Christina Marchand

Christina Marchand will graduate this week with all the typical memories of late nights and cramming for exams. But she also carries memories of watching women die needlessly in childbirth.

The health studies grad went to Uganda last summer for a work term and by the time she left, she had helped deliver more than 200 babies. But it’s the memory of the mothers who didn’t make it that inspired her to launch FullSoul, a luxury fashion startup that contributes funds to maternal health kits that will help save mothers’ lives in Uganda.

Social entrepreneurship is a win for everyone

“We started out raising funds simply by telling my story,” says Marchand. “But the women of Uganda need more than my story. Mothers around the world need stable, long-term funds to address the gaps in their care. That’s why social entrepreneurship makes so much sense. People can buy clothes they need while contributing to an important cause.”

When Marchand returned to campus after her work term with Save the Mothers, she became involved with the Waterloo’s social startup incubator, GreenHouse, at St. Paul’s University College. It was at GreenHouse that her passion for helping the women and babies of Uganda took shape.

Medical kits will save lives by stopping the spread of infection

She plans to launch FullSoul this summer, offering high-end Canadian-made shirts to consumers. A portion of the sales will go to purchasing medical kits with scissors, needle holders, gloves and forceps for Ugandan hospitals.

Marchand’s co-founder, Hyder Hassan is a Waterloo alumnus from the Faculty of Arts. He says, “Government and non-profit organizations are fantastic but why not create profits to give back to social causes?”

During a talk at the University of Waterloo’s TedxUW conference, Marchand recalled a time when there were three mothers in labour and only five surgical gloves. Gloves can mean the difference between life and death for mothers because they prevent the spread of infection.

Marchand was overjoyed to have helped all three women birth their babies but there is another memory that she shares in her TedxUW talk where a woman died in childbirth. When a despondent Marchand left the clinic to go for a walk, she noticed the woman’s husband and young son were waiting on the curb for news about the new baby. It was crushing, she said, to watch them and realize they didn’t yet know that their mother and wife had just died.

About 800 women around the world die everyday from causes related to pregnancy and childbirth.

“These kinds of tragedies can be prevented,” said Marchand. “I can’t know about this and not do anything.”

Watch her full talk at TedxUW: