DXC Cares: Breast milk for babies in need

Mitch Hospital BW

Continuing our sharing of DXC Cares stories, here is another. This time from Mitchelle Tenorio, who with a team of 20 women came together to work and donate their time to improve the quality of life for hospitalized babies and their families.  Read their inspirational story.

Two years ago, when my daughter was a month old, I heard through social media that a grandmother was searching for breast milk for her grandson, Alejandro. The baby’s mother had died the day after delivery. Alejandro had been born prematurely and hospitalized, and he needed the breast milk to increase his chances of survival.

Local mothers and I called to see how we could help — which was when I found out that the only breast milk bank in Costa Rica was empty.

We really wanted to do something to help the family, so we drove two and a half hours to the only breast milk bank. There, we learned that donating breast milk was not so simple. We needed to take blood tests, psychological tests and, after that, have our milk analyzed to see if it passed very strict standards. Then, if everything was OK, we could donate our breast milk following a rigorous process to keep it in perfect condition while in transport.

The next challenge we faced was figuring out how to donate every week for three months, at least 15 ounces of breast milk from each mother. We would have to drive to the donation center every week. And the hospital couldn’t guarantee that our donation would be used for Alejandro; the breast milk would be given to the babies who needed it the most.

Instead of giving up, we got organized and created a foundation called “Fundación Banco de Leche Humana Catalina Vega.” Our first objective was to fill the bank with breast milk so Alejandro would have access to it. Thanks to a huge effort from an entire group of mothers, we achieved that initial objective in only one month!

Our long-term goal was to make it easier for donors to get involved. We created something called “Ruta de la Leche” (Breast Milk Route), which consisted of a central place in San Jose where we placed a freezer. We took turns driving to each of the donor’s houses, picking up milk and delivering it to this freezer, following the strict procedures to transport milk. Every week, one of us took the milk from the freezer to the bank. It worked perfectly!

As the initiative grew, we prepared educational videos to help new donors and opened little “bank branches,” places where drop-off was more convenient. In fact, one of the DXC sites in Costa Rica is one!

We’ve kept the bank full for over two years, and more than 300 hospitalized premature babies have benefited from the breast milk we’ve collected. We’ve learned that more donations are needed closer to the city, so we bought two hospital-grade breast pumps to help the government open a new “bank” in San Jose. After the new bank opens, the Breast Milk Route will continue operating, delivering milk to both locations.

As we worked closely with the public hospitals, we began noticing other needs, so several new projects were born:

  • Couches: We collected unused couches and, following hospital regulations, reupholstered them so that parents staying with hospitalized babies could be more comfortable.
  • Nests: We custom-built special nests to keep premature babies snug when placed in incubators.
  • Incubator black-outs: We provided custom-designed covers for the incubators, allowing doctors to work on the babies while minimizing the amount of light they receive.
  • Ice coolers: We donated over 200 ice coolers to three different hospitals, enabling moms with hospitalized babies to transport their own breast milk without breaking the cold chain.

Our next step is to restore the hospital breastfeeding rooms.

We are a team of 20 women (and their families) with very different backgrounds. But we come together to work and donate our time and knowledge, trying to improve our public hospitals and quality of life for hospitalized babies and their families.

There’s one thing that I’ve become sure of through this rewarding experience: Everyone can help make the world a better place to live.

Mitchelle Tenorio works the Tools and Automation Engineering department at DXC in Costa Rica. A mother of two, she is a driver on one of the Breast Milk Routes and the developer in charge of the foundation website and social networks of the foundation.

DXC Cares recognizes our employee volunteers. Every day, DXC employees volunteer their time to make a difference in people’s lives. Check out more DXC Cares stories on Facebook.

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