We were made very welcome by all the villagers and health workers. Sixty four village women came to our classes with many stories of the challenges pregnant and childbearing women face in the village and their eagerness to learn how to help save the mother and baby. We had lots of fun sharing knowledge and stories and so much laughter as the women practiced their new skills during role plays. After 4 days the women really felt more confident and proud of their new knowledge. They went back to their village with a new sense of hope, hope to be able to help the mother in birth, hope to recognise danger signs early and the knowledge when to refer women to the health centre, and hope to save the baby at birth when it does not take its first breath. To see this was so fulfilling and satisfying.
It was the same for the 32 health workers who were eager for more knowledge and improved skills to be better able to assist women during childbirth. The health workers embraced their new knowledge and were fully engaged throughout the classes. Overall the 2 weeks in Anguganak was both very busy and very rewarding and worth any hardships we had to face.
After meeting Sara David in Wewak, Sara, Rhondy and I head out on a long jeep drive and then travelled in a dugout canoe for about 3 hours along the Sepik River. Here we found the village women equally as enthusiastic to learn how to save the mother and baby. It was a completely different experience to Anguganak with thousands more mosquitoes during both day and night to constantly try and avoid. Here the women had a more difficult challenge when faced with medical emergencies, as they had a long way to travel on the river before they could access a road and a vehicle to medical help. You could feel the pain and suffering of the women, feel their sadness for the mothers and babies lost in childbirth, as well as their frustration with the lack of access to family planning that confounds the problem leading to many unwanted pregnancies, further risking life during pregnancy and birth. The women cried at the end of the training, cried with gratitude for the training, cried with thanks for the ability and skills to help save lives. This was so deeply moving and special. The women I meet in PNG were hungry for knowledge and skills to save mothers and babies in childbirth and I am grateful to have been able to share my skills with them. It was a rich and rewarding experience. It was my first time in PNG and I was very excited to be in the country that still has such strong and rich culture. I was delighted by the enthusiasm of the village women and the readiness for the health workers to learn and develop new skills. This made all the challenges and hardships worthwhile. I was thrilled to be working alongside Rhondy who is a wonderful PNG midwife with excellent skills and a future leader in midwifery, sexual and reproductive health in PNG.
Comment by Sara David: Mary is a global midwifery consultant who willingly volunteered her time with Living Child Inc. this year. We were so pleased to have Mary on our team as she has so much knowledge and experience having worked in many different developing countries over the last 7 years.