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Mama Maisha: Saving Lives Two by Two

(Photo courtesy of Mama Maisha—all rights reserved)


By Natascha van Aalst Leitner

With the season of giving upon us, it is helpful to know there are several worthwhile venues for charitable offerings. One such organization is Mama Maisha, an Asheville-based nonprofit that is focused on reducing the maternal mortality rate in Tanzania. There will be an opportunity to learn about—and contribute to—this project on December 12 at an event titled “Celebration of Safe Motherhood.”

Reta Graham, a local OB/GYN and project cofounder, explains, “Mama Maisha saves lives two by two. Tanzania has one of the highest maternal mortality ratios in the developing world… One pregnant woman dies every single hour in Tanzania. And if a mother dies, her infant is much more likely to die, as well.”

The focus of Mama Maisha includes training community women in the rural areas as Maternal Health Advocates (MHAs) who facilitate women’s groups in their home villages, organize community events, make home visits, and promote public health topics. Their groups serve as venues for education, social support, and community action.

Reta and her husband Jeff, also a physician, travel to Tanzania twice yearly, and are excited about the first community action event here Asheville. The goal of the event is to raise awareness about collaboration between local Asheville businesses and global populations with limited resources, and raise the funds necessary to expand Mama Maisha’s work.

Reta explains, “Ten dollars can pay for a safe birth kit that our MHAs give to pregnant mothers who often deliver without any skilled care. Thirty dollars supports one month’s salary for one of our community health workers. With five hundred dollars, we can hire and train ten new MHAs; and with two thousand dollars, we can add three new villages to our program.

“Mama Maisha believes that the death of a mother is not only a health issue, but is also a human rights violation…”

Mama Maisha’s “Celebration of Safe Motherhood” will be held at a private residence in Montford (from 6:30–8:30 p.m. on Saturday, December 12). Food and beverages will be provided by local supporters: Corner Kitchen Catering, The French Broad Chocolate Lounge, and Oskar Blues Beer. For an invitation to this event, email Reta Graham at For more information, visit

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