One letter sent two decades ago has saved or changed the lives of hundreds of thousands of pregnant women and babies. The exiled Tibetan government wrote the letter to humanitarian organization ReSurge seeking cleft lip and palate surgery for refugee children. Volunteer Arlene Samen, a maternal-fetal medicine nurse practitioner at the University of Utah, responded. The correspondence led to Arlene meeting the Dalai Lama, going to Tibet and seeing the void of maternal healthcare, and then launching her nonprofit, One Heart Worldwide.
At the time, 1 in 10 newborn babies in Lhasa, Tibet, died. One in 100 pregnant women died in childbirth. Arlene felt compelled to help, but knew the right way to do so required respect for local culture and cooperation with Tibetans. Through One Heart Worldwide, Arlene and her team established a self-sustaining “Network of Safety” model to provide proper care for pregnant women and newborns. The model includes establishing birthing centers, training midwives, government partnerships, and other support.
The mission is to make sure all women have access to a skilled and safe delivery
After the Tibetan uprising in 2008 forced all nonprofits out of Tibet, Arlene took One Heart Worldwide’s model to Nepal, where it still operates. Since its inception, the nonprofit has:
- Supported 277,000+ pregnancies
- Upgraded 400+ birthing centers
- Trained 14,000+ female community health volunteers
- Witnessed maternal mortality drop by 88% in Nepal’s Dolpa District and 90% in the Baglung District;
- Witnessed neonatal mortality drop by 81% in Nepal’s Dolpa District and 92% in Baglung District
One Heart Worldwide joined Bank of the West in 2019 when Arlene learned about the bank’s investments in social good and sustainability. She also says the bank’s large, international network was a benefit, too. Bank of the West is part of BNP Paribas’ global banking network operating in more than 70 countries.
“We do a lot of transactions internationally,” she says, “so that was very important to us.”
But, of course, there’s more to banking than transactions.
“Bank of the West is not just a place that holds our money,” Arlene says. “They’re doing good, we’re doing good, and we’re doing it together.”
Learn more about Bank of the West’s actions on sustainability and our global reach here.