Hanan Waite, nurse alumna, and member of the first Georgia State University “40 under 40” class makes saving mothers and babies both her passion and profession. Waite, B.S. ’08, is a neonatal nurse, founder and director of Earth’s Angels, a non-profit organization aimed at reducing infant and mother deaths, one mother and baby at a time. What makes Earth’s Angels so unique is that was founded by an individual from a third world country, with personal insights into that country’s challenges.
Born and raised in Ghana, Waite knows about her home country’s healthcare hardships first-hand. Nevertheless, her own experience as the mother of a premature infant became the catalyst for founding Earth’s Angels. Waite says that if she and her infant son had been living in Ghana at the time of his birth, they likely would not have survived.
Hospitals in Ghana, as in many parts of the developing world, are poorly staffed and inadequately funded, often lacking essential equipment and infrastructure. Many are government-run and corruption is rampant. Waite cites examples of inadequate care given to patients in these hospitals, such as the multitude of infants who are born with congenital diseases that cannot be properly treated due to the lack of medications and equipment, and in most cases, even pain medication isn't available for a suffering infant. One hospital that Waite has assisted, Ridge Hospital in Accra, had a 100 percent mortality rate among premature infants born under 27 weeks of gestation.
Orphaned as a child herself and raised by relatives, Waite felt strongly about helping these children. She began her non-profit with little outside assistance, conducting research and filing the 501(c) (3) paperwork herself to establish the organization. Personal contacts led Waite to Ridge Hospital, and she began fundraising to send medical and necessary infant supplies such as oxygen therapy, infusion supplies, diapers, and formula.
In the past few years, Ridge Hospital has benefitted from Earth’s Angels generosity, and the hospital’s maternal/premature infant mortality rate has improved to acceptable norms. So Waite has turned her focus to another hospital, Kaneshie Polyclinic, where they lack an operating room, because the building meant for operating services, has been sitting, unfinished, and abandoned, for over a decade.
“This hospital serves a population of 350,000 annually, but patients who need surgery must be transported to other hospitals. The space for the OR is perfectly sized but not outfitted properly,” says Waite. “Once updated, it will save 1,000 lives a year.”
Before Waite could start fundraising for the OR project, Kaneshie Polyclinic requested severely needed funds to rewire the electrical system in the labor and delivery room. The electrical system was so unreliable that doctors often had to deliver babies by the light of their cell phones.
With the electrical work completed, Waite now returns her focus to the operating room challenge. Because she recently moved to San Diego, Waite is searching for new fundraising partners. However, she hopes to continue her past relationship with Northside Hospital as the hospital previously supported the last two fundraising galas for Earth’s Angels. Also, a few of Waite’s Northside nursing colleagues provided contacts necessary to help mothers and babies in other countries including India.
Waite's goals for Earth's Angels include establishing the organization in California and expanding awareness of the organization’s work beyond the local market.
“We need to branch out of my network in Atlanta to expand our reach. Earth’s Angels needs to be exposed on a larger platform to get national exposure,” she says. Waite took a new job away from the hospital floor and daily interaction with babies to become a neonatal case manager with HealthNet, which provides her with more time for her children and to grow Earth’s Angels.
The Georgia State University Alumni Association 40 Under 40 program recognizes and honors the most influential and innovative graduates who embody the values of Georgia State.
The first class of 40 Under 40 consists of representatives from a variety of pursuits, from Fortune 500 companies to non-profits, global non-governmental organizations and local governments, and includes top professionals in the business, academic, legal, scientific, military and financial services fields, among others.
For more information on Earth’s Angels, visit www.earthsangels.org.