2015 has been a very busy one indeed. Midwives from Australia, Mary and Debbie joined local midwife Rhondy for 2 weeks of training in Anguganak,Sandaun Province. The first week focused on safe motherhood awareness training for village health volunteers. 64 attendees came along from a variety of villages around the area. Family planning awareness, danger signs in pregnancy, safe clean birth, birth planning, essential newborn care and emergency care for a mother bleeding after birth were the topics.
The second week was more intensive training for Community Health Workers. 3 CHW were also certified to insert contraceptive implants, of which 85 were inserted. To date 300 implants have been inserted - the need is great. Thank you to the Rotary project Spasim Pikinini for providing the implants. Topics covered were family planning counselling, quality antenatal care, kind care during labour and birth, managing labour, helping babies breathe, emergency care. The majority of the 32 CHW had not had any continuing professional development since they had qualified. This is a huge problem in remote areas of PNG.
Overall the 2 weeks in Anguganak were very successful - the team worked well together, the first time without Founder and CEO Sara David! Rhondy was a vital link to connecting with the community and her experience was highly valued. The local people were very grateful for the training and asked for Living Child to return in the near future.
After 2 weeks in Anguganak there was a change in shifts: Debbie returned to Australia and Sara joined Mary and RHondy. They went to the village of Samban at the invitation of Outreach International and Samaritan Aviation, to give 3 days of safe motherhood training to village birth attendants. It was a challenging time, between mud, rain and swarms of mosquitoes. Also, the level of suffering the women experience on a daily basis was tangible - living in very poor villages surrounded by water, no place to grow food, exposed to poisonous snakes, sickness and lack of family planning. We did however, feel that we made a connection with the women and this was evidenced when, upon our return to Wewak, a woman was flown in from Samban Health Centre with a retained placenta. The village birth attendant looking after her had come to our training over the previous few days. She recognised the danger signs in this woman early, evacuated her to the Health Centre in time and so she was able to be flown to Wewak Hospital for a manual removal of placenta. This early action helped save the life of the mother who had already lost a lot of blood. When we praised the VBA she was visibly pleased.
As 2014 draws to a close and we prepare to celebrate Christmas, I'd just like to thank all our supporters for your wonderful encouragement and practical help throughout the year. We had a Board meeting earlier this week and I had a sense that we are moving from a fledgling organisation grappling to work out which path to take, to a young organisation, but with a much clearer vision of what we will focus on next year and in the years to come. It is exciting to see where we have come from. We are committed to being guided by the local people, supporting the health professionals in very practical ways to empower them to be able to teach others and provide quality maternal & newborn health services.As our plans develop we will keep you informed so that you can be part of this amazing journey in partnership with the local PNG midwives, village birth attendants and people in some of the remotest villages in the world!
Best wishes for a peaceful Christmas and a healthy and joy-filled 2015.
Founder & Director of Living Child
Our team have recently returned from another successful, although challenging trip to Papua New Guinea. 3 midwives travelled with the church leaders to the remote village of Bunam again where we had been in July 2013. This time we were accompanied by local midwife Rhondy which gave us great insight into the area, the health needs and the cultural system. It has been a very dry season and so the river was low and the boat trip took us 7 hrs (last year it was 5.5 hrs and we thought that was long!!)!
It was very special to be given a warm welcome when we arrived at the village: "welcome home, Sara!" And it was lovely to meet up with people who we have been developing friendships with over the past 2 years: village leaders, pastors, village birth attendants, health volunteers, families.The Health Centre in Bunam sadly remains closed, but there was certainly a different 'feel' in the village this time. Hope?
On the Monday, we gave out information about the contraceptive implants which we had brought with us courtesy of Rotary 'Spasim Pikinini Project'. This session was given to men and women together. There were many questions and we answered them with facts. Later that day we started inserting the implants and did 25. Most of the women had had 6-8 children already and leapt off the trolley with big grins after the procedure.
Each morning Debbie and Rhondy gave public health education to over 100 women. They covered topics such as normal pregnancy, healthy eating, having antenatal checkups, safe birth with a skilled birth attendant, infection prevention and immunisation.
Nicci and I gave more intense training to 48 health volunteers and village birth attendants. There was also one trained health worker and a Health Extension Officer were present too (the HEO walked all night to come to our training which he had heard about. It was the first time I had met him). The majority of people had come to previous training that we have provided. The others came because they had heard about our training - this was encouraging. Our topics included family planning methods, danger signs in pregnancy and how to help a woman who is haemorrhaging after birth. The highlight for me was when I asked the group to divide into smaller groups and come up with a song to teach their communities about the danger signs in pregnancy to get help sooner rather than later. It was hilarious as they all overcame their shyness and fear and gave some very funny presentations about danger signs.
