Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Please Help to Save Lives in Narumu Village, Tanzania

I have been working on this nonprofit project for a while now, finally everything is put together and I can introduce it to my friends and ask you all to help.

This is a very specific nonprofit, it aims to help the pregnant mothers in a remote village from Tanzania. The name of the village is Narumu, it's on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro. The village has more than 226,000 residents, averagely 23 newborns everyday, but zero health care for women and newborns, there is not even one clinic equipped enough to deliver babies. Women and babies often die from simple infection occurred during birth. If there is unforeseen complication, there is not enough time to reach the hospital 50 miles away because no road and no transportation.

When I gave birth to Shiva at Alta Bates hospital in 2014, I stayed there a few days for recovery, that was when I met Dorothy Mboya, the woman from the village of Narumu, who desperately wants to help her people back in Tanzania. Dorothy was a nurse for postpartum at Alta Bates, she was telling everyone about her initiative and trying to get help. While checking my temperature and giving me painkillers, I also got to know her story.

It is not easy for a woman like her to start up a nonprofit organization. Believe it or not, there was no lack of people who tried to take advantage of her. To file the company registration documents, she paid 3000 dollars to someone who barely helped. A friend of a co-worker promised to open an Etsy account for the handcrafts made by women in Narumu, but ran away with the whole suitcase of precious handmade jewelries worth of 2000 dollars. However Dorothy wasn't put down and she did not stop trying.

To stick with a nonprofit at its very early stage, it requires a lot of commitment, also money out of own pocket. People come and go, progress was extremely slow. I was willing to contribute but limited by my experience. I remember we sent out bunch of emails to professors in Berkeley and Stanford in related fields, seeking advices and help. Most of them didn't reply, some of the replies were heartbroken. Luckily one professor replied to Sabrina, who is my best friend and a PhD student in Stanford, and he was willing to meet us. I had newly acquired the skill of driving around that time, and was still scared of driving on highways, but there was no other options, we had to go. Dorothy was watching the road and map for me, only a few months old Shiva was crying his heart out in the back seat, my hands were sweaty, my head was exploding. There were many trucks over passed us and horned us. Fortunately we made it to Stanford and back safely, it was also a very fruitful meeting with the professor.

The video I made of Dorothy telling her story. We recorded the video in Live Oak Park with my cellphone. Shiva was wrapped up on me so I had two hands to hold the cellphone. You can even hear Shiva cooing during the recording. 

After all this time, only Sabrina and I stayed and are still trying. We are still not sure about how to host the fundraising events, but at least all the information is put up together and that is sufficient to start with. We are raising money to build a Labor and Delivery Center for the 226,000 and more people in Narumu. You may not believe, but living cost in such areas is actually very high, because everything is imported. Therefore we break the project into four phases, for now we are acquiring $80,000 to make a very simple L&D center, only a few rooms with very basic equipment, so to give women a clean place to deliver babies, save their lives from infections. We are also raising money for preparing maternity bags to give to mother-to-be, the bag includes at least 3 months supply of prenatal vitamins, thermometer, bulb syringe, clothes diapers etc such basic postpartum care products. The cost of each bag is around $60.

If you want to know more details, please check our website

The name of the organization is Tujenge Maisha, which means "Let's build lives". It is IRS registered. 

What can you do to help?

-- Share our stories and help rise awareness

-- Donate through Paypal  
    click here  or  send directly to

-- Donate used baby stuff - receiving blankets, clothes diapers, baby clothes, small toys etc (please contact me or Sabrina directly)

-- Contact us with advices or connection

-- Join us with your compassion and expertise 

Watch more videos about Narumu and Tujenge Maisha initiative

Thursday, April 28, 2016

First letter to my daughter Aditi

My dear Aditi,

How are you, my little Kung Fu master? You have been in Mama's belly for more than 20 weeks now, we are half way there to meet you. Where should I start? I have so much to tell you.

