Meet the King’s med student who founded a charity dedicated to mothers, and one of his volunteers

Aqil Jaigirdar on his baby – the MAA – and Fatnin Mohd Fuad on what it’s like to volunteer for the program

In 2013, Aqil Jaigirdar witnessed the death of both a mother and her child on the operating table in a Bangladeshi hospital. Even as a student, he recognised ways in which this tragedy might have been evaded. He also realised the massive disparity between healthcare in countries like Bangladesh and more prosperous places, such as the UK.

Following this experience, Jaigirdar founded the Maternal Aid Association, a UK-based charity that gives essential care to mothers in developing countries. He told us that he started off the charity for hospitals in Bangladesh, but has developed plans to expand internationally. Medics and non-medics alike can participate, and the team is currently comprised of about 35 students and professionals.

The Tab spoke to Fatnin Mohd Fuad, a 2nd year medical student at King's, answers some questions on her volunteering experience for the MAA:

How did you get involved with MAA and what have you taken from it?

I got involved in MAA through following their Facebook page and attending the talks and events they host throughout the year. I decided to get involved in their overseas initiative, JourneyMaa, to learn more about the maternal health crisis in Bangladesh, and ultimately step out of my comfort zone to experience healthcare in a different setting. [The trip] helped me realise how important my role is as a medical student. It’s so easy to lose focus on the reason you’re studying a subject when you have so many lectures and assignments to do, so projects like this are so important to help you find that focus again.

Do you receive specific training for your trips to Bangladesh or do you only rely on what you learn on your medicine course at KCL?

As a medical student, it definitely helped to know how to take blood pressure, and do basic observations on the pregnant mothers. However, MAA encouraged those not from a healthcare background to be a part of the JourneyMaa team too, as we also delivered educational workshops to mothers and young girls within the health camps.

What's the process for applying for JourneyMaa? How are you chosen?

To be a part of JourneyMaa, you first need to fill out an application form, highlighting why you want to get involved and the skills you have. Then they invite you to a group and panel interview . If you are successful, you are officially invited onto JourneyMaa! The only expense you need to pay for is the flight ticket to Bangladesh. The cost of accommodation, transport, equipment and setting up the health camps is done through a fundraising target you have to reach before the trip – my fundraising target was £800. The great thing about this trip is that it is open to anyone – student or non-student, medic or non-medic, anyone can apply! There will always be a role for you, whether it’s delivering an educational workshop, or coordinating the day’s task, or doing the health checks, there is something for everyone.

What would you say is your most memorable experience with MMA?

There are so many memories that I can reflect on and it brings a smile to my face just thinking about them, but I’ll focus on one. I was at the blood pressure station on the second day of health camps, where I met a grandmother who was accompanying her pregnant daughter. Even though I could not speak a word of Sylheti, nor could she speak English, I shook the grandma’s hand and offered her a seat.

Even though it was one of the busiest days at the health camp and I was rushed off my feet for most of the day, she would smile at me and link arms with me whilst I did my obs. She even bought an amra (a sour fruit with chilli powder and lemon juice sprinkled on top) to give to me. At the end of the day, she was one of the last to leave as she wanted to say goodbye to me, and she ended by saying a prayer for Maa’s success. Even though I was exhausted and sweaty from a busy day at the health camp, it was moments like that which makes it all so worth it.

"Our aim is simple," says Jaigirdar, "it's to revolutionise maternal healthcare in the developing world. Why? Because it is unacceptable for mothers in this day and age to die from preventable conditions. The team knows this is a big vision, but we look forward to making it happen."

MAA's website can be accessed here: www.maacharity.org

Find their Facebook page here.

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