Arlene Samen has been a Nurse Practitioner in Maternal Fetal Medicine for over 33 years. In 2004, she left behind her clinical practice to dedicate her life to serving pregnant women living in the most vulnerable conditions in the most remote places of the world. By 2009, she started One Heart World-Wide, which spread its life saving "network of safety" model to 60,000 women remote villages in Nepal, the Copper Canyon in Mexico, and deep into the amazon jungle in Ecuador where few dared to go. Arlene is the recepient of many awards, including CNN Hero, Unsung Heroes for Acts of Compassion in 2001, the Soroptimist Women Making a Difference Award, and the Stevie Awards “Women helping Women.” She has been a presenter all around the world and is a guest lecturer at Stanford and UCSF.
Arlene likes to mention that she grew up in Buckingham Palace and was as rich as could be. In fact, Arlene was one of three children living with a twenty-one-year-old single mother in Buckingham Palace Apartments. "Our mother is the most amazing woman in the world," Arlene says. "We did not have enough money for food or clothes, but my mother's love made us feel rich and she always taught us we would always have enough to help others in need."
From the earliest age, Arlene felt a deep concern for those who suffered. "I wanted to help others and myself and had no idea how to do that," she explains.
As a young adult, Arlene had an opportunity to work in an obstetrician's office and went on to become a nurse practitioner. In 1983, she met a plastic surgeon and starting volunteering with Interplast -- which provides free plastic surgeries to needy children. On one of those volunteers missions to Chile, she met a five year old (Nicholas) who was born with a cleft through his entire face. "In attempting to obtain donated medical care for this remarkable boy, I learned never to accept no as an answer when on the path of service," Arlene. Nicholas lived with Arlene while undergoing cranio-facial reconstruction, as did several other children after him. Arlene had found her calling. During the next 15 years, she traveled to Chile, Peru, Honduras, Ecuador, Jamaica, India, Africa, Nepal, Madagascar and finally to Tibet as a medical volunteer.
In 1997, Arlene met the Dalai Lama and showed him what Interplast could offer children of Tibet. He said to her, "You must go into Tibet and help rural people. When you are on the path of service, all doors will open to you." That meeting deeply impacted the trajectory of Arlene's life of service. "It was completely transformational. I left that meeting knowing that from that day forward, my life would be dedicated to the people of Tibet."
As she started serving in Tibet, everyday she encountered children who suffered side effects resulting from birthing trauma, as well as pregnant women in desperate need of prenatal care. She discovered that while in the US, 1 in 10,000 women die in children birth, in Tibet, 1 in 33 women die in child birth! To address this, Arlene started her current organization. "I like to think of myself as a spiritual being in human form," says Arlene. "I began my life as a rich child and thanks to my spiritual journey of compassion, I can now share my wealth with the beautiful people of Tibet."
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