Unfortunately, our training was cut short due to some unrest in the village. We never felt personally threatened, but one of the local health team members was hurt in a 'payback' attack. We felt we had to leave to send a very clear message to the village leaders that if they wanted us to come and support them, they had to provide a safe environment free from random violence. The people were very sorry about what had happened. I have to admit that I cried because I just felt that it was the women and young children who were suffering again and missing out, because of the actions of hotheaded young people.
After working tirelessly on the last afternoon to insert another 50 implants, we left with heavy hearts. But we did manage to train another health worker to be able to continue supplying and inserting the contraceptive. He is now travelling from village to village to provide this service to the people (he reports to me that he has inserted a further 70 implants!) and is on his way back to Wewak as I write this blog, to collect more supplies.
Debbie, Rhondy and Nicci then stayed in Wewak for a further 5 days, spending time in the maternity ward at Boram hospital. They continued to build relationship with the local midwives and had the opportunity to provide some care to the women birthing there. Samaritan Aviation staff made the most of the midwifery expertise and enjoyed some teaching sessions as well.
So, a challenging trip, but again many more doors have opened for us, in particular, a reassurance that the local people and local government want us to visit again...
We would like to thank Send Hope Not Flowers for their very generous grant which greatly assisted with costs for this trip.
Where is the year going to? It has been an incredibly busy 5 months. After the trip to Port Moresby, Sara has been busy working at the WA HEalth Department writing a midwifery continuing education curriculum for developing nations. Global Health Alliance WA www.globalhealthalliance.com.au are part of the Nursing and Midwifery Office in the Health Department and have a strong relationship supporting nursing and midwifery education in Tanzania. She will be travelling to Tanzania next month to deliver the course and evaluate how well it is recevied by the local Tanzanian midwives. Fingers crossed it all goes well!
The plan is to eventually be able to take the curriculum to PNG as there is a recognised gap in continuing professional development of midwives there too. The course will be a wonderful addition to the work Living Child are already doing supporting local midwives and village birth attendants.
Living CHild are planning a trip to PNG in August. As more details are available we will share them with you.
Our inaugural AGM was a success and the Board has 6 enthusiastic members each with amazing talents to share. More details about each Board member will be published in the next newsletter which is currently under construction.
Sweetfayz Cake Designer, Stephanie Wilmot, has kindly offered to organise a fundraising High Tea for Living Child. She has recruited a team of helpers and it is sure to be a very special event with raffles and door prizes as well as scrumptious sweet treats. Seats are limited and tickets can be purchased on our website www.livingchildinc.com.
Today Sara had a call from Vivien, the village birth attendant who has stayed in touch and reports back about the use of birthing kits. Vivien says she has used all her kits up and needs some more. She says that she has saved many lives because she uses the kit and also now understands what to do to prevent bleeding once the baby is born. We are looking forward to meeting up with Vivien again to hear her stories.
Well we are back safe and sound, a short intense trip but oh so worthwhile. Just as hoped we met lots of important strategic people and more importantly they met Living Child. Sara spoke well and many people came and told us of how moved they were from Sara's presentation, offering thanks and encouragement for the work Living Child is doing. Time spent with Midwife Rhondy cemented great friendships and mutual respect. We could not have met many of the contacts without Rhondy and they all praised her for her hard word, skills and dedication as a midwife. The other speakers were also extremely informative and have increased our knowledge of PNG's culture, how they value partnerships and the problems this developing nation is trying to deal with.Always great to spend time with Rotarian Wendy Stein and see that her hard work is also appreciated and being noticed. Sara you are a champion and I am privileged to be part of the team. Debbie Butters
A couple of weeks ago I received an email from Safe Motherhood Alliance PNG who are working with the PNG National Department of Health to provide Family Planning for ALL PNG women. They have heard of the work Living Child has been doing in the East Sepik Province and so have invited us to present at a National Family Planning meeting in Port Moresby on the 26 & 27th Feb. Well I looked at the program and felt instantly that we needed to do everything we could to be there. Health Ministers, Provincial Ministers and authorities, leading doctors and some NGOs will be there. We hope to be able to meet some key people and for them to be able to put a face to the name Living Child.
So, on the 23rd Feb Debbie Butters and I will fly to Port Moresby. We've also arranged for Sr RHondy to meet us there and spend some time with her. She is a passionate midwife who is desperately trying to introduce some regular education and training for local midwives, health workers and village birth attendants to reduce the death rate of mothers and babies. Steve (helicopter pilot in Wewak)and his wife Stephanie have enabled us to provide a laptop computer to Rhondy so that we can keep in better contact but more importantly so that I can supply her with some midwifery teaching resources and manuals that she can use in her day to day role as a midwife. I'll take these over on a hard disc drive for ease of storage.
