Showing posts from 2013

North to South

Now the Advocacy workshop is over, I am concentrating on the mid-term evaluation of our Global Midwifery Twinning Project.  This has taken me out of Kampala, past the Equator, to visit midwives up-country where our GMTP volunteer midwives have been based, learning about Ugandan midwifery, providing training in Emergency Obstetric and Newborn Care and role-modelling woman-centred care.
Yesterday we visited three private midwives clinics all providing community-based midwifery services, many in remote areas currently in poverty until the rains come.  All of these small centres are providing 'gold-standard' midwifery care with continuity, privacy, cleanliness, good clinical standards and geographical accessibility.  However, they are often under-utilised for maternity services as women have to pay.  Instead, women stay at home to deliver with a Traditional Birth Attendant, or use the government health posts which are under-resourced and under-staffed.
We visited one such govern…

The sound of singing in Kampala

So our workshop finished yesterday with the sound of singing. There is nothing quite like African voices raising the roof and the song was our GMTP anthem, developed originally for the RCM staff conference back in July.

It’s a round in three parts with words about the need for more midwives across the world (written with help from my creative husband), set to a hymn tune I first learned from American Mennonites in Cambodia!

The words to the song are: 1.Worldwide midwives far too few, ­­ worldwide midwives far too few. 2.Twinning, training, building capacity, changing lives 3.Education, regulation and association.
 Follow this link to listen to a recording

According to the State of the World’s midwifery Report (UNFPA, 2011 there is a global shortage of three hundred and fifty thousand skilled midwives.  Three hundred thousand women die in childbirth each year and more than thirty times that number s…

Wednesday in Uganda

It’s been a great day but I feel like I’ve been run over by a bus.  So much has been happening, so many people have been coming and going and there has been so much information to take in.  Bertha is doing a great job and is working everyone really hard!  Today was all about refining the problems facing midwifery in Uganda and identifying (a) what is feasible to address with an advocacy strategy and (b) what is outside the remit of a professional association.  Some concepts were shelved as it became apparent they were being addressed by others or were too complex for this organisation at this stage.  Others, were subjected to fierce critical analysis and came out completely changed!  I personally have learned much about the theory of advocacy and how to facilitate learning about it - I know this will be really useful for the life of the project and beyond.  Bertha has a ‘bag of tricks’ that keeps the conversation lively and different people are appointed each day as timekeeper, energ…

Hello from Uganda

I’m in Uganda for 12 days with the Global Midwifery Twinning Project.  It’s my second time here – what a joy to meet these midwives again, and those who are working alongside them.  This time I knew the face meeting me at the airport, Bonne, UPMA’s driver.  I was carrying a very special parcel for him, a set of binoculars from my colleagues Helen and Breedagh who came to Uganda with me in April.  Bonne had taken them to the Botanical Gardens where they looked at the birds through Helen’s binoculars.  Bonne was amazed – and now he has his own pair.  He was overjoyed with his present and I was happy to have carried it for him from the UK. My suitcase was mostly filled with midwifery teaching materials. I also carried an extra suitcase for another charity that had to be collected at Heathrow.  This was arranged by e mails via Malaysia, France and Leamington Spa…  happily all made it through customs without incident.  Note to self: must travel lighter!
It’s over an hour’s drive from Ente…

Some thoughts on volunteering

Volunteering is the 'in-thing' right now.  David Cameron is promoting 'The Big Society', supposedly unleashing the social energy that exists in the UK to help build a better, healthier society. Closer to home, my daughter is undertaking The Duke of Edinburgh Award and must volunteer in the community every week for three months to qualify for the award.  My good friend and walking buddy Anita runs' My Ten Days' encouraging and supporting owners and managers of small to medium size enterprises (SMEs) to give one employee ten days paid leave to do voluntary work or fund raising (

Yesterday I discovered my hairdresser Heather has just returned from 4 weeks volunteering in a school in Uganda - I leave for my second trip to Uganda tomorrow so you can imagine we had a lot to talk about.
Volunteering aims to benefit society.  The Royal College of Midwives' Global Midwifery Twinning Project aims to help reduce materna…

Homeward bound

Well I've just said goodbye to Cambodia for another 6 months and landed in Bangkok.  The last time I was here was 2000; Stephen and I were on our way to China to adopt our (then) 9 month old baby daughter. On the wise advice of friends, we stopped over in Bangkok for a few days to recover from jet-lag and a last few moments of being 'just us' before our lives were changed (and wonderfully blessed) for ever.  I remember staying at the YMCA (nicer than it sounds!) and enjoying a wonderful meal at the Oriental Hotel on the riverfront. We also met up with Steve and Marie Goode, veterans of the Thai/Cambodia border camps who live in Bangkok and whose lives have intersected with mine on many occasions.  I am currently sitting in an internet cafe about to meet Steve again for the first time since then - we have lots of catching up to do!  Looking forward to getting his perspective on all things related to development work across the world and exchanging news of family and our sha…

Prey Veng Revisited

I have just returned from 5 days in rural Cambodia.  Prey Veng province, where the Cambodian Midwives Association had organised a workshop, is a large and densely populated area with more than its fair share of poverty and over 300 midwives.  Wikipedia describes the provincial town:
 "This quaint town is off the usual tourist trail and is uncrowded. It houses several old dilapidated colonial homes. There is a large lake west of the city which is dry from March to August."

