EMU alumna’s SALT term gives birth to new career

Tessa Gerberich, a 2013 EMU alumna, works with new mothers and their babies at a clinic run by Faith Alive Foundation in Jos, Nigeria. Names of mother and baby are withheld due to patient confidentiality. (Photo courtesy of Tessa Gerberich)

Twenty-three-year-old Tessa Gerberich from Myerstown, Pa., hoped to have the opportunity to help deliver at least one baby during her year-long service term in Jos, Nigeria. To date, she’s helped to deliver 25.

“Helping women deliver their babies leaves me in awe of the simple, yet complex miracle of birth,” said Gerberich, who studied nursing at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Va.

Gerberich had this privilege through her participation in Serving and Learning Together (SALT), Mennonite Central Committee (MCC)’s international service program for young adults from Canada and the U.S. She is one of 13 SALT participants from the East Coast region finishing their one-year assignments in July 2014.

She serves at a clinic run by Faith Alive Foundation, an organization that provides free, holistic health care to about 10,000 people each month. In addition to helping with births, Gerberich staffs an antenatal clinic for expectant mothers and cares for adults and children living with HIV and AIDS.

Gerberich, who is a member of Little Swatara Church of the Brethren in Bethel, Pa., said that her experience at Faith Alive has shaped her both personally and professionally.

Before her SALT term, she was uncertain about whether to continue education as a family nurse practitioner or to train as a nurse midwife. Now, because of her experience working with mothers at Faith Alive, she hopes to train as a midwife soon after returning to the U.S.

She dreams of one day teaching other nursing or midwifery students, perhaps in international contexts. She said, “I want to bring nursing students to places like this and walk with them through their experience.”

In Jos, Gerberich goes to church with the family of one of the first babies she helped to deliver, and she recently attended the child’s congregational dedication service.

Watching the dedication, Gerberich was “grateful for the baby’s life and for having a part in welcoming him into the world.”

During her final months at Faith Alive, Gerberich will work with Monika Neufeld, a SALT participant from Winkler, Manitoba, to develop a curriculum to serve as a resource for Faith Alive’s antenatal program. She hopes that doing so will allow her to give back to the community that has taught her so much.

Courtesy of Mennonite Central Committee, June 9, 2014