“Before Living Child came, I was feeling helpless and overwhelmed from all the people dying in my area. Now I have hope…” said Matthew Akimin who walked all night to attend the training Living Child conducted in Bunam (as spoken to Sara in August 2014).
“Before I met you, I was overwhelmed by the deaths of my mothers, sisters, daughters… I cried out to God for help. And then Living Child came” said local midwife, Rhondy Ktumusi, as spoken to Sara in February 2014.
“I have helped many women to give birth in the village. A baby was born dead, but I remembered what you taught me last year. I rubbed the baby and took the mucous out of his mouth, and he came alive” said Roslyn, a village birth attendant from Bunam, to Sara, August 2014 (Roslyn had a huge smile on her face and her whole body spoke of the pride she felt that she was able to assist this mother and baby).
From hopelessness and helplessness to hope. This was the theme that ran through our most recent visit to the remote village of Bunam along the Keram River in East Sepik Province. It marked exactly 2 years since I’d first visited PNG. During that visit, the feeling I got from the villagers, the women, the men was of hopelessness and helplessness. I remember writing down that they seemed so overwhelmed from the deaths of mothers and babies, that they were stuck in a deep place of sadness and sorrow that they couldn’t get out of themselves. And despite the fact that many times I have felt that we are not doing enough, a momentum of hope has been ignited within their own communities and so the people are starting to do things to help themselves.
For example, this time we noticed a different more positive vibe in Bunam, men had cut the grass on what was the airstrip, hoping to get it back to an acceptable condition to allow an airplane to land for emergency evacuations. Despite the Health Centre at Bunam being closed for over 8 years, Matthew, a volunteer paramedical, was making visits to assist the people. The forms that I had given out to the village birth attendants to record their use of birthing kits, were diligently completed. And there is an excitement amongst the health volunteers (Village Birth Attendants VBAs, Merisen Men/Meri) that what they are learning and then doing is making a difference in their villages.
Although it was very disappointing to have to leave the village earlier than planned due to some unrest,I feel we made the right decision. I certainly got a sense that the locals love Living Child, they want us to come back and that they are benefitting not only from the education, training & resources we are providing, but also from our physical presence: encouraging, supporting, showing love & kindness to them.
The highlights for me were the fact that Living Child in a very short space of time has become a well loved & respected non government organisation (NGO) in ESP! I see our role is to continue to support the locals who have taken LC on as their own, to be able to realise their full potential in providing quality, evidence based maternal & newborn care.
Another highlight was while teaching about the danger signs in pregnancy and when to get help. I divided the volunteers into smaller groups and they had to come up with a song with actions to teach their communities about the danger signs. After a while, they eventually overcame their shyness and presented their tunes. I had not heard them laugh so much! I know they will never forget that exercise because of the amount of fun and laughter experienced by everyone!
Fear of sorcery and evil spirits is the cause of much suffering, especially for women and babies. After teaching about pre eclampsia and eclampsia (a common disease in pregnant women that causes high blood pressure and eventually leads to catastrophic seizures and even death) the health volunteers told me that they now understood why some women had died in their villages. It wasn’t because of evil spirits, but due to eclampsia. I feel this is a huge breakthrough, because if they can then educate their people about the disease process and why it is important to get the woman to a health centre or hospital sooner rather than later, then lives will be saved.