Vivien called again tonight. This time her number came up on my screen so that when she dropped out I was able to call her back. And it worked.
Her call caused me to get up from my soft couch in front of the television, under a cooling fan. I went outside as the kids were a bit noisy after finishing our takeaway dinner of chicken. Our indulged dog started barking loudly at rats running along our fence line. It was weird. And here I was talking to Vivien in the remote village of Kumbarumba in the East Sepik region. She would be standing under a tree (apparently that’s the best mobile phone reception), barefoot and in the pitch dark – no electricity in the villages. She would have finished dinner with her family, of rice and some greens. Maybe a banana and piece of paw paw too.
This time I managed to have a reasonable conversation, getting used to speaking using simple words again. I asked her if she had done any teaching and she said she had done many teaching sessions. I asked what she’d been teaching and she answered, ‘what you taught me’. I then asked if she was enjoying it and she said ‘very much’. ‘Have you had any babies born?’ I queried. Suddenly her tone changed and she lit up as she said she had been with a woman through her labour and had caught the baby. She was so excited. I asked her if the mother and baby were well and healthy and she said they were. She then added that she used the three rop (3 ties) to tie off the cord and then cut the cord. She said she used the plastic. ‘So everything was very clean?’. ‘Yes’ she answered. Wow, that is amazing. Here is the Village Birth Attendant in Kumbarumba telling me of her first positive experience of assisting someone to give birth using the birthing kit and the techniques that we had taught in Yamen. She was genuinely thrilled and delighted with herself for what she had achieved. I told her that this was such good news and that her confidence will grow stronger the more births she helps with.
It was a huge thing to hear that she was with the woman throughout the labour because most of the women labour alone and end up only calling the VBA when things are going bad. Vivien’s education sessions to the women and building relationship and trust with them seem to be helping. The ripples are flowing and in the right direction.
“Thank you Sara” she said at the end. “Isaac sends his good wishes to you and your husband”.
It is such a blessing to have these little spurts of conversation with Vivien who is at the coalface of dealing with the epidemic of maternal and newborn deaths in remote PNG. I’m really looking forward to seeing her again and hearing more about what she has been doing in her village.