Letter from the Executive Director
2021 was an intense year for our organization. We continued to weather the COVID pandemic but pushed through to hold our first All Staff Retreat in March 2021, where we gathered in person, many not having physically gathered together in months! During our Learning the SisterWeb Way reorientation series we rekindled the joy and love for our work in SisterWeb and each other.
SisterWeb’s uncanny ability to leave no stone unturned when it comes to finding a solution for staff and clients yielded excellent results this year. While everyone had hoped to see the end to COVID in early 2021, our staff and clients experienced many of the same challenges as in 2020. So much so, that we felt the need to re-measure the impact of the pandemic on our workforce and created our 2021–2022 COVID Impact Report.
We’ve also seen many personnel transitions, some to further pursue their birthwork careers, others made decisions to prioritize their families. SisterWeb celebrates them all in the spirit of community and progress.
Thanks to your ongoing support of SisterWeb, we’ve helped 127 families in San Francisco welcome their children with respect, dignity, joy, and pride, leading to thriving families and communities and increased birth equity and justice.
With generous donors and funding, SisterWeb strengthened its necessary infrastructure by adding five key positions that naturally arose. These positions included Director of Evaluations, Workforce Development Director, Mentorship Program Director, the newly revised Director of Doula Programs (updated from the former Program Director), a Communications Administrator, a Virtual Assistant, and three new Doulas.
All the while, SisterWeb Doulas continued to rise to every occasion by continuing to offer high-quality culturally congruent doula care to our pregnant families. Our M.A.N.A. Pasefika program began offering prenatal and postpartum groups, and all our clients were offered cooking and nutrition classes. We expanded our grocery deliveries to clients in response to our community's needs.
Our Leadership Circle prioritized the necessities of our Doulas and staff by offering mental health consultations, ongoing mentorship, birthwork training, upgraded tech, cash and gift card COVID barrier removal for staff, healing (self-care) session gift cards, and began paid opportunities for staff participation in our social activities.
While we share our accomplishments proudly with our stakeholders, we must be truthful about our organization’s challenges and threats. Staff burnout and the effects of illness on our organization strained our team as we struggled to meet the increased demand from our clients while managing an increased demand from our families for doula services. Our ability to train new community members to become doulas and for SisterWeb staffing to match our client demand is critical for improving birth outcomes for Black and Brown families in our city.
SisterWeb plans to hire and maintain a staff of 15 doulas by 2023, and your support is essential!
I humbly ask for you to continue considering SisterWeb in your charitable giving to support the ongoing work of doulas working to make sure Black and Brown women in San Francisco have the safe and healthy births they deserve.
I would like to thank ALL our donors and stakeholders with all my heart - we couldn't have done it without you.
We planted seeds:
SisterWeb re-opened our cottage office in Bayview and inaugurated a beautiful garden filled with healing herbs and space for outdoor client and staff meetings
SisterWeb administrative team focused on streamlining systems and documenting our work:
- We launched new data collection forms and a way to automate the data analysis for some of our key metrics of success. Training our doulas in note taking and documentation has been a big priority for improved communication between doulas within cohorts and for accountability to the families we serve.
- In partnership with UC Berkeley, we ran a one month time-use research study on “How do community doulas spend their time?” that will be published and used to promote fair reimbursement of community doula care nationally.
- We launched a new website, internal and external newsletters and social media pages.
- Our Operations staff rolled out a Health and Safety Plan, held monthly Q&A meetings for all staff.
We tended to our garden:
SisterWeb continued to show up for birthing families in San Francisco:
- SW Doulas provided oncall support for 86 births
- 212 individual mentorship sessions were held between doulas and their SW mentor
- 49 of Monthly Champion Dyad meetings (between Medical reps and SW reps)
- 82 Clients identified at least 1 main goal for themselves in their pregnancy-birth journey
- SW Doulas facilitated 539 Prenatal and Postpartum visits with their clients
- 45 Clients attended ALL 7 Prenatal and postpartum visits
- Launched virtual prenatal and postpartum groups in MANA.
- SisterWeb doulas spent an average of 16.7 hours providing on-call support during labor and delivery and an average of over 30 hours of direct client care with each birthing person throughout the perinatal period.
We remained focused on the professional growth and the wellbeing of our staff:
- 88.2% of doulas who utilized at least 1 of SW provided options for processing emotional load of birth work (mental health consultant, supervisor, mentor, cohort)
- Average amount that SW doulas felt trust in and could depend on their doula partners to fill in for them with clients and to offer support when they needed it = 9/10
- Average level reported by SW doulas of feeling supported and encouraged by their mentors = 9.5/10
We increased our community engagement presence both virtually and in person with 1480 of Community members attending a SW event/presentations
We partnered with The SF Respect Initiative and other maternal health resources as a member of the Pop-Up Pregnancy Village.
We put down roots:
- Doulas showed dedication and leadership in creating a platform for further relationship building and communication across the organization by helping to launch monthly All Staff Meetings and Doula Sharing Circles.
- We launched our Strategic Planning process in collaboration with consultants, Raimi and Associates. The consultants worked with all levels of staff and our Advisory Committee to hold focus groups with each program within SW. The plan was officially unveiled in early 2022.
- We stabilized funding and moved doulas to full time, benefitted employees.
- We realigned our team with a new prioritization matrix and in depth staff development opportunities including a six part series called “Learning the SW Way”. We also held our first annual All Staff Retreat.
We weathered the storm:
COVID related challenges continued in 2021:
- Shifting hospital protocols, changes in staff, lack of staff. Staff out due to COVID. Clients becoming unresponsive during surges.
