A holiday was cut short, time taken off work and diaries freed so that 28 people could attend the launch of the Maternity Stream of Sanctuary in Manchester this week. People responded to the open invitation because they care and they want to help improve maternity access, experience and outcomes for pregnant asylum seeking women and their families. A feeling of togetherness was there from the start even though most people had never met before and came from a wide range of backgrounds. There were midwives, students, doctors, researchers, activists, a doula, NCT practitioners, third sector workers, theatre staff, volunteers and most importantly women seeking sanctuary.
Rose McCarthy set the scene with a presentation showing the story of the Maternity Stream so far. Nawal Careem shared her experiences of volunteering for the Maternity Stream. Jane Graystone explained what Manchester City of Sanctuary are involved in and then after coffee and networking people got together in smaller groups to discuss where do we go from here. It was decided that it would be good to have a Maternity Stream of Sanctuary Conference in October 2016 and staff from Salford University offered to provide a venue for free. People volunteered to be on a steering group to organise the conference and a follow up meeting was arrange for June 10th at Salford University.
Natalie Diddams from the Royal Exchange Theatre told the group about the Birth Project at the Royal Exchange https://www.royalexchange.co.uk/birth and asked if anyone knows a woman that gave birth in Manchester while living here as an Asylum Seeker or Refugee – who might be up for getting involved in a creative project to put her in touch with them. Natalie also said that the Royal Exchange would be interested in running a workshop on presentation skills for sanctuary seekers to help them to feel confident to share their stories.
Sherliker Anna said the University of Salford Maternity User Group are organising a free conference for women and families focusing on health and wellbeing in pregnancy and early parenthood. https://www.eventbrite.com/e/women-wellbeing-tickets-25181170559 and asked the group to promote this.
The only disappointing part of the day was that a mental health nurse who had taken the day off work to attend couldn’t find the venue. She does however, still want to be involved so will hopefully meet the group at the next meeting in Salford. This event felt like the start of something special…….. If anyone else would be interested in setting up a maternity or health group in their area please contact [email protected]