Showing posts from 2015

It's a Lilongwe to Malawi...

We’ve now been in Malawi for 10 days and have travelled the length and breadth of the country with our driver Penjani and his pick-up, feeding him coke and cake so he stays awake on the long drives. Singing 'It's Lilongwe to Malawi' to the tune of 'It's a long way to Tipperary...' has kept us laughing along the road.
We’ve stayed with families on mission stations in the north and the south, visiting hospitals, clinics and midwifery training schools/universities and meeting anyone who can tell us something about midwifery and professional associations in Malawi.  We’ve met donors and NGOs, doctors, midwives, nurse and students.  We’ve seen some really impressive buildings and heard of great achievements but we’ve also been trying to dig deeper and see the reality behind the facades and hear the stories of people on the ground. 
Now we’re back in the capital, Lilongwe, to join the Association of Malawian Midwives (AMAMI) at their AGM today.  We’re looking forwar…

A taste of a long day

A taste of today. Early morning meeting with VSO Malawi office, packing up then driving 400kms north to Ekwendeni, a Mission Hospital and Training School where we are staying for 2 days whilst we meet midwives all over the north.

Musings from Malawi Part 1

Written on 23rd but posted today as had no internet before!
My feet have hardly touched the ground returning from my summer holiday in August.  Following successful trips to Uganda in September and Nepal in October, the global team has been fully occupied selecting, interviewing and preparing our member volunteer consultants for their placement in Uganda in January 2016, submitting our Action Research Proposal to the Ugandan Ministry of Health and recruiting more member consultants for positions with DFID in Bangladesh.  We’ve also been supporting the RCOG with their ‘Leading Safe Choices’ project and attending the launch at the House of Lords.  We contributed to a needs assessment led by UNFPA in Cambodia by Skype, visited Scotland for a three-day fact-finding mission about Malawi and attended the  annual THET (our project funder's) conference in Birmingham and the RCM conference in Telford.  I also presented a symposium at the NET healthcare education conference with my colleag…

For Sarah

A tribute to my friend Sarah Cullen, nee Chavasse, at whose memorial service I was privileged to say a few words this afternoon.

'Sarah was my best friend at junior school from the ages of four and five when we both started in Kindergarten at Walthamstow Hall until the summer of 1976 when I left to join my two older sisters at Tonbridge Grammar School for Girls.  I found school very difficult.  I am dyslexic, though no one knew that back then.  I was one of the last in my class to learn my times-tables; there may even be some others here today who remember the dreaded felt mice with knotted string tails and the shame of being slow to achieve the required 12 knots, one for each times table! I was also slow to achieve the required standard for neat hand-writing and to progress from a pencil to a fountain pen.  Sarah, on the other hand, was exceptionally bright despite being the youngest in the class with a September birthday.  She never judged, was kind and constant and quietly enc…

Bye bye Kathmandu... until next time

By Joy Kemp, Global Professional Advisor for the Royal College of Midwives.

I'm on my way home from an amazing 10 days in Kathmandu.  Following a successful fundraising campaign by UK midwives, coordinated by the RCM, it was time to travel back to Nepal to meet our twinning partner, the Midwifery Society of Nepal (MIDSON) for the first time since the earthquakes in April and May and to see how things had changed and developed, as well as ensuring that our funds are being spent wisely.

I was wonderfully hosted by MIDSON at their office in Kupondole, and by Ashok and Katrin (with toddler son Aryan and dog Butterscotch) at the At Home Guesthouse in Jamshikhel.  Nepal has certainly had a difficult year - first the earthquakes and now political stalemate with its neighbour Inda with the border road blocked and no fuel getting through.  Kathmandu was much quieter (and less polluted) with fewer cars on the road, so I walked everywhere locally and had fun exploring the city on local tuk …

In Nepal again after the earthquakes

The RCM has been twinned with the Midwifery Society of Nepal (MIDSON) since 2012.   Between April 2012 and March 2015 we sent 23 of our midwife members as volunteers on 25 placements to Nepal through the Global MidwiferyTwinning Project. In addition, many of our members have visited Nepal and some have a long standing relationship with the country.  Therefore, when a 7.8 magnitude earthquake and more than 100 associated aftershocks struck Nepal in April 2015, killing more than 9000 people, our members were deeply concerned about the safety and wellbeing of their friends and colleagues in Nepal and asked the RCM to respond.
Having run a fundraising campaign from May - August 2015 we have been hugely encouraged by the response.   Your efforts have raised around £25,000 to help provide access to midwifery care for women and babies in Nepal  during the emergency, now and for the future.  We have been working with MIDSON to ensure that the monies raised are put to good use.

