Undergraduate Research: Kelly Toner Presents her Work to Midwives for Haiti Board

Honors nursing student Kelly Toner is creating a volunteer orientation module for Midwives for Haiti for her honors thesis. Last week, she traveled to their headquarters in Richmond, Va. to present her work. You can read more about Kelly in this profile.

I went to show them my honors research project, but instead, they showed me the world…

This weekend I got the opportunity to travel to Richmond, Virginia to participate in the Midwives for Haiti Executive Board Retreat. I have been working on an online volunteer orientation module for the organization, and one of the things I got to do on this trip included meeting with the volunteer coordinator to present the initial draft of the module, receive feedback, and learn about how to make it more effective. Although my time with the volunteer coordinator was invaluable, the most impacting and awe-inspiring aspect of the weekend was meeting all of the people who are so intricately involved in this organization. I have never been around a more intelligent, world-minded group of people, and their love for the people of Haiti and dedication to enacting change at any cost was simply amazing.

Kelly Toner (5th from the right) with the Executive Board of Midwives for Haiti

The vision of Midwives for Haiti is that every Haitian woman would receive prenatal care and that her infant would be delivered by a skilled birth attendant. The methods used to fulfill this vision include training Haitian nurses to be skilled birth attendants, a position defined by the World Health Organization, who can provide competent and effective obstetric care through Midwives for Haiti’s education program located in Hinche, Haiti. Midwives for Haiti has also created mobile clinics that provide prenatal care and basic education of pregnancy to Haitian women in the rural areas and is in the process of building birth centers in more rural areas of Haiti to increase the number of facilities that can provide care. The executive board consists of midwives, social workers, obstetricians, family practice physicians, and university faculty. This mix of people allows for a huge range of issues, points of views, and solutions. The amazing thing about this group is that almost every single person on the executive board has a full-time job in addition to their commitment to Midwives for Haiti. Their dedication to this organization and resources spent in an effort to see the organization’s goals succeed and expand taught me a huge lesson: you don’t have to be someone special to enact change. These are real people who simply saw a need and began thinking of ways to fill that need; the sacrifices they have each made for this organization and the people of Haiti are the reason Midwives for Haiti has been so successful.

The trip to Virginia proved itself a once-in-a-lifetime experience for more reasons than I can recount here. I thought it would be a trip to present my work, receive feedback and more information to finish my honors research project, and to meet the executive board members. I never dreamed I would be so inspired by the people I met there, that this trip

Kelly with Kirsty the 'in-country' person for Midwives for Haiti.

would give me direction for my future, that the people would teach me so much about sacrifice and how to create significant change, and that the world would literally open up like a book before my eyes. I am grateful beyond belief for my honors research project. It has not only proved an opportunity to network with amazing people and to learn about an area that I am interested in pursuing as a career, but it has changed my view of the world and has inspired me to aspire to things greater than I have ever dreamed. You don’t have to be someone huge to do something amazing and impacting. Ordinary people making extraordinary sacrifices not only can but WILL create change.


After this trip, my college plans have changed/expanded/broadened. I plan to pursue a master’s degree in public health and would love to work for a big international health organization to create lasting, sustainable change in developing countries.


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