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TUPELO, MISS. (WCBI) – Statistics show pregnancy- related complications and deaths are higher for African-American women, compared with other ethnic groups throughout the United States.

Recently, a local non-profit that provides assistance , counseling and basic supplies for poverty-stricken pregnant women was recognized by a major corporation for its work.

Once a week, Raven Osborne stops by the offices of the Northeast Mississippi Birthing Project, with her three-month-old baby.

She visits with the non-profit’s founder, Toni Hill. She has served as Raven’s sister friend, or doula, a non medical person who assists a woman during and after childbirth. It’s part of what they do at the Birthing Project.

“Our biggest mission is to decrease infant mortality as well as increase breast feeding rates and to have better birth outcomes among mostly African American women,” Hill said.

Hill started the birthing project from her home seven years ago. The organization moved into a small office at the Link Centre several years later, and recently, they have moved into this suite of offices in the same building and Hill is now a paid staff member.

That was all made possible because of a $50,000 grant from 5 Hour Energy and a program that recognizes people who are making a difference in their communities.

The work is not confined to the office. Hill, along with a team of volunteers, will also drive expectant moms to doctor’s appointments, and help them with other errands, using their personal vehicles. Hill says there is a big need for a van.

“We have had mothers who have had to take their babies to Memphis and other places to see specialists and that’s really hard for them to be able to do,” Hill said.

The services have made a big difference for Raven, who started coming to the Birthing Project for breastfeeding classes.

“Mothers go through a lot being pregnant and being, just having a baby. They talk to you, they’re basically there for you, anything you need, you’re going through something, the doctor is getting on your nerves, she can tell you anything you want to know and help you through it,” Osborne said.

Raven is one of hundreds of young mothers who have been helped by the Northeast Mississippi Birthing Project.

“We just want people to be the best they can be, our goal is to give them the tools they need so they can do that,” Osborne said.

Hill adds there is always a huge need for volunteers. For more information go to http://nemsbirthingproject.wordpress.com/

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