MIDSON rapidly …

Nepal Update

It's now more than 3 months since the earthquakes in Nepal that caused such devastation and loss of life and livelihood.  The Royal College of Midwives had just finished a three-year twinning project with the Midwifery Society of Nepal during which time we had formed a close working relationship. We immediately started a fund-raising campaign amongst our members and have raised a staggering £21,000.  Reading the messages on our justgiving page, and the letters and cheques that arrived at HQ, was truly humbling.  Some gave large amounts; musician Gary from Kent whose wife Annette is a midwife, put on a fundraising concert and recorded a special CD for Nepal raising £660; seventeen year old Emily, an aspiring midwife, held a tea party with her Mum and raised £121; midwives in Coventry did the Wolf run and raised over £500. Others could only give a small amount but the messages with their donations were poignant: 'A donation to help colleagues in Nepal help women safely birth the…

Oh Oh Den Haag!

Last week I had the privilege of participating in two short training courses at The International Confederation of Midwives in The Hague.  Excellently facilitated by Tracey Phillips from Southern Hemisphere the courses were 'Theory of Change' and 'Results Based Monitoring and Evaluation'.

It's impossible to sum up the wealth of helpful information and practical strategies communicated, but everything I have learned will be immediately useful in my work as Global Professional Advisor for the Royal College of Midwives.  Theory of Change will allow us to ensure that we have carefully considered all the assumptions underpinning our global programmes and partnerships and that our project planning is robust.  Results-based M&E will ensure that we can measure the outcomes of what we do, collect the right information at the right time and report on it appropriately.  There is much work to do in setting up our systems but I feel confident that we can do it and am so gr…

Nepal Update

It’s just over one month since the earthquake in Nepal on 25 April that killed over 8,800 people and injured more than 23,000.  With subsidiary quakes and aftershocks there have been a total of over 25 earthquakes in the past 7 days; 93 earthquakes in the past month and 104 earthquakes in the past year.  Additionally the monsoon season has now started, further complicating life for those living in tents and temporary shelters and those involved in the relief effort.  The global team at the Royal College of Midwives has been in regular communication with the Midwifery Society of Nepal (MIDSON) since immediately after the first earthquake, Skyping every few days to offer psychological and technical support and also giving financial support through our fundraising campaign. . We've also been liaising with other agencies, both in Nepal and in the UK, to ensure that there is no duplication and that aid gets to where it's …

Eating Nettles - fabulous free food!

With the lovely May weather and a slightly less frenetic pace at work of late (well, for the last 4 days anyway), I've been enjoying some longer dog walks with sights, sounds and smells of approaching summer: lawn mowers and cut grass, hawthorn blossom and the lovely bright green hedgerows.

Nettles grow everywhere on our walks so one day earlier this week I took gloves and a carrier bag and returned with some young, tender nettle leaves. I'd read that you should just pick the tips i.e. the top 4 leaves.  Apparently they're best eaten before June as they are 'supercharged with all things good' in spring and get a bit tough after that. The nettle is far superior in nutritional value to many other veg and a good source of vitamin C, iron and protein. 
First, I made nettle pesto, loosely following River Cottage's Recipe.  I didn't use nearly as much oil as Mr. F-W and used a couple of tablespoons of plain veg oil instead of rapeseed.  Instead of bread I toasted…

Cheap as chips Vegetable Tagine with Wild Garlic Coucous

Today I found some wild garlic in the woods whilst out walking the dog and wanted to make something cheap and healthy for dinner, brain food for my daughter who started GSCEs and my husband who started a new job - a big day in our family today!
So here's my cheap as chips vegetable tagine with wild garlic couscous:

