Margaret Quatraro is a mom of two, an alum of Boise State’s School of Nursing and on her way to becoming a midwife.
But before she was any of these things, she was a Peace Corps volunteer.
Discovering vibrant community support
Shortly after graduating with a bachelor’s in psychology and childhood development from Central Michigan University, Quatraro moved to Africa. She spent two years as a health education volunteer with the Peace Corps working on AIDS in Tanzania.
“I loved it,” she said.
Quatraro lived in an extremely poor village that was rich in community support.
“I could go to anybody’s house and say, ‘I’m really hungry,’ – or say nothing at all – and they would just feed you,” she said. “You were always welcome.”
“You just cared about each other; if someone was sick, you knew it and you took care of them.”
But it didn’t take long for Quatraro to grow discouraged about the reality of the impact of her work. She wasn’t the first volunteer to educate the village about AIDS, and although there were plenty of non-profit organizations coming in to help improve the country’s infrastructure, their projects rarely had longevity.
“You can’t just go in and build a well or build a toilet because when it breaks or it gets full, you’re gone and no one’s there to fix it,” Quatraro said. “So what have you really provided? Not too much.”
The lack of sustainability became a focal point for her.
Becoming part of the support system
Since she didn’t have much new AIDS information to share, Quatraro shifted her work focus.
“I really care about women’s health,” she said. “I wanted to work on creating more egalitarian roles for women.”
Then her best friend in the village, Witness, got pregnant, and Quatraro became her main source of health information. She took Witness and her mother to a few Peace Corps pregnancy trainings, and the three of them headed to a nearby village for the birth.
“We got to be with her for the whole thing, so my first birth ever was in Tanzania and it was – literally – a table in a room,” Quatraro said. “We were the labor support.”
The birth was uncomplicated and momentous. What struck Quatraro was the community’s tight-knit support for Witness and, even more so, how they included Quatraro in that role.
“That had a profound impact on me,” she said. “For me, childbirth is about having a community; being a mom is about having a community.”
A future of kindred care and sustainability
Quatraro’s experience in Tanzania revealed the benefits of being surrounded by deep community support. Boise State taught her the skills needed to bring that care into nursing. Now, her goal is to further her education and integrate these components as a midwife.
“I know I want to go to midwifery school,” Quatraro said. “One day, my ultimate dream would be to go back to Tanzania because I struggled so much with sustainability.”
“The only thing that’s sustainable is education,” she said.
“I would love to go back with experience as an educator, as a midwife and professional, and implement those things and leave it to sustain itself.”
For now, Quatraro hopes to bring this deep level of support to her current practice as a nurse in the labor and delivery department at St. Luke’s Medical Center.