providers. She had wanted this day to be special but each time, she felt alone. 

Now expecting her 7th baby any day she was hoping for more. She had heard about the birth center in her home town that provided care for expectant mothers. She had begun care and was surprised to find that everyone at the birth center was genuinely excited about her baby who would be joining her family later this year. She found warmth and compassion and most of all she was pleased to see the clean, cheerful, and well stocked birth room. 

When the pain of her contractions began she made her way to the center. She was allowed to have her husband join her for the labor. She was relaxed and her labor progressed quickly as she received the supportive, kind and compassionate care she had longed for at each of her other deliveries. 

Mary Grace gave birth to a baby boy and wrote the following message to the staff of the birth center. "Thank you very much for a very loving and caring experience. This childbirth was the best. I had a very wonderful and memorable experience giving birth to my baby. I will keep the memory of it for the rest of my life... thank you thank you!"

Not only was Mary Grace's experience a testimony to the care provided by this birth center it was also the only care she would have had access to. As a low income mother she would not have been able to afford the birth fees at the local hospital for this birth, and was considering giving birth at home unattended. Due to the accessibility of a clinic which had removed the barrier of fees for service she was able to have the best birth experience of her life. 

Thank you for supporting kind, compassionate, safe care for mothers and babies in the Philippines. We could not do what we do if it wasn't for the support of individuals like you, who truly want to make a difference in birth outcomes. 

Salamat, salamat po. (thank you, you thank you ma'am or sir)

*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.

A warm welcome for a new little one
A warm welcome for a new little one

Babies born with the help of the Mercy In Action midwives in the Philippines receive a warm welcome, no matter the time of day or night! Midwives are always available to assist a woman in labor, and help make her journey to motherhood more comfortable and empowering. No pregnant woman is ever turned away for lack of ability to pay.

The midwives are trained in all 10 steps of the International MotherBaby Childbirth Initiative (IMBCI), which outlines their care as respectful and evidence-based, and as a part of IMBCI, they are also trained in the UNICEF 10 Steps of Baby Friendly Care, which supports breastfeeding.

Because of their training through Mercy In Action, our midwives proudly reported back from a training they attended in Manila recently:  "We already knew and were implimenting the best-practice information that was being taught in our continuing education training. We Mercy midwives were so proud we knew that already."

Your generous donations help us to support the local midwives here in the Philippines, so that they are able to give a warm welcome to every newborn baby in their care!

Happy MotherBaby pair
Happy MotherBaby pair
Welcome to the world
Welcome to the world


Vicki, Jen and Jennifer at Women
Vicki, Jen and Jennifer at Women's Prison-Olongapo

A few days ago I went on an unusual home visit... to the provincial women's prison to provide prenatal care.

Society often forgets women in prison, even if she is pregnant, which here in the Philippines means she may not get any medical check-ups during pregnancy, and may be subject to disrespectful treatment during labor and birth from overworked and underpaid staff at an overcrowded government hospital.

Mercy In Action is changing that here in Olongapo by reaching out to the local women's prison to give free maternity care, including prenatal exams, pregnancy vitamins, pre-natal testing for HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis B, and medical treatment as needed. After the birth we go back to the prison to follow up with postpartum check-ups.

And when the woman goes into labor? Mercy In Action opens our gates wide to receive the prison wagon that pulls up and brings out the laboring woman in chains. The midwives lovingly greet her and take her inside, where all chains and handcuffs are removed, and she is treated with respect and dignity for the duration of her stay. Our center is the only place where a woman has unrestricted access to her newborn after birth, especially important for a mother who knows in a few days she has to let go. The female guards who accompany the mother often express their praise for this haven of rest and kindness, a kind of bubble for the mother and baby before reality intrudes again all too soon...

...For that is sad part of this story. Babies are not allowed to remain with their mothers once they go back to prison three days after the birth. Here again, Mercy In Action steps up to help arrange for the transfer of the newborn into safe care either with family or in a local baby home. And of course we offer comfort to the mother, who is often grieving to lose her baby in this way. Recently a woman told us "Mercy helped me during my worst time, I will not forget you".

What do you think? How can we help these women even more? We appreciate suggestions, comments and prayers from our donors. Please email us at Without you we would not be able to conduct all the outreach we are currently involved in through our birth center. We love helping pregnant women in prison, and we hope you loved hearing about this compassionate outreach.

Midwife Jen gives so much love to all women!
Midwife Jen gives so much love to all women!


Helping Mother
Helping Mother's Survive Training

This week Mercy In Action added value to numerous birth centers and midwives in the Olongapo area by hosting a training in two new global programs to improve maternity outcomes surrounding childbirth: Helping Babies Breathe, and Helping Mother's Survive.

Trainers from America came to teach alongside the Mercy In Action staff, and participants came from our local area and from other islands in the Philippines.

The training was simple to understand, and was undergirded by practice sessions with dolls and birth simulators.

While the training was going on, babies were being born in our birth center, and women were coming to be seen for prenatal check ups. I love that all the midwives of Mercy In Action are so committed to excellence that they willingly attend every training we sponsor, and then immediately put that new evidence-based learning into practice. 

One of the participants said "This course really gave me confidence that I could save the life of a baby born not breathing, and I can save a woman from dying if she bleeds too much after giving birth".

We were all tired but very happy when the training ended after 10 days, sure that we now have even more skills and knowledge to save the lives and guard the health and well-being of Mothers and Babies in our care.

Helping Babies Breathe Training
Helping Babies Breathe Training

This past year, Mercy In Action midwives were called up to step up above and beyond the normal call of duty, when we divided our attentions between our permanent Birth Center in Olongapo, on Luzon Island, and our disaster response tents on Leyte Island. This was in response to the largest storm the world has ever seen-Super Typhoon Haiyan, known as Yolanda here in the Philippines.  

Because of monitary gifts from UCLA students to Global Giving, Mercy In Action was able to mount a disaster response to help the survivors of  Super Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda.  From last November through Feb 1 of this year, we set up tents to provide both maternity care and emergency medical care for the victums of that horrific natural disaster. 

Jen Bunquin, a Registered Midwife, was one of the Mercy In Action midwives who lived in tents for six weeks to deliver babies at ground zero of that disaster zone. “There were lots of complications (for the mothers),” Bunquin, said. “You can feel the trauma in their hearts. They were scared.”

Here is a breakdown of the medical and maternity care Mercy In Action staff provided during the disaster response:

Total Documented Medical Encounters: 3,616 patients in 65 days!

- Total Deliveries: 116
- Total Primary Health and Wound Care: 1,532
- Total Breastfeeding women fed in ongoing feeding program: 648
- Total pregnant women examined and fed in ongoing prenatal care: 367

Equally important were the midwives we left at home, In Olongapo. Cecille Manaois was one of th Registered Midwives who stayed behind. "Someone needs to hold things together here", Manaois said. 


Three reporters for the UCLA Bruins Newspaper in California came to the Philippines to  interview us and report on how that Global Giving money was spent.  They wrote a wonderful set of six stories, two of which featured the work of Mercy In Action and the midwives we work with. Please open the link in this report and read the news stories they published. 

Blessings and thanks for all our donors do to keep our permanent and our disaster response teams functioning at top levels to give the best maternity care anywhere in the Philippines! 



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Organization Information

Mercy In Action Vineyard, INC

Location: Boise, ID - USA
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Vicki Penwell
Paso Robles, CA United States

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