Place a medium casserole dish on medium heat (I use my Le Crueset, a wedding present from 19 years ago, still going strong!).  Add: ·1tbsp olive oil
Prepare the following and sauté in the oil for around 10 mins till beginning to soften.  Add a little water if it starts to stick.
·2 onions (Tesco Value) – each onion peeled and divided into 8 wedges·1 large carrot (Tesco Value) – peeled and cut into small bite sized chunks·10 little potatoes (Texco Value) peeled and cut into small bite sized chunks (waxy potatoes are good but any will do)·½ butternut squash, peeled and cut into small bite-size chunks (by all means just use carrots which are cheaper, I just happened to have a…

Spicy Meatballs, 60 p per portion

I watch very little TV as I'm too tired at the end of the day, but sometimes on Saturday mornings I catch up with my guilty pleasures like OBEM (I know, I shouldn't), 24 hours in A&E, The Hotel Inspector, NCIS or an Island Parish. And anything cookery.  (I leave University Challenge to watch with the husband as it's one of the few things we like watching together).

So this morning found me watching Rick Stein in Morocco making spicy  meatballs and it got me thinking.  I had some mince in the freezer (bought from the reduced shelf for £1.28) and plenty of veg in the fridge. Rick's version had loads of oil and eggs on top so I changed it a bit and this is what we had, served with spaghetti and a simple side salad.  It was lush.  Even if you buy full-price mince it only works out at 60p a portion (everything is made with value range products where possible).

How to make my spicy meatballs,  serves 6 hungry people

Pre-heat the oven to 140c.

Into the food processor, slin…

The best loaf of bread ever - 30p

Let me tell you how to make the best loaf of bread ever for around 30p.  Two top tips:

(From A Girl Called Jack) You don't need to use special strong bread flour.  Tesco Value plain flour makes amazing bread and you can make three loaves out of a 45p bag of flour, thus 15p for each (From Nigella) Using potato water (ie the water that you've par-boiled your potatoes in before the Sunday roast) makes brilliant bread.  Apparently the potato make the gluten more stretchy, makes a softer, lighter loaf, and acts as an anti-staling agent so the bread stays fresher for longer.  But you can just use ordinary tap water too.

500g value plain flour - 15p
7g sachet dried fast action yeast - 10p
1 tbsp caster sugar or honey - 0.001p
1/2 tsp salt - 0.00001p
1 tbsp baking margarine(or olive oil or butter) - 3p
300 mls cooled potato water or cool tap water - negligible cost
Plain vegetable oil for oiling - 2p


Weigh the flour into a mixing bowl.  Add the yeast on one side of t…

Nepal Earthquake

News is flooding in of the devastating earthquake in Nepal; the epicentre was in the Kathmandu Valley, the most densely populated part of Nepal, and the death toll is rising into the thousands, with thousands more affected by a shortage of shelter, water and food.  The Royal College of Midwives has been working in Nepal since 2012 through our partner, the Midwifery Society of Nepal (MIDSON).

Our immediate concern is for the safety of our friends and colleagues. Telephone services in Nepal are mostly unavailable and many will have no way to access the Internet. We have contact with some MIDSON members who are safe, but are unaware of the welfare of others. Once we have established better contact we will assess whether the Royal College of Midwives can assist MIDSON in anyway and what the appropriate response might be. Please continue to hold our sisters in your thoughts and prayers and keep alert for further updates about any ways in which you may be able to help.

Meanwhile the Interna…

Last journey from Nepal

I started writing this post in the air (again!) to regain composure in the middle of a nightmare journey.  I can hardly read what I wrote as my handwriting was severely compromised due to turbulence.  I think this is the last time I will fly with Turkish Airlines; it hasn’t been the best of days.  Having left the guesthouse in Kathmandu before 6am I joined a long queue even to enter the airport terminal.  Eventually reaching the check in desk I learned that the flight was 2 hours late so I would miss my connecting flight from Istanbul to Gatwick.  With my trusty 20 year old suitcase I hovered near the desk for another hour whilst they made enquiries before telling me that the next available flight would be tomorrow.  As I have only 72 hours before flying to Uganda I was a bit fed up. 
Having finally boarded the delayed flight, we had an aborted take-off attempt with little explanation. There was an alarming squeal of brakes and a juddery slew to the right and we sat on the tarmac fo…