After we got to know you were a girl, your Papa and Fua Lipi picked the name for you. We wanted a powerful goddess name, because we didn't want your name to be any less than Shiva, your brother's. Thus here it is, the female Hindu goddess Aditi. According to Rig Veda, the oldest book in the world, "Aditi is Mother of the Universe, the Primal Being. Aditi is all the Heaven, Aditi is the space, Aditi is Mother, Father and Children. Aditi is all the Gods and Goddesses, Aditi is the five bases of creation. Aditi is all that has been and all that will take birth."(Rig Veda 1.89.10) Aditi is the one who creates each every living in the planet. One uncle joked on your Papa "Shiva is on the job of destruction, Aditi on the job of creation, what a match of siblings, no wonder your work specialized on strategy!"

We didn't get to know your gender on the scheduled 20th week ultrasound, we were informed 10 days earlier, due to an advanced DNA test. The DNA test is called Cell-free fetal DNA test, it estimates the risk of about 6 genetic mutations, base on baby's DNA, which is circulating freely in mother's blood stream. Because it directly investigates the fetal DNA, test accuracy is as high as 99%. The reason we did this test was because my 2nd trimester California screening (a mother's blood test on 16th week) for Down Syndrome showed a risk not that high, but higher than my age group (1/470). The fetal DNA test is a follow up option and non-invasive, when our doctor suggested it, we immediately took it. Before the DNA test was first available in 2013, if California screening showed a Down Syndrome high risk, which is bigger than 1/250 for women under 35 years old, mothers were usually recommended to do an invasive diagnostic test, to find out for sure. During the invasive test, a needle would be inserted into mother's womb to fetch some amniotic fluid which contains fetal DNA. This kind of tests cause a risk of miscarriage on later pregnancy (1/100) due to infection.

With a risk like 1/470 (1 out of 470 mothers with the same blood condition) for having a Down Syndrome baby, we would definitely be hesitant to take an invasive test to find out more, because there is a chance for losing the baby later on. Could I possibly be the one in the pool of almost 500 mothers? You never know until the baby is born. That is some serious fear to carry through an already tough pregnancy. Now the new fetal DNA test is available, it only requires 2 tubes of blood from mother, sufficient fetal DNA could be separated for investigation, the test result tells as much as the invasive test could tell. In our case, your DNA shows low risk, less than 1/10,000 for all genetic mutations tested, thus we are freed from the worrying of Down Syndrome. Our DNA test was conducted by a company based in silicon valley, it is a start-up genetic testing company, the Cell-free fetal DNA test was first provided by this company from beginning of 2013. Because the lab is so close by to where we live, from blood draw to getting result, it only took less than 4 working days. How lucky we are today due to the advanced genetic technologies.

But my dear Aditi you have to remember, we live in the most privileged place, we are among the most privileged communities. Our fetal DNA test costed $7999 without insurance, Mama and Papa paid $66 out of own pocket. California is the state that most of such genetic testing companies reside, and up to 2015 there were only 4 companies up and competing. You know how much Mama wishes that within a short period of time, genetic technology will advance much more, more labs from the globe will join the competition. New methods coming up, raw costs going down, tests will be made available and affordable to most mothers and fathers in desperate need. 

The ironic fact is, when we are sitting here talking about advanced genetic technologies, to a vast amount of mothers in this world, basic prenatal care such as regular checkups, ultrasound and vitamins; basic clean delivery materials such as gloves, suction bulbs, clean scissors; basic hospital facilities such as professional medical staff, delivering tables, lights and electricity are not accessible. As a result, infant mortality as well as maternity death rate are extremely high, life and death is still a everyday struggle. While we, who are embraced by all kinds of high-end technologies, have never for a second worried about losing the baby or mother before, during or after birth. Mama wants you to always have this in mind, and start to volunteer from a very young age.