Co-incidentally, I used to live in Prey Veng from 1994-1996 and was very happy there.  Life was very simple; one of only 2 foreigners in the district town of Svay Antor we had no running water or electricity, just solar panels on the roof for lighting.  We ate Khmer food every day and wrote letters home for entertainment.  I worked with a community development programme, training traditional midwives and supporting community health services, as well as planting rice, delivering sacks of cement and drinking…

Culture shock

Since I returned to Cambodia with GMTP I've been quite culture shocked. This feeling keeps revisiting me as I realise Cambodia has changed in so many ways yet, in others, it is much the same.

It first hit me flying into Phnom Penh in May. Looking down over the city I wondered if the plane had flown mistakenly to Kuala Lumpur. All those brick houses with tiled roofs, tall multi-storey buildings and just such a big place. Surely this was not Cambodia? Last time I visited in 1999 the airport was little more than a shack and was some way out of the small city of Phnom Penh, separated by acres of rice paddies. Now it's one continuous sprawl of new houses and factories.  Before, we rode pillion on 'motodups' (motorbike taxis) or pedalled cyclos. Now there are tuk-tuks and the streets are full of air conditioned top-of-the-range 4 wheel drives, many with government plates...

A new wave of culture shock hit me this time as I came directly from Nepal. Kathmandu is the most poll…

Hooray - my expenses balance!

It's always a relief when one's expenses balance - this trip involves 5 different currencies and I'm so grateful to my lovely husband for designing me a spread sheet to manage my financial nightmares.  I'm pleased to say that I have exactly the right number of reil, pounds, dollars, rupees and baht left and I'm rather proud of myself.

It's always a treat to be back in Cambodia - I worked with Cambodian refugees in Thailand in the 1980s and learned to speak, read and write the language fairly fluently.  I lived in Cambodia itself in the early 1990s with CORD ( and visited frequently when I was Tearfund's southeast Asia Desk officer, until we adopted  Hannah in the Year 2000.  It had been 14 years since I spoke any Khmer but I'm pleased to say it's all coming back to me now that I have undertaken 3 trips here with the Global Midwifery Twinning Project.  I have a network of friends and contacts here that has been invaluable.  T…

Leaving Nepal and on to Cambodia

What a great ten days it has been.  As usual, the pace of the days increased as we crept closer to our flights home/onwards - sometimes however much planning I try to do in advance, things all seem to come together once I'm in country.

We spent the morning of our last day in Nepal at the Midwifery Society Office, where we undertook a mid-way evaluation of the project using a tool developed by the International Confederation of Midwives. This enabled MIDSON to assess their development to date and make plans for how they want to develop in the future.  We all agreed that after such an enormous effort organising the conference, they need some time to re-group and focus internally for a while.

After a lovely lunch of Nepal Thali at a local canteen, we headed to the Tribhuvan University Hospital on the other side of town, where Kiran (President of MIDSON) is an associate midwifery professor.  We were shown around the labour ward and met some wonderful, passionate midwives who are so fr…

What a week!

Time is flying so fast.  Haven't posted since Friday and so much has happened since then. We've been here a week and the days are getting busier and busier as we had towards our flights out on Friday.  I'm going onto Cambodia and there has been civil unrest there this week after July's elections, so I'm keeping a careful eye on the FCO website and keeping in close touch with friends in Phnom Penh - won't be taking any risks so don't worry about me!  Gillian will be flying home and I know Nepal will now hold a very special place in her heart - this trip has been full of wonderful, memorable moments making us very proud to be playing a part in developing the midwifery profession here.

The first ever midwifery conference in Nepal was a resounding success.  We both gave opening and closing speeches, and other presentations besides.  There were approximately 300 delegates and MIDSON did an amazing job of organising the conference - from registration packs, badge…

Friday 13th - definitely a lucky day!

It's been an amazing, full-on, exhausting and exhilarating day - at the end of which I am sitting in a luxury hotel room after a hot shower, fluffy towels and even a pair of those hotel slippers!  We have moved into the hotel where the midwifery conference is to be held - a beautiful, grand hotel, full of olde worlde Nepali charm but very competitively priced and with facilities big enough to host 300 conference delegates tomorrow.

After a quick breakfast, Gillian and I crossed town to the Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital to observe a Training of Trainers session being run by UNFPA.  The University is one of the five government hospitals training midwives and our project volunteers have previously been placed in the Hospital's maternity department to role model women-centred midwifery care.  They have also partnered with the midwifery teachers in the University, helping to develop them to be able to teach the new midwifery curriculum currently under development. 

The tr…

Thursday in Nepal: a day of strikes and signatures

Ruth and Tracy, UK Midwife Volunteers, helping to prepare 300 delegate bags for Nepal's first midwifery conference, being held this weekend and supported by our project.
Me signing three hundred conference certificates of attendance!

Today there was a national strike to protest about the increase in fuel prices.  It was eerily quiet on the roads; no vehicles except emergency services, and very few motorbikes.  Our hotel is on a main road so breakfast seemed so peaceful compared to the usual cacophony of horns, whistles and trucks. No taxis or buses were running so we had a lovely walk to the Midwifery Society Office, about 30 minutes away from the hotel.  It was all hands on deck to prepare for the conference - finishing the programme, signing all the certificates, packing all the delegate bags, and writing speeches.  The MIDSON staff also had a small welcome ceremony for Gillian and I, presenting us with beautiful scarves, a folder of information, and an apple for good luck!  Th…