A desire to make a difference has led to a Blackpool midwife packing up her life and moving to one of the poorest countries in the world.
Mum-of-three, Alison Dudgeon, has been visiting the south-east Asian country Laos for many years. She fell in love with the place and its people, but was struck by the poverty and poor healthcare she witnessed.
Alison said: “My husband’s work took him to Laos and I first went there for a visit 16 years ago.
“It’s one of the poorest places on earth, but there is a lot of work going on with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and other volunteer groups who are trying to help improve health care.”
Alison, 53, was shocked at the conditions some of the children living in the south of the country have to endure and now she and her husband are ready to do a three-year secondment to help improve conditions in the land-locked country.
“Last year we stayed in one of the villages and I was struck by how extremely cold it was. But the children had no clothes; it was heart-breaking to see. There were no toilets in the village and the shower was just a standpipe in the street. The children must have been frozen.”
But Alison, who has been a healthcare worker for more than 30 years, and husband Colin, are determined to make a difference and will be working with an organisation called Service Fraternel d’Entraide (SFE). SFE works with Laos villagers to help provide primary health care, sanitary construction and some of the equipment and services people need for clean water and food.
Alison said: “I am going to do maternity care, but I will be the team leader for the project which also looks at clean water, agriculture and health care.
“We believe the best means of helping others is to train and empower them, so the relief they receive is sustainable and transferable to others. Infant and maternal mortality rates can be dramatically improved with relatively basic training and knowledge.
“We have significant experience and expertise, both practically and in education, and want to use this to help make a difference in the lives of women and babies.”
Alison, who has been a midwife since 2002, and Colin started a support group, Beautiful Hands, to help those surviving in such poor conditions. The group has set out to provide clean birth packs which can help substantially reduce neonatal mortality and morbidity from infection-related causes, including tetanus.
The kit contains simple tools to provide sanitation and sterility at the time of childbirth which not only helps save the lives of mother and baby, but can also help ensure a healthy and happy start to life.
But the couple wanted to do more and they will move to Laos on April 9.
Alison said: “I will be covering 10 villages, five health centres and a hospital. Some of the villages have no toilets or running water. We are planning to build 50 toilets over the 10 villages.
“There are some scary things with unexploded land mines, poor sanitation and malaria.
“I’ve loads to learn, but I’m excited about the project. It will be hard to leave the family, but Colin and I want to make a difference and if we are going to do it, we need to do it now.
“We will be working with some very gifted people and together we can change lives.”
Alison is hoping the community here on the Fylde coast will help with the provision of equipment.
“The provincial hospital where I will work does not even have sheets on beds and they cannot feed the patients. Patients have to buy medicine, needles, etc before seeing the doctor.
“Malaria is prevalent, but they can’t afford mosquito nets. That’s even before we talk about equipment, the needs are really basic. I would really appreciate any help people can give.”
Alison would like to raise funds for three main projects:
* Birth Packs – £5 can substantially reduce neonatal deaths from infection-related causes.
* Micro life – A unique blood pressure monitor for use in the developing world costs just £20 each.
* Midwife kit – A bag containing all a midwife needs for remote, rural deliveries.
Anyone wanting to support the Beautiful Hands maternity kits can contact the group trustee Rita Howell on (01253) 955895.