Around two years ago, when I was 12 week pregnant with your brother Shiva, we did a 1st trimester California screening ultrasound to estimate the risk of Down Syndrome. We had the result right after ultrasound, it was extremely low, 1/10,000. When Mama and Papa were leaving the institute with relief, two medical staff stopped us, asking if we could help them. We agreed and followed them into a room. They explained that their company was a genetic testing company, they were currently conducting a research on mother's blood, hopefully in the future with a small amount of mother's blood, they could separate baby's DNA and obtain information of baby's health. Which means mothers would never anymore need to go through invasive tests that could lead to miscarriage. Why did they need me was because I was assessed negative on Down Syndrome and with an extremely low risk, also I was on my 1st trimester, my blood was valuable for their research. However the donation would be made anonymous and we were not able to view any result. Without hesitation, I was glad to help. They began to draw my blood, one tube, two tubes, three tubes...without telling us in advance how much of my blood they needed, in total of seven tubes were drawn from my right arm. Luckily I didn't faint. Less than two days later, my arm started to show severe bruise, the whole right arm was covered in dark black and purple, it lasted for more than three weeks before the bruise finally disappeared. Nobody remembered this incident until recently. Who could have imagined after two years, what I exactly needed was the availability of this genetic test, and I became a beneficiary from a contributor. Help and contribute will bring back good to you, much more than that, it will make you happy and worthy. Mama wishes you a happy life by giving.

Although it was only a short period of time we were worried, for Mama it was a scary ride. "Down Syndrome" had suddenly became a horror word for me, every time I saw it, my heart stopped a little. After reading about it for half an hour, your Papa already calmed down: "Most of such tests show a false positive, 1/470 is a very low risk anyways." However Mama started to put herself through some emotional trauma: "What if I am carrying a Down Syndrome baby? Should I keep her anyways?" "It is already more than 17 weeks, I started to feel her strong kicks from as early as 16th week, how can I ever let my own child killed?" "But if I keep her, can all of us take this burden? Can Shiva take it? What is the best for him?" "What if I want to make the cruel decision? Most probably I will change my mind at the last minute lying on the operating table." "I think I will keep the baby no matter what. I will protect her from all the discriminations." I cried like I was already holding my Down Syndrome baby. You know I would trade everything I have for your health, I would suffer a great deal myself to exchange for your well-being. Money, fame and fortune, all of that is ultimately weightless and meaningless, as long as you are healthy and happy.   

"What will you do?" I asked your Papa. " You need to calm down. I don't want to discuss about it this early, it's like worrying a plane falling on our head. You need to have faith." He answered, "No matter what your decision is, I will support you with all my heart." "You need to have faith." Papa said. Your Papa always has strong faith, and it has helped us through a lot of ups and downs.

When I received the DNA test result by email, I called your Papa immediately, I was shouting on the phone, "She is fine! She is fine! And she is a girl!!!" Papa and I both cried, we were overjoyed by the news of your health, as well as your gender. Yes, you are a girl, a girl that your Papa always wanted. Not all girls in this world are wanted by their Papas, you are indeed born a lucky one. During our 20th week ultrasound, Mama was lying on the table watching you from the screen, you are such an active little girl, you were moving, flipping, stretching and kicking nonstop like a true Kung Fu master. For a moment there I couldn't stop myself thinking how lucky you are. "A boy or a girl?" To a surprisingly large amount of parents, that is the only thing they ever care about for pregnancy. Although the gender is fixed at the moment of conception, it takes 20 weeks for a fetus to fully form his/her sex organ. Which means even around 18th to 19th week, a boy or a girl's sex organ could look exactly the same in ultrasound image, same size same shape, some girls' even bigger than boys'. To tell for sure it's a boy or a girl, one has to wait for at least 20 weeks. 20 weeks of developing, it's a little human being already, all of her organs are in shape, some of them already functioning. After 4 more weeks she would survive outside mother's womb under medical help. She has been hearing her environment for a month now, she would suck her fingers for fun, swallow amniotic fluid for practice. Maybe she already knows how to smile when you talk to her through mother's tummy. But a lot of healthy girls wouldn't survive after coming this far, their Papas and Mamas decide to kill them, just because they are girls, not boys. Looking at how lively you are from the screen, Mama can't stop thinking about the girls that were killed and being killed, and Mama can't help crying.

