My election as Ashoka Fellow

by Claudia Ravaldi

With this speech I received the appointment as Ashoka Fellow after a selection that lasted almost a year and after having passed 6 different interviews with the Italian and US branch of the institution.

Our story begins with an end.

It begins with a sentence punctuated in the silence of the obstetrics ward.

Sorry, there is no heartbeat.

Our baby is born dead, a few hours after that sentence.

The first moments are silence, disbelief and loneliness.

It is not believed that a child can be born already dead.

It is not believed that certain things can happen.

It’s all so incredible that silence engulfs us.

Nobody talks about it.

Nobody talks to us.

Of him, of us, of how we are.

Nobody seems to know what to tell us, and those who try to say something often say meaningless words.

“You are young, soon you will make another”

At one point the silence is so suffocating that we think we are wrong.

Excessive, in our love for a child known for only a few weeks.

We wonder if this is what happens when there is no more heartbeat.

Either pretend nothing has happened, or go crazy in silence.

And so we start looking for answers and not without surprise, we discover that between pretending nothing has happened and going crazy there is another world made up of possibilities.

These possibilities speak English, French, German.

They often speak the dry language of health research, charts and numbers.

But they also speak the life-filled language of women and men, mothers, fathers, grandfathers and brothers who relentlessly tell their experience and the short life of their children. Born dead or lived only for a whisker.

However, they existed and worthy. However, they are worthy of respect and kindness.

The stories of others, the good practices adopted in many countries, the welcome we receive encourage us to come out of silence and find words for our country too, for us too.

In April 2006 he was born CiaoLapo, a non-profit organization that provides psychological support to parents and families affected by bereavement during pregnancy and after birth and also to health professionals, making available free for all a telematic “first aid” kit, information and self-help material and educational material for health professionals.

Today CiaoLapo is permanently active in 15 regions where there are 14 live self-help groups and ten regional online groups. We have helped about 12,000 bereaved parents, establishing synergies when possible with the local area and setting up support networks with hospitals and counseling centers.

We also carried out 250 hours of free training in more than 100 hospitals , working on the main aspects of care and care present in the international guidelines.

CiaoLapo has grown day by day thanks to the commitment, perseverance and generosity of 40 trained operators and volunteers who have been carrying out the project together with my husband and me for years and donating their skills to families and the association.

Our precious volunteers, our maternal village, are the real strength of CiaoLapo, from Aosta to Agrigento .

Thanks to our village we have grown and achieved very important results in terms of social, welfare and cultural change by intertwining scientific, social and human skills, developing a simple, easy to learn, inexpensive and therefore easily replicable care model in our health system. national.

The return of effectiveness we have from couples and operators, both in the medium and long term, has allowed us to refine our network model and propose it also outside Italy: in fact, there are many requests for training and in-depth analysis that come to us from ‘abroad.

This allows us to partially give back what we received at the beginning of our associative adventure, in terms of encouragement, acceptance, sharing and growth.

We can no longer be silent.

It is no longer possible to ignore the topic of “perinatal bereavement”, which the WHO also reiterated its importance for women’s health in 2019.

In fact, we know that perinatal bereavement affects, I could say overwhelms, numerous sectors, ranging from medicine, to psychology, to social sciences, to economics.

Over the years we have differentiated, deepened and further developed our areas of intervention, with the aim of providing ever more precise answers to the ever increasing requests for support and advice from health workers, bereaved families and other stakeholders.

Making our project more understandable in all its aspects has made it more accessible and therefore more easily achievable.

Through OPAL, thePermanent Observatory for Perinatal Mourning , since 2007 we have been carrying out medical and psychological research on death during pregnancy and after birth; we have published fifteen papers in peer reviewed journals bringing Italy and Italian bereaved families for the first time into multicentre studies on the psychosocial aspects of stillbirth and pregnancies following a loss. Thanks to our rich research fields, we have already tutored 100 degree, specialization and master’s theses in various Italian universities.

Through ComuniCare, healthy communication in perinatality and helping relationship, for over ten years we have been providing specific training to health workers and in schools, to offer a respectful and healthy point of view in the management of communication with people affected by perinatal bereavement.

Through matermundi , we deal with health, intended as the promotion of bio-psycho-social well-being, in the perinatal period and in particular with mental health and perinatal psychology.

Perinatal bereavement affects 1 in 6 families in our country,

1 in 4 in the United States,

1 in 3 in countries with low economic development.

These numbers are not negligible and concern us closely.

If you take the souvenir photo taken of your class in high school and take a look at those young faces, you are likely to find at least 3 in that photo, including students who have faced a loss in their reproductive journey.

Too high a number to ignore.

A well-known African proverb tells us that “it takes an entire village to raise a child”.

Even to mourn a child and support his family, an entire village is needed, we say.

We are all part of the village.

You too.

You too, with us, can change things for families affected by perinatal bereavement and improve the overall well-being of our society.


By giving attentive and respectful listening to families affected by perinatal bereavement.

You may also like