- Not enough staff to keep up with responsibilities in operations & communications
- Vaccine mandates with HH & SF City, sick staff, staff turnovers, the need for full time doulas and continued competitive pay/dignified wages.
- View our 2021–2022 COVID Impact Report here.
We continued the barrier removal efforts started in 2020:
- We provided gift cards to aid with living expenses for clients
- All Staff received a COVID specific bonus to offset additional expenses incurred.
- Food, essential item and PPE distribution continued for clients
SisterWeb began consistent mental health consultations for doulas and coordinators in collaboration with the Infant Parent Program at ZSFG
Explore our Process Evalution Report completed with UC Berkeley.
We celebrated our harvest:
Outcomes and victories
- 97% of SW Clients report that their SisterWeb Doulas Helped them Feel More Confident Navigating Healthcare Systems And Understanding their Rights And Options
- Do you feel that your SisterWeb Doulas helped you achieve your Pregnancy / Birth / Postpartum goals? 93% Yes
- 96% of clients say that they would like to have a doula should they get pregnant again
- Referrals to SisterWeb flowed in from 24 clinical and community based sites throughout the city.
- 93.2% of clients who initiated breastfeeding at birth
- 67% of clients breastfeeding at 6 weeks postpartum
From Kindred Birth Companions
- My doula was awesome, she never let up, in a good way. She was there when I really needed someone, she helped me be heard she helped me be confident in myself alone
- My doula, Azraa Muhammad, was an amazing support during my pregnancy, birth, and in the vulnerable and challenging weeks postpartum. I am so grateful to Azraa for her calm presence and deep knowledge.
- It was an amazing resource, helped me feel calmer and taken care of during a very vulnerable time, and provided great coaching during the birth. Having a doula helped me to not get in the weeds with complicated family relationships; I knew I had someone who would not bring their own agenda to the birth and would just be calm and focused on me
- I received so much information and support that I didn’t even feel nervous about the process at all. I knew what to expect, I felt comfortable with my choices and knowing I had choices, and overall I knew I just had more support at each step.
- I really bonded with my doula I’m very thankful to her.
- I hope to see more black and brown doulas doing the work.
From Semilla Sagrada:
- My doulas make me proud of myself
- A mi me gusto mucho la experiencia de tener una doula, yo no sabía que era una doula la verdad, luego que supe y vi cómo me ayudaron durante todo el proceso pues quedé encantada, siempre sentí el apoyo de ellas nunca me sentí sola y eso me gustó mucho, muchas gracias a sisterweb
- It was a really beautiful experience to see what your body is capable of supporting and at the same time have that great support at that moment that so much I needed
- Para mi yo creo que el mejor beneficio fue tener a alguien con quien contar, alguien que responda todas nuestras dudas y que nos ayude.
From SisterWeb Client to SisterWeb Doula
“That was one of the main things about being a doula with SisterWeb that changed the game for me. I got mentors."
- KBC Doula
“The SW WFD program has given back a clear way of me making immediate and authentic change to human beings locally in my community and nationally. I AM A ROLE MODEL and that gives me so much purpose!”
- Deundra Hundon, Director of Workforce Development
“I had hard time kind of build a rapport with a lot of clients because I was on boarded during the pandemic. I really didn't have the opportunity to go into people's homes or meet them in person. There was a constant battle making connection with clients…Remote stuff and tech literacy was hard for a lot of our families.”
- Semilla Sagrada Doula
“You matter to me, you matter how you are presenting yourself not in a materialistic way, but just an emotional part. I care about the mental and emotional health of people a lot more. SisterWeb definitely helped me with that gentle approach with people.”
- KBC Doula
“I see my best friend in my clients, I see my family, see my sisters, I see myself, and I know that I'm doing what I'm meant to be doing… I do truly believe that with each client I'm matched with, there was something within myself that my client needed, but there's also something within my client that I needed too. It's bi-directional fulfillment, that like purpose is bi-directional. In every client that I've had, it’s an honor to work with.”
- Azraa, KBC Doula
Much appreciation to the following individuals and families for their ongoing commitment and reoccurring contributions to SisterWeb in 2021:
- Abigail Stopper
- Allison Sander
- Carolyn Phillips
- Davida Silverman
- Eleanor Drey
- Emelyn Bluhm
- Hannah Addario-Berry
- Jessica Rix
- Madeline Oden
- Marna Armstead
- Michael Nuttal
- Natasha Selvey
- Rachael Arreguin
- Robin Nasatir
- Stephanie Lane
- Tessa Hayes
- Alana Diamos
- Alex Werth
- Annette and Steve Spector
- Azad Amir-Ghassemi
- Beth Rees
- Breann Snyder
- Christina DiSanto
- Corina Pacini
- Corri Uyeda
- Deena Abramson
- Diana Klein
- Edward Parillon
- Esther Gallagher
- Jacqueline Welborn
- Jan Edquilang
- Jennifer Darwin
- Jenya Kaufman
- Jessie Pearson
- Jo Kay Ghosh
- John Pearson
- JP McMonagle
- Juhae Son
- Julie Yasko
- Justine Cullinane
- Kaitlin Donahue
- Kathryn Rea
- Kirsten Dudley
- Knigi Glee
- Maia Piccagli
- Malea Chavez
- Marina Gagliano
- Megan Kelly
- Nan Strauss
- Peggy and Jack Fahnestock
- Picky Monday
- Raissa Trend
- Rebekah Goldstein
- Sara Newmann
- Sara Van Acker
- Shalini Desroches
- Siobhan Bingham
- Susan Arthur
- Tina Raine-Bennett
- Valerie Pierce
- Whitney Richards