Following the advice of the local leaders in Nkokonjeru, we held a presentation followed by an open discussion in the community center. Parents from the twelve villages were invited by mobilizers who spread the word from home to home, local radio, church and mosque announcements. More than 150 parents and babies attended and participated in the meeting where HB was presented by the team, local leaders gave speech, and Happy Baby Ambassadors took the chance to share their experiences. National TV Channels were on site to record the meeting and Happy Baby was on the news the next evening on Bukedde TV! Feel free to watch and share the TV broadcast below!
Happy Baby Ambassadors are selected families from each village in Nkokonjeru to receive a Happy Baby carrier together with the first Baby Carrying Benefits training. Their role in the process includes using the carrier in long term during their daily activities, giving us feedback on possible improvements, spreading the knowledge of benefits of baby carrying in their village and allowing us to monitor the impact of Happy Baby in their lives.
Ambassadors are selected by the local leaders and the mobilizers of the 12 villages in Nkokonjeru. Some are among the role model families in their communities, where fathers are supportive to the children’s’ development, while some are mothers who take on the responsibility of the household.
After the general education meeting, distribution of the carriers took place in the individuals’ homes in order to include the fathers as much as possible. Likewise, we were able reach most of the fathers who did not attend the initial meeting; and we practiced using the carrier together with mothers and fathers to make sure every parent learned how to put on the Happy Baby Carrier.
Ambassador Babies vary in age and size, including infants in their 3rd weeks to toddlers in their 2nd years, some with normal and others with low birth weights. As families agreed to take on the responsibility of using Happy Baby carrier, we could not wait to monitor the usage and its impact.
Spreading out information about Happy Baby pilot project and knowledge on baby wearing benefits in Nkokonjeru requires a well-structured mobilization with the help of recommended community members. Meetings started with the hospital where doctors and nurses showed a great interest and where Happy Baby is now invited to present the baby carriers and baby wearing benefits posters on immunization days, when parents from both nearby and remote villages come with their babies.
With the recommendations from the town council, leaders of all 12 villages are invited to hear about Happy Baby and to get permission and support on reaching out to parents in their villages. These leaders are then connected with mobilizers in each village, who are assigned to move from house to house to identify the first Happy Baby Ambassadors – selected families to receive the first Happy Baby Carriers and baby wearing benefits education.
The first Happy Baby Ambassador, identified by old wise women in the community, is the Katongole family, consisting of a mother, a father and two daughters – parents having a variety of occupations including teaching, gardening, cleaning and learning hair dressing.
Katongole family is currently followed everyday to monitor the usage of the carrier with both of their kids - at the age of 2 years and 1.5 months. Being a respected and good example family in the community, their photos are taken to be in posters and instruction guides of Happy Baby. As the first Happy Baby Ambassadors, Mr. and Mrs. Katongole use every opportunity to talk about the benefits of baby carrying, while the kids enjoy being bonded with their parents.
After hectic days of packing, the design team is off to Uganda to collaborate with Josephine Nalugo, Children in Africa Breastfeeding Support, and kick off the pilot phase of Happy Baby in Nkokonjeru!
The pilot phase of Happy Baby Project starts with opening a demo stitchery in Nkokonjeru Town Council where tailors will be trained to make and sell baby carriers, engaging different roles in the community – such as local authorities, religious leaders, midwives & health care clinic officers, wise elder women&men - to spread the knowledge of benefits of baby carrying and distributing carriers to selected families who will be the first Happy Baby Ambassadors.
Nkokonjeru is a town in the Buiwe District of Central Uganda, where both rural and urban life can be experienced. Being Josephine’s home town and Children in Africa Breastfeeding Support’s main operation area, the site allows us to access its leaders which is the key to succeed in creating ownership of the project in the community. We started with meeting the Community Development Officer Acting Clerk, Town Council Accountant, Mayor and Women Councelor to give information about Happy Baby and to get their permission and involvement to operate in Nkokonjeru. Following their suggestions, we scheduled a presentation of Happy Baby in the Community Center where everyone in the neighbor 12 villages will be invited through mobilizers and radio announcements.
Engaging the leaders continued with meeting old wise women in the community, who usually consult young mothers in villages during their pregnancy and motherhood. With their feedback on how to communicate the advantages of Happy Baby Carrying, which we have boiled down to 5 main benefits, we learned the necessity of translating them to Luganda. Thanks to the network of IBFAN Uganda, we could reach the right person for this task, an experienced midwife and national translator who could fully understand the content.
Meanwhile, we visited our future workspace where we will set up the demo Happy Baby Stitchery, make and sell baby carriers, train neighbor village tailors to become Happy Baby Entrepreneurs and give baby wearing benefits education to different community members. The sewing machines are already bought and assembled!
Semra Teyze is yet another Happy Baby hero! Grandmother of one of our test users, baby Yunus, she has tried wearing Happy Baby Carrier before and was excited to replicate one for Yunus. She was given the Happy Baby Templates to replicate a carrier using her sewing machine at home.
Keep being happy Yunus!
During the final refinement phase of Happy Baby Carrier, we have been busy with developing the templates which can be used by tailors to replicate carriers fast and easily. The first tailor to use these templates and produce our carriers is Selahattin Usta. He has the task to make 20 carriers which we will take to Uganda and distribute to our initial users, whom we call: Happy Baby Ambassadors.
As an experienced tailor, Selahattin Usta could easily understand the ‘how to make’ guideline and use the templates to make about 5 carriers per day: much faster than us!
After returning from Uganda, we have been developing the Happy Baby carrier with the help of families volunteering to be test users. We met baby Rebecca when she was only a month old and she was brave enough to try out the first prototypes of Happy Baby! During the past months, Rebecca and her family was visited several times as the design has evolved with their feedback.
“It has been exciting to follow the design process and test the different prototypes. It has made me very happy to think that Rebecca and I might be in a small way helping parents in Uganda and other countries connect to and safely carry their babies,” says mother Jade.
As we continued the design, we decided to give Rebecca and her family our final baby carrier model along with the ‘Happy Baby Experience Kit.’ During the past weeks, Jade has been sending us photos of their experience and feedback on the long-term usage of the carrier. Rebecca is now five months old and she can be carried both in the front and on the back.
“Rebecca likes to be close to us and observe the world around her from her higher vantage point. It is soothing for her to be carried and she happily will take a nap while in the baby carrier,” adds Jade, as Rebecca looks at me with curious eyes.
It has been a very exciting and an emotional process to follow Rebecca grow up reaping the benefits of being close to her parents, facilitated by the carrier we made with our own hands:)