Mobilise a Midwife: Inspirational work with women giving birth in rural Uganda
Since 2006 when we first started sending YES products out to customers, we have delivered to more than 90 countries worldwide including some far-flung locations such Nigeria, China, Belize and even the North Pole! It is a heartwarming thought that YES is bringing comfort and joy to so many women around the globe, so we were thrilled to be contacted recently by Emily Hill a young midwife from Yorkshire who founded the charity ‘Mobilise a Midwife’ to support rural community midwives in Atiak, Uganda. Emily is an inspiration to us all and when she asked if we would like to donate YES WB water based lubricant for her to use during vaginal examinations of pregnant women at The Birth House in Atiak, we had no hesitation in responding with a resounding YES.
Emily left for Uganda on November 16. This was her second visit to this part of Uganda which in 1995 was at the centre of the atrocities carried out by the L.R.A (The Lord’s Resistance Army) when they rounded up civilians, forced the boys to become child soldiers, kidnapped the young girls to become sex slaves and killed almost 300 people. The repercussions from this massacre are still being felt, and The Birth Centre looks after some women who were either raped by the rebel army or were abducted and became warriors themselves. There are 24 year olds who have a 12yr old child which is hard to imagine without recoiling at the horror of this aspect of civil war. Here is what Amy has told us about this latest volunteering project.
“I visited Uganda to work at the remote rural Birth house in Atiak, North Uganda. The Birth House was established in 2008 by Mother Health International. I learnt of the charity in 2011 and observed their work for a few years before I was in a position to volunteer there. I first needed to move out of London and become a Neonatal examiner which is an additional course before I felt ready to go. In 2013 I planned my trip, wanting to not only volunteer but also have a meaningful project that I could fundraise for beforehand. Speaking to the director I shared my idea to buy all the traditional midwives bicycles while I was there. She said that they were currently working regularly with 30 traditional midwives (traditional birth attendants). They came with women to the birth house to offer support in labour and were attending our monthly meetings and teaching sessions.
So I thought this was doable - 30 bikes no problem, in the lead up to the trip I raised £6000, this bought and distributed 41 bikes, 110 Mooncups, 25 Fetoscopes for foetal monitoring and loads of other mini projects and supplies. This is when Mobilise a Midwife was born, my idea came from my mother who fundraised in our village after the tsunami, and went to Sri Lanka and brought 50 bikes for families that had to relocate, so that the children could get to school and the parents to work.
So that was a success, I self funded my travel and expenses and got a career break from my work at Bradford teaching hospital last time. This time I have fundraised for mine and another midwife - Dani Grange who is coming with me and I’m going for 3 weeks rather than 3 months this time. I took 140kg as luggage on the flight last time. But this time I’ve sent 500kg via freight and travelling a little lighter!
When I am out there, I live at the birth house, it’s designed like the traditional mud huts, it’s cool inside and provides dignity for labouring and birthing mothers with individual rooms off a central communal space (the womb of the birth house). I work 24/7, occasionally leaving the grounds for transfers and supplies. The hospital with an obstetric unit is 50km away, we didn’t have a working ambulance last time so if we needed to get a woman or baby to hospital. We had to wait on the side of the road and hope that someone would stop for us. This could only be done in daylight hours. You really get to see the wonder working of a woman's body and see how capable she is to listen to herself and birth her baby gently in these conditions. Women and babies are capable of so much, sometimes we don’t get to see this working in the UK. Keeping tiny babies with their mothers, milk comes quicker than I have observed working in the UK and babies thrive staying close to their mothers. I cared for twins born 29 hours apart - see Mobilise a Midwife Facebook page if you want to know more!"
On this most recent trip Emily also had some projects in mind. She planned to work on upright birth, from women receiving care in government health centres and hospitals because it’s been indoctrinated for women to push their babies out lying flat on their backs. With the help of a dear friend Jane Laurie they have created a beautiful poster of illustrated African mamas birthing in upright positions. They planned to teach midwives and mamas the benefits of this and encouraging them to listen to the natural urge to birth in upright positions. Emily teamed up with Afripad - Uganda made reusable menstrual pads and hosted women's circles to discuss the monthly flow They hoped to improve the solar power storage – in order to get the ultrasound machine working, and they also planned to build a bigger and better chicken coop so that women could have eggs as part of their free meals and the eggs will hopefully become an income for the birth house too. Emily returned from her trip a week ago and will let us have an update of her work soon.