Yes my little girl, you will surely find out one day, the world you are going to be born into, it's not a perfect place for girls. It is not now, it has never been, and we can only hope for a better future. Till very recently, the world's most famous scientists, explorers, historians, artists, musicians, philosophers, rulers and leaders are 99.99% men, the world was only run by men. Men are still ruling the world no doubt, but after years of years feminist movements, in some parts of the world, women started to participate in roles such as making the rules. However if you look at the population, majority women in the world still have nothing to do with making rules but only to obey. Most of the time women are kept doing what "they do best", giving birth and taking care of offsprings and whole family, and by the end of the day, this turns out to bring them less and less respect. Being a girl, there is much more danger awaits, sexual assault and harassment, gender inequality and discrimination. Even a woman grows up unharmed physically and mentally, most probably she will be put down many times by men's ego later on in her life. Meanwhile, majority of men still couldn't bear to hear the word "feminist", which just means a normal person who thinks women deserve a better environment and they deserve equality, and there is so much to do for them.   

Mama is not suggesting giving birth to your brother and you makes me sad. In fact it is the most beautiful thing ever happened to Mama, I am grateful for each every second I am able to spend with you. Giving birth and taking care of your brother gave me a feeling of being complete. Now you, my dear daughter, we are going to have so much adventure together. I believe by looking into your eyes, Mama is able to find out the little girl in myself, by watching you grow, Mama is going to reflect myself and find out answers about life. I have always been a pessimist when it comes to the selfish and greedy nature of humans. Until one day when I was with your brother that I realized, a mother can never be selfish towards her babies. Selfless love and sacrifice, Mama believes that is the key for human race to survive. Now you see, women is such a powerful gender, mothers and daughters, even the whole world is letting them down, they can still generate endless love, to cure the world.

My dear creator Aditi, Mama wishes you grow into a powerful woman, powerful in a way that you are full of self respect and confidence. So powerful that you might get hurt sometimes, but you can always choose to forgive and choose to love like you were never hurt. The world awaits you to bring changes, and my Aditi, you are the change and you will make it a better place for everyone.


Friday, April 22, 2016

Under the moon

I open the curtains
a bright moon comes into our window

We lie head to head in the moonlight
You point to the moon "Muuun"
An airplane pass by, you shout "Wee Jee"

Mama sings "Old MacDonald Had a Farm"
      you stand up, jump around and follow "EE-Ah-EE-Ah-YOOO"

Mama sings "Row Row Row Your Boat"
      you are still jumping, and follow "Mer Mer Mer..."

Mama sings "When You Happy and You Know It"
      you stand there, look at mama, smile like an angel and start to clap your hands


Finally mama starts "Moon.... River...."
      you stop jumping, settle down, and follow "Why..."
This is our lullaby
Mama has been singing you this song to sleep even before your birth

When the song ends, you get up again, come to mama's face
On mama's lips, you put your lips down
A big wet kiss
Then you lie down back, tuckle yourself in

Mama has never had such a beautiful kiss before
You are the most precious lover in her life

--- For my one and half year old Shiv

Monday, April 18, 2016


Aditi (Mother of the Universe, the Primal Being) is all the Heaven, Aditi is the space, Aditi is Mother, Father and Children. Aditi is all the Gods and Goddesses, Aditi is the five bases of creation. Aditi is all that has been and all that will take birth.

