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Meet our Volunteer: Denys Sanchez

May 9, 2019

The Compañeras program connects at-risk pregnant Latinas with bilingual, bicultural volunteer birth coaches. Compañera volunteers provide emotional support and community connections and help to ensure prenatal and postnatal doctor visits. They act as advocates and interpreters before, during and after birth to ensure positive birth experiences and healthy mother-child
bonding, which is essential to infant and parent well-being.

Denys Sanchez is a local mother of two young children and a nursing student.

She is also incredibly familiar with the challenges that immigrant mothers face as they work hard to create a good life for their families because when Denys was young, her mother was a client at Canal Alliance. She remembers what it felt like to be supported by a community during the times when it was difficult to put food on the table or when they needed trustworthy legal advice.

So when Denys decided to pursue an education in Nursing, she knew that she wanted to give back to the community that had supported her family.

In 2017, Denys joined Compañeras, a unique program in Marin, which provides peer birth support to monolingual Spanish speaking women in the Latino community. Volunteers in this program are matched with expectant mothers who lack the support systems and access to resources during their pregnancy and childbirth that can affect the health of both the mother and the baby.

Of the 7 mothers that Denys has been matched with, she’s quick to recount the story of a woman who came to Marin late in her pregnancy. She arrived in late November with only the clothes she was wearing and sandals on her feet. The only person she knew in Marin was her father, who had worked hard to bring her to the U.S. Denys quickly jumped into action to help her find clothes for herself and the baby, a safe crib and car seat, and then joined the expectant mother at her first prenatal appointment in the States to serve as a translator and a friend. It was during this appointment, when the mother was 8 months pregnant, that doctors were finally able to identify that the concerns she had about having a “small belly” were due to a high-risk complication. Thanks to Denys’ work as an advocate on behalf of this scared mother, the baby came just a few days before Christmas under the care of a capable team of doctors.

Denys is proud to say that she still receives cards and birthday pictures from the mothers she’s been matched with and that watching these babies grow has had a profound effect on her and her family. Although she began volunteering with Compañeras in order to help her learn more about her future career, the time that she has spent with these mothers has changed her life. She knows that being able to serve as everything from a translator, educator, and pain management coach to a hand-holder and birth photographer has made a difference for these mothers and has given her work meaning.

Gracias, Denys and all of our Compañeras for the work that you do to empower new mothers in our community. To learn more about becoming a Compañera, please visit our Volunteer Opportunities.

To support the work that Canal Alliance does, please consider making a gift in honor of strong mothers everywhere this Mother’s Day.

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