I've been in touch with the PNG Midwifery Society and managed to track down the midwife who has written a recent PhD all about the need for training Village birth attendants. She is now the Nursing Council Registrar, so an important person to meet and get our registrations as midwives in PNG moving along the pipeline of bureaucracy. So we'll meet these two midwives who are in positions of authority in PNG - in everything Living Child does we want to make sure we work within their guidelines and policies. I'm really looking forward to connecting with these midwives.
Wendy Stein who trained us in the use of the implants will also be at this meeting which is such a bonus. It will be wonderful to see her again and spend time encouraging each other!
So, wish us well. I'll let you know how it all goes.
Midwives Sara and Debbie went to Karkar Island for formal training in inserting contraceptive implants for Family Planning, then travelled to Wewak to train others.
A short visit, put together at short notice to make use of the opportunity to have training with Wendy Stein from Rotary International’s ‘Save the Kula Babies’ project, but I believe God’s hands were again guiding our work and strengthening our connections in PNG especially with both the Wewak hospital staff and with Samaritan Aviation.
It was a pleasure to have the Sogeram women join us on Karkar Island. They were so prepared to embrace new adventures such as the boat trip to the island and learning the difficult task of inserting implants. Not being health care workers placed them in a situation where there was so much to learn in a short time. As nurses Debbie and I are very comfortable with putting on gloves, preparing syringes, giving injections, being aware of sterile techniques and the use of medication. We understand some of the science behind how medication works, the potential dangers of infection or bleeding when doing procedures and using needles. Rebeka, Alexia and Ester were excellent students and tried very hard but in the short time we all had, Wendy, Debbie and I all felt it was not fair to them or safe for patients to say they had achieved a level of competency to work unsupervised. Therefore, we presented them with certificates to declare they were trained in educating and promoting the use of Implant contraception. Wendy is keen to visit Sogeram early in 2014 and will at this time again link with the girls and make use of their new skills.
Our time in Wewak was also very rewarding. Fifteen minutes after arriving at CBC guest house we had a call from Mark Palm the pilot and founder of Samaritan Aviation asking if we were willing to provide a nurse escort on a mercy flight as their usual nurse was not available (God is good; we had especially prayed that we would have the opportunity to meet this man and here he was asking for our help). Debbie was picked up twenty minutes later to go on the float plane. The emergency didn’t turn out to be as life threatening as anticipated but Mark appreciated our willingness to help. I had the opportunity to spend time with his wife Kirsten and their visitor Mike who we had met and helped at Port Moresby airport. That is the third amazing God ordained opportunity that has occurred at Port Moresby airport.
I then spent Thursday afternoon at the hospital visiting Dr Godfrey Nabaum and Sister Ale, the Rural Family Health Coordinator for ESP. Doctor Godfrey is a lovely man and was happy to see us again and almost moved to tears when I gave him the high quality medical stethoscope as a gift from one of our supporters in Perth. Sister Ale was a lot more of a challenge, a women who is very strong on protocol and so it was a difficult but very necessary meeting with her. By the end she was seeing merit in taking this unexpected opportunity for implant training and that it would place the staff at Boram hospital and community health ahead of most of the other health districts in rural PNG.
Friday 9am we were back at the hospital and training of the staff began. Dr Nabaum was adamant that the staff take hold of this opportunity and helped ensure that lots of staff attended, several came in their own time. God was quite possibly the reason the labour ward was very quiet that day and staff were able to attend. By the afternoon we had done all the theory and demonstrated the technique on some willing women from the hospital staff and patient’s relatives. 15 implants were inserted that afternoon mostly by the PNG nurses. We left the staff with the instructions to find some more women that wanted implants so that they could become confident and competent to continue offering this birth control option when we were gone. I walked around the hospital with one of the midwives where we promoted the new family method to families with children in the paediatric ward.
Saturday morning we returned and it was again amazing: we had 70 women wanting implants. This was incredible that so many women came at short notice. It reinforces that PNG women want family planning and this method has the benefit that it is a simple procedure that gives long term birth control with the flexibility to have it removed if they want to have more children. 6 staff were fully trained and achieved an excellent level of competency to go on offering this option to women and will also be able to finish training the other staff. At the end of the day we had to contact Wendy to send more implants as we had now used 85 of the 100 she gave us. We left the hospital feeling like we were now friends with the midwives and the doctors of Boram hospital and that the doors are open for future opportunities to work together.