  Rig Veda 1.89.10 - The oldest book in the world





是的,我们刚刚知道了她的性别,是个期待已久的女孩。本来要等到做20周的B超时才能看出性别的(18周这时宝宝的性别器官依然没有长好,男孩女孩看着一样大,很多女孩的比男孩的还大,只有到20周才发育完全),我们刚刚做了一项叫cell-free DNA test(非侵入性胎儿染色体基因检测)的比较高端的基因测试,检测了宝宝的健康情况,同时得知了性别。之前做的唐筛二次验血(16周时抽的血)得出的概率为1/470,意思是和我同样血液情况的妈妈,470个里面有1个有问题,医生说虽然概率小但是大于同龄人的平均概率,于是问我们是否想做进一步的测试,但非必要。负责给我发验血单的护士当时还很肯定地告诉我,“你的情况做这项检查完全就是为了让自己放心,因为16周验血的结果1/470一点都不坏,依然算低风险,况且你做的12周首次验血与B超得出的风险概率为1/760,是个很可观的数字”。尽管可做可不做,我们想都没有多想就选择了测试。这项检测只需抽取母亲的血液就可以完成,从2013年才开始由一家先进的基因公司提供这种技术,在母亲的血液里,可以分离出少量散流在母亲血液里的胎儿的DNA,通过直接分析胎儿的DNA得出相关疾病的概率,准确率和羊膜穿刺一样高,达到了99.96%。但比羊膜穿刺等具有侵入性的测试好的是,这项测试只要抽取母亲两小试管的血液就可以,完全没有危险性,而羊膜穿刺将针管刺进子宫内,可能因为引发炎症而导致孕后期流产,概率高达1/100。而且这项测试在怀孕9周之后就可以做了,难怪之前有看到文章说现在不少内地人去香港做一项检测可以提早知道宝宝的性别,估计做的就是cell-free DNA test,检测的是宝宝的性别基因。 

我的检测由公司Natera完成,从抽血到收到结果只用了不到四个工作日,这是一家新兴的基因技术公司,就坐落在硅谷,是美国能提供类似基因检测技术的几家公司之一,这些公司大多数都安家在加州。我做的测试叫Panorama,排查几项最普遍发生的基因变异,检查了21号、18号和13号染色体,分别排除了唐氏、爱德华氏和巴陶氏症,还排除了2q33.1缺失症候群和Monosomy X,发生概率都小于1/1万,属于低风险。虽然说检测结果并不等同于告诉你孩子百分百不存在这些基因变异,但因其准确率极高,只有极小的可能性有误差。当时护士问我想不想知道性别,我说想,于是测试顺便检测了性别基因。因为是最新的技术,此项测试价格不菲,在美国如果没有保险,自掏腰包的病人也许会被寄来2000-3000美金不等的账单,我们有保险,自己只要出150美金。希望世界各地能有越来越多的新兴基因公司加入市场竞争,技术不断进步,成本不断降低,有一天能成为一项世界上大多数家庭都支付得起的简单检测,为有需要的爸爸妈妈们带去福音。 


当看到医生在在线系统给我发了一封邮件问我是否想做进一步测试的时候,心都碎了,“1/470”像一枚没有爆炸的炸弹一样被投在了心头。立即打了电话给在上班的Raj,他说“没有关系,不高不高”,然后我们两人都分别在网上四处查找相关信息,对于我而言,“唐氏综合症”忽然成为了一个极其恐怖的字眼,每每看到都要心惊肉跳一下。半小时之内Raj的心已经很正定了,他认为这些检测大多数是吓人的结果,不少1/16,甚至1/3概率的妈妈做了进一步检查后发现孩子是健康的,最终极少孩子有变异情况;而且我这次怀孕妊娠反应极大,恶心想吐了两三个月,到现在都还没完全恢复,时不时干呕一下,这说明HCG激素水平高,很有可能影响到了测试结果,使得风险无故增加;加上唐筛是针对西方人体质的测试,不少东方的妈妈测试结果风险都偏高,因为东西方女性身体要素不同,而测试并没有将不同人种区别对待;况且我们会立马做进一步的基因检测,没几天就可以完全放心,“要有信念(You need to have faith)”,他说。而作为母亲的我,不免开始胡思乱想起来,“如果孩子真的有问题怎么办?我会想留下她来吗?”“已经能感受到孩子在动了,有15厘米长了,真的舍得把长得那么大的孩子拿掉吗?那是杀害她啊!”“如果留下来呢,我们每个人是否在情感上承担得起?”“一旦有问题,还是拿掉吧,也许这样对希娃才是最好的,但是被推到手术台上的那刻,自己是否会反悔呢?肯定会反悔的吧!”越想越纠结,仿佛自己已经被推上了手术台一样。晚上我一边哭一边问Raj,“如果有问题,你想把孩子留下来吗?”结果他表示,“我不想和你讨论这个问题,因为根本就是无中生有,如果真的到了那个时刻,我们再来做讨论,我到时会支持你的所有决定。”