Making an Impact One Birth at a Time

St. Paul's GreenHouse

Christina MarchandChristina Marchand has a simple goal: “I want to impact the world. That’s what I want to accomplish. The avenue I’m taking is social enterprise for maternal health.”  Marchand was a UWaterloo co-op student in Health Studies when she spent a work term in Uganda as an intern for a maternal health organization.

“In Canada, 16 women die a year in childbirth. In Uganda, it’s 16 women a day. When you see people passing away in childbirth and you’re right there and there’s nothing you can do, it’s not like watching it on television. You want to get out of that situation, emotionally and physically, but you also want to bring as many people as you can out of that problem too.”

Marchand returned to Canada, determined to make a difference to the mothers and children of Uganda. Social entrepreneurship became her avenue: The proceeds of the fashion items she sells in Canada through her company, FullSoul, purchase medical delivery kits for expectant mothers in Uganda.

Initially, Marchand did not even have a name for what she was doing. It was when Marchand joined the GreenHouse community that she understood that her plan was social entrepreneurship. She emphasizes that she had never operated a business before: “I came in with an idea, not with a business.” Peers and mentors, as well as being immersed in the GreenHouse atmosphere, were the keys to her idea being cultivated and developed “People who are interested in social change sometimes come to GreenHouse not knowing exactly what they want to do or even what their idea is, but  GreenHouse will help bring it out in them.”

Marchand believes that social enterprise is a win-win situation. “People respect that I’m building an enterprise that feeds a social cause. I’m not asking for funds but asking people to purchase something they might purchase anyhow. They feel good about their purchase. The impact is not just in terms of profit but on communities being changed both here and abroad.”

Marchand’s enterprise is measurable in terms of reducing maternal and infant mortality, and reducing transmission of HIV from mother to baby.

“Sometimes I think you need to put yourself in an uncomfortable situation to realize your true potential. Going to Uganda was outside my comfort zone already. Once I started entering into the Ugandan world, I started to feel the discomfort they feel. I was uncomfortable but I found the gaps and wanted to mediate those gaps, to make myself and others more comfortable.

“GreenHouse was also uncomfortable for me at first but it was the catalyst to the change I was trying to make. Without GreenHouse, I would not have succeeded at the rate I was able to succeed at. I could not have done this on my own.“


- Susan Fish is a Waterloo-based writer who operates Storywell, an editing company, and who has two published novels (Seeker of Stars and Ithaca).

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