Learning and sharing knowledge in South Korea

Written by Founder, Melinda Cruz

Back in October, Miracle Babies received an email from Korea Food for the Hungry International (KFHI) with a request to visit our offices in Sydney and learn more of what we do.

Operating as a Non Government Organisation for more than 30 years, KFHI’s primary work involves providing foreign aid, however, in more recent years, they have also turned their attention domestically including to the support of families in South  Korea who experience the birth of an extremely premature baby.    

Following this initial meeting, Kylie Pussell (our CEO and Co-Founder) and I were invited by KFHI to fly to Seoul, South Korea to attend the 2019 KFHI Health Symposium to share the work of the Foundation including a request for insights on how to set up and sustain a professional parent program.  

Just 5 short weeks later, Kylie and I found ourselves for our first time in the countries incredible capital and across the next 6 days, KFHI Team Leader Jungmin Oh and his team were our hosts. 

 

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2019 KFHI Health Symposium 

Since 1970 Korea has seen a declining birth rate (0.98) however the rate of prematurity has increased (8%). 7 years ago, after recognising the gap in services after discharge, KFHI designed a program for Korea's earliest babies and their families.  

With synergies matching our very own NurtureGroups, their Dodam Center program operates every fortnight for discharged families of babies born under 1500 grams for their first 24 months of life. Babies who require more care then move to individual care up until 30 months and then all babies enter into general care.  

As the only 2 non Korean speaking people in the room, we have to say a special thank you to our translators who helped us hear from the variety of conference speakers. This included the President of the Korean Society of Neonatology, the allied health and developmental care experts working with the families and the programs sponsor.   

 

Some points taken away from the day include: 

-          Like most parents of babies born early, the most parent identified fear was their baby’s development

-          24 months was chosen for the program due to language development being an important index 

-          To date 65 babies and their families have been supported 

-          Part of the need to support families from traumas is so they go on to have second babies 

-          Music therapy is a big part of the program to help assist emotionally and physically such as heart rate and sleeping and also promotes more interaction with the mother

-          Groups are held on weekends so that fathers and working mothers can also attend 

-          Parents given homework to practice activities at home then go back for checkups

-          Long term projects ideas beyond early development to elementary school

-          Government policy needs to be changed to decrease the financial burden to families 

-          Pathways with governments and hospitals are being created but needs to continue

-          Need to learn new ways to raise awareness and promote their program to parents

-          Ultilising knowledge of Miracle Babies Foundations work to model and grow programs 

 

A survey of parents in the program revealed:

-          Mothers unsure about breastfeeding and the need identified for more support

-          Parents less likely to take their babies to public events

-          Groups sessions shown to increase life quality and decrease depression in parents 

-          Parents wanted more time in the program and wanted the additional of more diverse programs

-          93% of families who completed the 24 month program were satisfied and felt it was beneficial to their baby  

 

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Dodam Center Graduation and Christmas Party 

Never one to miss an opportunity for cuddles, it was an absolute pleasure to be guests at this years end of year Christmas celebrations for the graduates of the program.

Oh my gosh we feel in love with the room filled with babies and toddlers who all had such a tough start to life. It was heartwarming to see certificates and awards given to every graduate, now a gorgeous 2 year old.

One award that stuck in our minds was the one acknowledging those families with perfect or almost perfect attendance to the fortnightly groups over the 24 months – truly a testament to the value parents and their babies receive from the group  and the opportunity to be connected to each other and the extra support available for their growing premmies.  

 

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Kyung Hee University Hospital NICU Tour  

Our trip would not have been complete without a visit to a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. The NICU  at Kyung Hee University Hospital was so welcoming showing us their level 2 and level 3 units. As mothers of premature babies ourselves, it was heartbreaking to learn that due to infection control, policy only allows parents 2 half an hour sessions with their babies each day (1.30pm-2.00pm and 7.30pm-8.00pm). In comparison, Australian parents have 24 hour access to their babies whilst in hospital.  Understanding the disconnect, the beautiful staff play recordings of the mothers talking or singing to her baby or babies. It was amazing to learn that all NICU babies are given donor breastmilk through a central milk bank should their mothers own milk not be available. Something some Australian hospitals and the babies they care for are yet to have access to.    

In addition to these events, Kylie and I spent one on one time with the KFHI team responsible for this program sharing in more detail Miracle Babies Foundations history, programs, and awareness, advocacy and sustainability strategies.  KFHI have dreams to roll out their program nationwide and help as many families as possible and they have our full support. We look forward to a long friendship between our organisations.

Humbling, the spoiling by the KFHI team didn’t stop at the Symposium and the time spent on talking about programs. They also spent an extraordinary amount of time showing us what their beautiful city has to offer and despite the temperature toggling between -7°C and -2°C most days, Kylie and I  were captivated by the people, the food and the sights. This included breathtaking views from 63 Building, shopping at night and underground markets and a tour of Gyeongbokgung Palace.

Safe to say we both have fallen in love with this incredible place.  

Author

Miracle Babies Foundtaion

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