From 2009 – 2011, Our Bodies Ourselves honored the work of women’s health advocates worldwide by asking readers to nominate their favorite women’s health hero. View all nominees by year: 2009, 2010, 2011
Entrant: Randi Friedman
Nominee: Lorenza Holt, Executive Director, Boston Association for Childbirth Education
My women’s health hero is my next-door neighbor and dear friend, Lorenza Holt. Lorenza is passionate about empowering women during the childbirth process. She has devoted the past 15 years of her life to working primarily with multicultural inner-city women as a doula, community outreach coordinator, and childbirth educator.
When Lorenza excitedly describes her work helping women discover their strength, courage, and power during this significant moment in their lives, you can literally feel the depth of her passion and the intensity of her commitment. I have attached a short video/digital story, which will provide a sense of Lorenza and what has inspired her work.
Lorenza was born and grew up in Mexico; she is bilingual and began working as a community coordinator for the Cambridge Birth Center before it even opened in the mid-90s. Lorenza was instrumental in creating its doula program, which continues to serve a culturally diverse population.
As Lorenza explained to me: When a woman who may be an immigrant and who may not speak English has the support of another woman during childbirth, who understands her language and culture, it “raises the volume of her voice” and allows her to be heard. Lorenza feels that helping women find their voice during childbirth can be a transformative experience for that woman in all aspects of her life — and can have a profound impact on society.
After working for a number of years in the Cambridge Birth Center doula program, Lorenza went back to school and obtained a master’s degree in public health at Boston University, specializing in maternal and child health. She studied maternal depression, using a multicultural approach. After obtaining her degree, Lorenza administered the doula program at Boston Medical Center for several years.
Lorenza is currently devoting her energies to working with the Boston Association for Childbirth Education (BACE). As its volunteer executive director, she is tirelessly working toward developing multilingual community-based childbirth education. She and BACE are trying to develop a workforce of community health workers who can provide a range of culturally appropriate services to help women make informed decisions about the birthing process and provide support to new mothers.
Lorenza’s work with women is her “calling.” There have been quite a few times when I am leaving my house in the morning and Lorenza is returning from a long night when she has been a doula at a birth. At those moments, Lorenza is full of energy and emotion and her excitement is palpable. Her birth stories have moved me to tears. They are amazing stories about women who were scared and sometimes alone and who found the power and courage, with her support, to trust themselves and their bodies as they bring promising new lives into the world.