I walked around the postnatal ward and handed out some simple items for the new mothers which children from my children’s school in Australia had donated: a shirt, baby clothes, blanket/wrap and nappies. I also delivered some preterm baby matinee jackets and booties to the special care nursery which the staff were delighted to receive. They had 25 babies in the nursery that day, most of whom were very preterm and unlikely to survive. I then returned to the children’s ward where I handed out toys to the very sick children.
We also had the privilege to meet Sr Rhondy from Maprik District Hospital (her husband is from Bunam). She is a dedicated midwife who has a very strong desire to improve maternal and newborn health. I will continue to work with her to offer support and mentoring.
That night, Mike, Debbie and I shared a meal with Mark Palm and his family. We shared lots of stories about their work and ours. They are doing a great job of taking medications to the villages in the East Sepik region and providing emergency transport for patients. A lot of their emergency patients are mothers and babies. A large part of their work is done supporting the patient and family while at the hospital. They have a team of local volunteers who visit patients while in the hospital, checking they get seen and treated, showing friendship and praying with them and helping supply any other basic needs. They help make sure they have a way of getting back home too.
Samaritan Aviation have been given 5 acres of land beside the airport from the local village leaders to build a training centre and accommodation. They want to train health workers and support community work in the villages. Even though Living Child only does short term trips at this stage, Mark seemed pleased that we are keen to do training and has offered to fly us out to remote areas as needed. There could certainly be opportunities for our NGO’s to work together in the future. Mark presented us with a gift of a large laminated very detailed map of the whole East Sepik region with each and every village marked on it.
Debbie and I left Wewak feeling more relaxed with the town and more confident with how to get around. Yes it was a short visit but we all felt a lot was accomplished and some great networking was achieved too.
Debbie Butters, Mike Bullard and I have just this morning returned from Papua New Guinea. Mike went to meet with pastors in Madang and we piggy backed with him so that we could go to Karkar Island, just off the coast of Madang, to receive training from Wendy Stein (see Save the Kula Babies www.salamanderbayrotary.org.au/save-the-kula-babies-papua-new-guinea/) about inserting contraceptive implants. We then travelled up to Wewak and provided education and training to about 12 midwives, nurses and doctors about this method of spasim pikinini. 6 women were certified competent to be able to insert the implants and 85 women received implants. The family planning nurses were so excited about this training and said it will halve their current workload as the implants remain insitu for 5 years. A couple of nurses also voiced their desire to run outreach programs to remote villages where the need for family planning is greatest.
This is Neil, a member of the Melville Woodturners Association who has graciously volunteered to make wooden pinnard stethoscopes for me to take to Papua New Guinea for the Midwives and Village Birth Attendants. Today he gave me 11 more. We met at a shopping centre and we sat and had a chat for a few minutes. Neil is so pleased to be helping. I am so grateful for his help. I gave him a box of chocolates to say thank you, but he's diabetic. He said he'd eat the choccies slowly. I said I'd remember for next time and get him something less sugary! The support of people like Neil really inspire me to keep pushing forward.
The Knit, Natter and Needle group in Leeming have been making knitted Uterus' for me to take to PNG. I use the uterus to demonstrate what happens during labour and birth. The doll fits in the uterus and so I can explain how important the uterus is in the process of birth and that it must not be tampered with or else is goes into shock which leads to excessive bleeding. The knitted uterus is an amazing teaching resource that brings to life the anatomy of the woman's body. The women who are knitting for us are so generous of their time and obviously enjoy being part of this movement to help the women in remote villages of PNG.
An opportunity has come for Debbie Butters (midwife) and I to travel to Madang, Papua New Guinea next week to receive training and official permission to insert contraceptive implants as part of the National Department of Health in PNG’s Family Planning project. We will be trained by an Australian living in Madang and then travel up to Wewak where we’ll train the midwives working at the hospital. After this training and certification, we’ll be able to travel to remote villages next year to conduct further education sessions with the Village Birth Attendants as we’ve done in the past, plus facilitate the rolling out of the family planning implants – many women in the remote villages are having 10-15 babies each and this is a major contributor to the high death rate of mothers during childbirth.
We have had little time to fundraise and so I am asking if you are able, to please consider making a donation towards our airfares. We need to raise $4200. Rotary are going to air freight the medical supplies we need to take, Send Hope Not Flowers have donated money towards teaching resources, so now we just need to raise funds for our airfares.
Our banking details are on our website www.livingchildinc.com, just follow the links on the DONATE button.
If you have any questions about this trip or the voluntary work we’re doing in Papua New Guinea, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Thank you for your support.