The Maternity Stream is going from strength to strength. The Maternity Stream’s Excellence in Maternity Care conference has been held in Bradford, Leeds and Hull and we hope to hold one in York this year. We are hoping it will be repeated in Huddersfield, Manchester, Birmingham and Cardiff/ Swansea in the near future. The conference is an ideal way to learn about issues facing pregnant asylum seekers and refugees, work with local people to overcome barriers and to set up a Maternity Stream of Sanctuary group. At the Leeds conference, the Haamla midwifery service received the first Maternity Service of Sanctuary Award. Members of the maternity stream have given over 65 presentations at local, national and international level and feedback included. They have produced an e-learning module for the Royal College of Midwives which reached over 8000 midwives and have made plans to work in partnership with Doctors of the World to make e-learning modules for other health professionals.
The Maternity stream was launched in Swansea in March and in Manchester in May. The enthusiasm, passion and commitment from the wide range of people who attended both launches was incredible. you can read more by clicking here and here
The Maternity Stream has been working in close partnership with the White Ribbon Alliance http://whiteribbonalliance.org/ who campaign for the right to a safe birth for every woman, everywhere. In the past they have focused on third world countries but news that women are being charged to give birth in the UK has made them look closer to home. We have been working with them to gather stories of birth from asylum seeking and refugee women and to create a Place of Sanctuary photo exhibition. The stories are being filmed and will soon be on our website and three of our volunteers from the Maternity Stream will be joining the White Ribbon Alliance at Glastonbury to share a Sanctuary Tent where they will be giving awareness raising sessions and no doubt having lots of fun.
The Maternity Stream volunteers are in great demand. They have been helping us translate our Childbirth in the UK: Guide for Refugees film into eight languages. Once completed these can be used to ensure that women understand why and how to access maternity care in UK. Once completed, we are hoping to take this film to women’s groups and use it as a basis for discussion about giving birth in the UK. The volunteers were consulted on a world wide survey on women’s experiences of birth for a European COST research project. Their feedback on the style of the questions led to major alternations and now two of the volunteers are helping to translate the survey into Arabic and Urdu. It is hoped that in time we might be able to take some of the volunteers to one of the COST meeting in Europe as expert mums who can help the attendees understand more clearly the needs and experiences of pregnant asylum seeking and refugee women. The volunteers have also been active in the User Engagement group at Bradford Facility of Health where they have been involved in the selection, teaching, assessment and research of health professionals. A scary prospect for some volunteers but once they went, they loved it. As one young refugee mum from Ethiopia said “Before going, I felt too low for this place. How could I guide students when they know more than me ? I pushed myself, I had to do it.”“Afterwards I felt more confident, more human and valued”
Being part of the User Engagement Group and giving awareness raising sessions at universities has helped to demystify the university experience for many of the maternity stream volunteers. As one woman said ” The volunteering makes me understand that if I push myself I am able to get wherever I want to be and do whatever I want to do. I am thinking to become a midwife in the future.”
Volunteering has helped to raise the women’s aspirations and we have been delighted to work with Leeds Teaching Hospital Trust (LTHT) and the charity Growing Points growingpoints.co.uk, to set up a Hidden Talents Project. Through this 11 of our volunteers have been supported to fill in application forms and practice interviews to enable them to apply for apprenticeships to be clinical support workers and in time nurses or midwives. 8 of the 11 them have now been accepted on the course and can’t wait to get started. It has been a fantastic leaning experience for all involved. LTHT have gone out of their way to support the women and they are delighted that have been able to enrich their work force with women who come from a variety of cultures and who speak numerous languages. They have been impressed with the life skills, experience, commitment and passion that the women have portrayed.
Each woman has been given a personal guardian from Growing Points who has supported them throughout their application and will continue to do so throughout the course. The women themselves are over the moon. They have come to this country with many talents and skills but needed help to over come the barriers that the application process can create. We are hoping to write a joint article about this project and to encourage others trusts across the UK to follow the example led by LTHT.