Showing posts from 2014

Midwifery leadership and a mini-strike long before the RCM's!

This week in Nepal I was privileged to spend some time with a retired midwifery leader.  She prefers not to be named so we'll call her Momo, the Nepali lunch-time snack we were eating whilst she told me this story.

Momo was matron of a busy maternity unit.  Under her leadership, midwives started to perform vacuum deliveries, an essential life-saving skill for midwives who would be going out to work in rural areas with no back-up.  For three years midwives had a faultless track record, performing vacuum births with much better outcomes than their medical colleauges.  Then, one busy day and one difficult delivery with the cord tight around the neck, a baby died during a vacuum birth. The woman's visitors complained.  Doctors and others blamed the midwives for the death.  The hospital director was unsupportive, sending the visitors to Momo's office. Momo had a difficult three days trying to support and protect her staff, not helped by vitriolic TV propaganda against midwives. …

Here, there and everywhere

My good intentions about blogging every few days whilst overseas have failed to come to fruition in the last few weeks. Apologies!

I was in Cambodia from 18th-28th October, monitoring the progress of the Cambodian Midwives Association and facilitating a 2 day workshop in which they assessed themselves and reported back on various project activities.  It was encouraging to hear about the Kompong Cham local branch that has increased its membership three-fold since the start of the Global Midwifery Twinning Project. Also encouraging was a report from the midwifery training school in Kampot where three cohorts of GMTP volunteer midwives from the UK have been based.  Their efforts have been much appreciated. Thida, a senior Cambodian midwife teacher, gave a great presentation on the impact of her trip to Prague and the UK with our project and her increased confidence since returning.  She has recently been promoted and will be in a key government position to influence midwifery in Cambodia…

Progress in Cambodia

It's been a great day.  I'm here for my fifth visit to Cambodia with the Global Midwifery Twinning Project.  Our aim is to build the capacity of the Cambodian Midwives Association thereby strengthening the internationally recognised Three Pillars of a strong midwifery profession - Education, Regulation and Professional Midwifery Association.

One of our objectives is to develop the executive members of the association in their roles as midwifery leaders.  A key person in this is the President of the Association.  On my first visit here in May 2013 it was difficult to engage with her, she seemed very disheartened and dis-empowered.  We were supposed to be running a workshop but no plan or programme had been made and I wondered whether we should even continue with the programme or focus in other areas where we were more likely to be able to effect change.  We decided to take the risk.

This time it couldn't be more different.  The President called me on Sunday to see that I ha…

Off on my travels - Asia bound

Today is my last day in the office before flying to Cambodia on Friday.  I'll be away from home for nearly 4 weeks.  Here is my schedule:

17- 28 October in Cambodia with Cambodian Midwives Association - hosting workshops and visiting lots of organisations and individuals connected with midwifery in Cambodia.  I'll be staying with my long-time friends Steve and Ruth Penfold.  We all worked together in Cambodia back in the early 1990s and it's great to have reconnected through my recent visits to the country.

28 Oct - 1 Nov in Colombo, Sri Lanka at the regional SAFOG/FIGO conference.  Professor Kiran Bajracharya from the Midwifery Society of Nepal will be presenting a paper. This is a great excitement as raising the profile of our twinned midwifery associations is one of the aims of our Global Midwifery Twinning Project.  Kiran and I will be staying at the YWCA Colombo - first time there and first time in Sri Lanka for me, so that's another pin for the world map!


Leaving Uganda

Wow, where did those 10 days go?!  Monday and Tuesday have been a whirlwind, visiting DFID and the Commissioner for Nursing and Midwifery at the Ministry of Health then finally facilitating a workshop with the external stakeholders of the midwives' association.  This included representatives from various universities, the Ministry of Health, the Nurses and Midwives Union, the Ugandan Nurses and Midwives Council, The White Ribbon Alliance and various NGOs such as White Ribbon Alliance and AMREF.

I'm flying home tonight and going straight from Heathrow to the office where I'm meeting a delegation of high level health representatives from Malawi, including the President of the Association of Malawian Midwives (AMM).  Jacque Gerrard, the RCM's Director for England will be joining our meeting and we're really excited as we have just submitted a bid for some work in Malawi with the AMM.  After the meeting I'll be travelling to Birmingham by train to attend a two day …

Saturday... pausing for breath

I have moved out of the hotel to stay with my long-time friends Deborah and Philip Betts and their lovely family who live here in Uganda.  Deborah and I went to school together and our parents were friends long before that, so our ties go way back.  Such friendships are so precious.  Their beautiful house and garden in the suburbs of Kampala is providing a much-needed oasis for me to gather my thoughts, reflecting on the achievements and challenges of the past week and planning my last few days so that when I step on the plane in the early hours of Wednesday morning we will be on track to achieve our objectives here in the last six months of our programme.

Last week continued to involve delicate negotiation, ensuring that I can achieve what is necessary during my short time here without compromising the programme for our volunteers. By nature a capacity building project means that the Ugandan Midwives Association has limited capacity... the imposition of four UK midwives on short-ter…

Fried Blobby Fish and other Ugandan Stories

Here I am in Uganda for my fourth visit in 18 months.  I was feeling particularly anxious prior to my trip as we approach the end of our programme and need to show that we have achieved our objectives and provided value for money.  I have travelled previously with other members of RCM staff or external consultants; this time I have a dauntingly long list of objectives to achieve my myself.  However, I am happily overlapping with four of our UK midwife volunteers, two of whom (Tricia and Sue) flew out with me from Heathrow.  It's great to be staying in the Kolping Hotel together and to have arrived in the middle of the night with other people rather than on my own.

