Sister Dannelene Noach is a wonderful and inspiring woman with a real heart for empowering people. She has been a nurse for 44 years and is currently based at the Mitchells Plain District Hospital where we had a conversation with her about the work that she does, how she got where she is, her one wish and other nuggets of gold in between.
Please tell us a bit about your background, where you grew up, etc.?
I am one of eight children, born and raised in the rural Western Cape on a mission station. My father was the headmaster of the school at the mission. The nearest town was Malmesbury so we went to High School there. I am now a professional nurse with a great love and passion for women and health issues affecting them. I enjoy sewing and knitting in my spare time and would love to transfer these skills to other women in the community.
You’ve mentioned that you’re a mom. Can you tell us a bit about your children?
Yes, I’ve got a son and a daughter. I also have a granddaughter.
What drew you to nursing?
My mother was a teacher but because of the struggles in the community in which I grew up, both my parents were involved in community work. My mother was delivering babies although she was never a qualified midwife. Maybe her own eight children gave her the knowledge to deliver.
She once asked me “don’t you want to be a midwife one day?”
So we, my sister and I, used to accompany my mother when she had to go deliver babies during the night. Most of the time, my mother was asking me to go with her. I was the one who made fires for the water because the water must be warm to bath the baby and all these things. So because of my mother and father’s love for people, most of us in our family took it on.
Please tell us a bit about the community in which you work?
Mitchell’s Plain has different layers. There are different socio-economic levels and all the sins of the world are in this community. Drug addiction, high crime rate and high birth rate – we see it here. Burden of disease – we see it all in this hospital.
And what would you say a day in the life of Sr Noach looks like? What does your job entail?
I lead a team and I must make sure that everyone in the team has the correct knowledge and that they have the correct attitude towards the people we are caring for. In a normal day of my life, the most important thing for me is people. When I get out of bed I thank the Lord for waking me up. When I get to work, I meet the staff I am working with and we start with prayer, irrespective of what religion you follow. We then update one another on what happened the last couple of hours. Most of our day-to-day work includes delivering babies and providing care for both the babies and their mothers.
What are some of the additional ways in which you support moms?
The hospital runs initiatives to support women such as the Mother and Baby Friendly Initiative, PMTCT (Preventing Mother To Child Transmission) initiative, and the First 1000 days initiative which has an element of community outreach. I cannot work here and not have my hand in the community. I really love community work.
How did the idea of the baby wraps come about and why is Skin-to-Skin so important?
The wraps were inspired by the mother and baby friendly initiative. When the baby is skin to skin with the mother it emulates the feeling of still being inside the womb for the baby. The baby feels your heart rate, he or she hears your voice and feels your body temperature. The best place for growth and development for the baby is on the mother’s chest because it’s the most heated area of the body. Baby-wearing also makes breastfeeding easier for the mother. So because we understand the value of skin-to-skin between mother and baby, I take the time to source the material and we (my friend and I) work together, cutting and sewing the wraps in the evenings after work.
How is it currently being funded?
We host raffles to acquire the materials. The hospital has supported us twice with monetary donations to buy the material and accessories we need to make the wraps, but most of the time it’s on us to make it happen.
What is the vision of this project?
I want this to grow to a point where it empowers women in the community, showing them how easy it to make these wraps and use the skill to earn an income for themselves. I would like to see this growing as a project that is helping up-skill the women in the community.
If you could have one wish come true what would that be?
My one wish would be to have women empowered so that they can unleash their own potential to reach their destiny.
For people who would like to support you, how can they do so?
Donations (knitting needles for the blankets we make for the new babies, wool, sewing materials, sewing machines etc.) would be a great way to support this. I would also greatly appreciate people taking their time to transfer their sewing or knitting skills to other women in Mitchell’s Plain so we can grow this project and ensure every baby benefits from skin to skin care.
To get in touch with Sr Noah, you can email her on Dannelene.Noach@westerncape.gov.za
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