SEBRING — From her early college days volunteering to provide emotional support to abused children and incarcerated women, Sebring resident Aisha Alayande saw a need for what she calls “community wellness.”
“I’m very focused on justice for all,” Alayande explained, noting her early experiences cemented a belief in strong family foundations.
After moving to the area in 2008, she volunteered as a maternal advocate with the Healthy Start program. Drawing on her history working with youth and endangered families, she became executive director of Drug Free Highlands in 2011. Now, Alayande is focusing on Back Chat.
This town hall-style meeting, focused on mental health in the community, is scheduled at 6 p.m. on May 5 at a location yet to be determined. By encouraging the community to speak out on pressing issues, Alayande hopes it will remove stigma. “We want people to become involved in a change for the better,” Alayande explained.
Comparing mental illness to other chronic diseases such as diabetes or heart disease, Alayande noted that while those who suffer from these conditions routinely seek care and it’s understood, mental health disorder patients find little support.
“If people could be more aware of how their mental health affects daily life, they will be more likely to seek treatment,” she said.
Noting how many struggle throughout adulthood from traumas experienced in youth, she added, “We need to help people deal with their issues to prevent the baggage from impacting the next generation.”
She is passionate about it. “It’s so selfish, really,” she said. “I want to be in an environment that is loving and healthy and I want anywhere my children reside to be a loving, healthy community.”
This is also why Alayande started the Blissful Doula Project. “I received a grant and donations from Healthy Start, RCMA and Choices Pregnancy Center and was able to give scholarships to five local women to become doulas. The only requirement was for them to provide services in the community free of charge.”
Doulas, or birth companions, are specially trained, non-medical support personnel who attend childbirth to assist the mother.
Whether they are helping manage pain non-medically or reminding the spouse of supportive techniques, this somewhat trendy idea has roots as ancient as birth itself.
“They also assist afterwards,” explained Alayande. Complementing the medical care team, they offer breastfeeding support and education.
“A doula’s presence benefits everyone working with that mother,” she explained. “Doulas respect the environment as a whole and provide a complement to any others providing care as we know they too appreciate the birth experience.”
Birth is a sacred according to Alayande, who hopes every woman experiences a loving and supported birth. “It’s empowering to bring a human into the world,” she said. As a mother of seven, who has experienced natural childbirth in the hospital, a Cesarean for twins, later followed by two home births, she wanted to use her experience to provide support to other women.
From her passion for community wellness, to her efforts as a doula and her line of herbal teas and products known as The Healing Pot, Alayande wants more for women.
“We need to be better with how we speak to and see ourselves,” she encouraged. “Our daughters are watching. Let them see our profound magic.”
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