Yale Bulletin and Calendar

February 9, 2007|Volume 35, Number 17















Women's ice hockey captain Kristin Savard (center) inspired her roommates Meg Gill (left), captain of the Yale women's swimming team, and Lindsay Levin (right), captain of the women's lacrosse team, to join in her efforts to improve maternal health in developing countries.

'Goals for Goals' is boosting awareness
of maternal health issues

After she learned this past summer that nearly 600,000 people from across the globe die each year from complications related to pregnancy, Yale senior Kristin Savard couldn't shake the feeling that there was something she could do to help diminish those deaths.

While pondering ways she could contribute to the cause of improving maternal health, Savard realized she could help simply by doing what she already does (and loves): playing hockey.

The captain of the Yale women's ice hockey team, she recently founded "Teaming Up," an initiative to raise awareness for improving maternal health in the developing world. She then enlisted the support of team members to begin "Goals for Goals," a Teaming Up campaign that encourages Bulldogs fans to pledge a donation for each goal the women's ice hockey team scores this season.

The donations will enable women of the Keiskamma community in South Africa to take part in the UbuMama arts project, an initiative in which women join together to create a maternity gown that depicts, in both words and images, the challenges of motherhood in their communities. The garments are then used to gain global support for improving maternal health in the developing world by bringing mothers' stories of giving birth into public view. UbuMama, the Zulu word for "motherhood," has already been implemented successfully in six communities in Africa and Asia. Women in Keiskamma have wanted to begin the project in their community but have lacked the necessary funds.

Inspired by Savard's "Goals for Goals" campaign, her roommate, Meg Gill, who is captain of the Yale women's swimming team, joined in the cause by organizing a swim-a-thon. Thirty swimmers each swam 160 laps on the morning of Jan. 14 to raise $2,000 -- about the cost of implementing UbuMama in a community. Another roommate, Lindsay Levin, who is captain of the women's lacrosse team, plans to start a "Goals for Goals" campaign with her team's fans during the spring season.

"As athletes, we have limited time to dedicate to community service, even though many of us would like to be engaged," says Savard. "The 'Goals for Goals' campaign is one way we can do that. It motivates us to work hard in our sport and draws on an ability we've already developed and value -- to work together as a team for a greater cause than ourselves."

Savard became aware of the issue of maternal health while working over the summer for Imagine Chicago, a non-profit organization that partners with individuals and local organizations to design and implement innovative civic projects. Savard's responsibilities included documenting projects around the globe that are inspired by the Imagine Chicago model, such as Imagine Nepal, Imagine Calgary and Imagine Cape Town, as well as editing a book about Imagine Chicago's approach to community involvement. She also traveled with Imagine Chicago's president and Yale alumnus Bliss Browne to conferences that dealt with topics such as sustainable cities and social development.

"Imagine Chicago started UbuMama with the White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood and an NGO called Creative South Africa," says Savard. "The project allows women to empower each other while also raising awareness through their creation of the maternity gown, thereby bringing people together to start a political movement."

The Yale senior has also devoted herself to learning more about the issue of maternal health in developing nations. With another roommate, Gypsy Moore, Savard traveled to Washington, D.C., to meet with the Global Health Council and the World Health Organization to learn about these groups' efforts to reduce maternal mortality.

On her Teaming Up website, Savard notes that 99% of maternal deaths occur in developing countries. Improving maternal health is one of the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals, but little progress has been made since the goals were established in 2005, according to Savard.

"Maternal mortality represents the largest discrepancy between developed and developing nations," the Yale student says. "Most of these deaths are preventable or treatable with proper access to health resources. Unfortunately, this is not only an issue of resources but of social development. Empowering women to take control of their own bodies and lives and encouraging open dialogue within communities is an important part of remedying this situation."

Savard learned through her research that social constraints in many developing countries prevent women from going to hospitals to deliver their babies. When telling their stories on maternity gowns, many of the women describe being assisted during birth by untrained midwives. Others tell how a trip to the hospital can take more than a day.

"Some of the women see their pregnancy as being sorcery," says Savard. "They think that their health while pregnant and whether or not their child survives are out of their control. A challenge is to encourage them to re-think some of these beliefs."

Savard, who is majoring in political science, was recently named one of five finalists for the Hockey Humanitarian Award, presented annually to college hockey's "finest citizen." The Yale women's hockey team is now the only program in the country -- men's or women's -- to have had three finalists in the last eight years. (Deanna McDevitt '03 and Julianna Schantz-Dunn '00 were Yale's other honorees). The 12th recipient of the Hockey Humanitarian Award will be named in a ceremony being held during the 2007 Men's "Frozen Four."

In addition to her work on Teaming Up, Savard is in her second year serving on Yale's Thomas W. Ford '42 Student-Athlete Community Outreach Committee, organized to create ties between Yale Athletics and New Haven residents. She and her teammates participated in an annual holiday toy drive that is one of the committee's projects. She also helped organize two annual Yale Athletics Youth Days, which bring local children onto Yale's campus to use its athletic facilities with coaching from student athletes. Among other activities, she and her teammates have also participated in the annual Relay for Life to raise money for the American Cancer Society.

An ECAC All-Star selection last season, Savard is currently tied for seventh all-time at Yale in assists and is eighth in points. In her sophomore year, she won the Yale Coaches Award, given to the player who has shown the most grit and determination during the season.

She hopes that by the end of the ice hockey season this month, her team's "Goals to Goals" campaign -- together with donations from the swim-a-thon -- will have raised enough money to fund a second UbuMama project in a developing nation. At press time, the team had scored a total of 69 goals.

Her next ambition is to expand Teaming Up to include teams and athletes at other colleges and universities.

Whether or not she is ultimately chosen the winner for the Hockey Humanitarian Award, the Yale student says she views her selection as a finalist as a tribute to her entire team.

"It's a surprising honor for which I cannot take full credit," comments Savard. "The success of 'Goals for Goals' has really depended on my team. I'm really proud that my teammates -- and other Yale athletes -- have so eagerly taken up the cause for mothers' health."

-- By Susan Gonzalez

For more information on "Teaming Up," visit http://teamingup.googlepages.com. To make a donation, send an e-mail to teaming-up@gmail.com.


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