Long and winding road
"I always thought you would do something like that.” My mum will probably deny ever saying this now that I am already in South Sudan working as a midwife for MSF. But I was feeling a bit lost with where to take my career next, and I wanted to do something amazing. All of my close friends in London were either planning exciting trips to India, South America, Nepal… I wanted in too! So I applied to MSF.
MSF is an organisation I remember seeing on the television adverts as a child in Canada, and being completely in awe of them. I now know MSF are full of normal people…..well kind of… just like you or I. MSF gives medical aid where it is needed most and remains neutral and impartial to the care they give. Something I really admire. They began as team of young French physicians who wanted to help where others were not present…..and from there it snowballed into a worldwide organisation that has opened up offices in over 28 different countries, employs more than 30,000 people and has treated over a hundred million patients.
For me also was the fact that MSF remains independent of government and institutions. This enables money to be available when it is needed most and aid cannot be used to further any governments political or military goals. I worked with Greenpeace as a volunteer in the past and understand how important this is when you need to highlight issues that may not make you popular with all involved.
So I applied to work as a midwife while staying with my cousin in the Netherlands. Caroline kindly proof read my application and I waited. It wasn’t long before MSF London was in touch for me to send further information and I was later invited for an interview. I met with Stella who guided me through the history of MSF, some of the projects midwives were in and asked if there were any countries I would not like to travel to. I was so excited that I agreed to be sent anywhere (sorry mum).
I worked as a caseload midwife at Guys and St. Thomas’ in London, and worked there since qualifying. It was the best decision I ever made as I have made friends for life and had the best all round experience which I feel has prepared me for my first mission better than anywhere else. Caseload midwifery enables you to follow women throughout their pregnancy, birth and postnatal period. It creates trusting relationships, improves normal birth outcomes and makes me feel like Jennifer Worth in Call the Midwife. I was asked by my manager if I could kindly wait until my colleague Beth had returned from Malawi, where she was working a s a midwife with VSO. So I was available to leave on my first mission from July… all I had to do now was wait… impatiently!! (Sorry Stella!).
Prior to sending me on my mission, MSF offer all new starters a weeks induction to prepare you for the field. It was an intensive week with a few surprises along the way, but the friendships you make during this week are special. I’m going to make all other PPD groups feel a little jealous but we had the best group EVER! We were “amazeballs!” The week is spent finding out who may be going to your chosen mission, tips from speakers on what to expect, and discovering who may have the first MSF baby… Kim?!?
It was eight weeks before I was boarding the plane that I got word that I was being placed in Batil, South Sudan. It was for nine months and I would be working in the Upper Nile State in South Sudan, where 125,000 Sudanese refugees live. I spent the next eight weeks spending time with friends, celebrating birthdays and even attending my cousin’s hen party.
Although I know how privileged I am to have this opportunity to work for MSF and learn from the local staff and people, working for MSF does mean you miss important things at home. I blame you Caroline for not messing up my application - have a fabulous wedding day! Amy, I swear not to forget your birthday EVER again, and Polly, don’t worry I will update you every time Chelsea win and Liverpoopoo lose :)