Ebola defences were in evidence at the airport; we were met by a wall of nurses in uniform, wellies, masks and gloves who made us sanitise our hands and checked our temperatures before we passed through immigration.  We also had to complete a long checklist to rule out any suspicious symptoms of disease! Thankfully UPMA&…

Half a kilo of peppers and other stories

As the result of a dyslexic moment whilst placing my online Tesco order, I have spent this weekend working my way through a glut of courgettes. Courgette tart, courgette chutney, ratatouille, courgette cake, vegetable curry; we've managed to reduce the courgette mountain to just three. 

Stephen reminded me of a similar incident some years ago involving green peppers. In 1999, relatively newly married, we lived in Albania for a year working with refugees from Kosovo. In many ways it was my most 'civilised' overseas posting to date.  We rented a brick house with a sit-down toilet and a proper shower in the middle of the city. There was a bidet! We had a four-wheel drive car and a maid to clean the house.  However, it was also difficult and challenging in many ways.  Albania was only just beginning to surface from years of isolation and extreme communism under the dictator Enver Hoxha. Though geographically in Europe, parts of the country were locked in tribal warfare, car-jac…

A day in the life of a Global Professional Advisor

I've posted many times during my travels but what do I do back in the UK. Here's a snapshot of yesterday.

05.40 am - alarm, shower, dress, feed dog, prepare dinner in the slow cooker, unload and load dishwasher, put a load of washing on, pack breakfast and lunch for work, greet daughter and bark instructions for dinner whilst doing kitchen jobs, wake husband, make cup of tea for the train, pack rucksack for work.

Lamb Tagine - cook on low all day whilst you're at work.  Serves 3 or 4
1 large lamb leg steak
1 tin chick peas
1 tin chopped tomatoes
3 chopped carrots
2 chopped onions
8 medium potatoes peeled and cut into bite sized pieces
2 tsp Ras el hanout spice
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 tsp celery salt
1/2 tsp garlic granules
2 veg stock cubes

06.40 Leave home getting lift to station from husband.  Pay £35.40 travelcard for the day

07.06 Train from West Malling to London Farringdon, Tube to Great Por…

Talking about mental health

Earlier in this blog I spoke about my experience of PTSD after a year of war-zone living.  I recovered thanks to a strong constitution, provision of the right friends and family at the right time and a community of faith.

Yesterday I found myself at the bedside of a young man, my friends' son, hospitalised following a heroin overdose after years of poor mental health and devastating alcohol dependency.  Despite his loving family, such complex needs and the power of addiction engender a sense of hopelessness and make recovery seem very far off.. Troubled after my visit and hurting for all involved, I was drawn to the Sunday evening worship at our local church.  This service provides a quiet space to reflect on the week just past and find strength for what lies ahead.

The chosen Bible passage,  Ezekiel chapter 34, seemed to speak directly into this difficult situation:
"I myself will look for my sheep... I will bring them back from that dark and disastrous day.  I will lead th…

Home but not yet over!

The ICM Congress in Prague finished on Thursday and I have returned home for a brief weekend with my family whilst our twinned midwives from Nepal, Cambodia and Uganda visit Scotland, the north of England and Wales/Northern Ireland respectively, each to their own twinned countries.  I am enormously grateful to my RCM colleagues and some of our returned volunteer midwives for arranging both accommodation and clinical/academic visits for their twins, giving me a little window to share a sunny Sunday lunch with my extended family, walk my dog in the nearby nature reserve and catch up on some sleep.

It's hard to put into words what an amazing experience it was to be with over 3,000 midwives from across the world in Prague, to reunite with friends and colleagues from the past 30 years and to share this adventure with amazing midwives from the RCM and from our twinned countries.  At times I felt like a frazzled tour guide, making sure that everyone was where they needed to be at the ri…

Does your friend bite?

Those of a certain age may remember Peter Sellers in the famous Pink Panther sketch 'Does your dog bite?' Does your dog bite? .  There are plenty of dogs here in Prague but thankfully none have bitten me.  However, I can't say the same about my midwifery friends!  A Ugandan midwife that I have come to know during my travels was so pleased to see me that she bit me after first giving me a bear hug and a very painful pinch.  A true sign of love apparently. I'm grateful to have been wearing a robust shirt so she didn't break my skin and realise that, however well-travelled, I still have much to learn about cross-cultural communication!
The story of my growing friendship with Florence (the biting midwife) provides a snapshot of what our twinning project is achieving in Uganda.  Florence is the Chair of the Midwifery Chapter of the Uganda Nurses and Midwives Union. Until recently the Union focused mostly on nurses and did not provide a voice for midwives.  Florence had …

Together in Prague: Moments in History

Our Global Midwifery Twinning Project is linking midwifery associations in Uganda, Cambodia, Nepal and the UK. Yesterday was the first time all four associations had come together since the beginning of the project two years ago.
Gathering a day before the ICM Congress began, at a workshop facilitated by an external facilitator, we began the process of telling our stories, coming to a shared understanding of where we have come from, where we are now and where we would like to go together.
It was a beautiful and inspiring time, getting to know one another, listening to our partner associations talking about the successes and challenges of furthering the work of midwives where they are, crying and laughing together and sharing a meal.  I was especially grateful to the three RCM directors and our president who set aside the day, in the midst of this enormously busy time, to understand the project better and to deepen the relationships with our partners.  We will have a follow up workshop…