Monday, 30 September 2013

Homeward bound

Well I've just said goodbye to Cambodia for another 6 months and landed in Bangkok.  The last time I was here was 2000; Stephen and I were on our way to China to adopt our (then) 9 month old baby daughter. On the wise advice of friends, we stopped over in Bangkok for a few days to recover from jet-lag and a last few moments of being 'just us' before our lives were changed (and wonderfully blessed) for ever.  I remember staying at the YMCA (nicer than it sounds!) and enjoying a wonderful meal at the Oriental Hotel on the riverfront. We also met up with Steve and Marie Goode, veterans of the Thai/Cambodia border camps who live in Bangkok and whose lives have intersected with mine on many occasions.  I am currently sitting in an internet cafe about to meet Steve again for the first time since then - we have lots of catching up to do!  Looking forward to getting his perspective on all things related to development work across the world and exchanging news of family and our shared friends.

I've been away from home for three weeks and I'm ready for some family time and walks with my dog in the coolness of autumn.  However, it's been a great trip and I'm really encouraged by the progress our Global Midwifery Twinning Project is making, both in Nepal and Cambodia.  I have been reminded, once again, of the importance of relationships in overseas development work (and in other spheres!) and that seeds cannot be sown before the ground is prepared.  I do believe that we are now beginning to sow seeds and even nurture green shoots with the Midwifery Society of Nepal and the Cambodian Midwives Association - though relationships must continue to be built and strengthened in the same way as weeding a garden is necessary to avoid choking fragile seedlings.  Much of my work when travelling is networking - I try to meet as many people as possible who have a stake in midwifery in the host country... and some who don't but whose knowledge provides invaluable cultural or strategic context.  Thus today I found myself meeting with a professor from a UK university, based here in Thailand and working all over South East Asia, who shares some of our interests and networks in Cambodia.  We were able to offer one another useful information and contacts and who knows, maybe together we can be stronger!  Three years is such a short time-frame in which to achieve sustainable results and right now it's good to explore ways that our efforts may be continued - either by us or by others.

Never under-estimate the power of drinking tea and 'wasting time' with others in development work - such time is never truly wasted and will doubtless bear much fruit in the years to come
I'm feeling really positive about the placements we've arranged for the next few groups of volunteers in Cambodia and Nepal.  MIDSON and the CMA are more clear now about who and what they need, and how to support volunteers in country.  We are developing our knowledge too about what information they need before they go, how we can ensure their placements are as effective and fulfilling as possible, and how we can best debrief and disseminate their learning on return.  I've been developing a 'tour guide' for volunteers as I've travelled around so thanks to all those in both countries who gave me recommendations for restaurants, hotels, shops, tuk tuk drivers, hospitals, favourite outings and lots of other information besides.  Our volunteers should have plenty of options in their down-time now!

In addition to leading workshops and drinking countless cups of tea, I have also conducted a mid-term evaluation for both our project in both countries whilst on this trip.  I have met with many people, both inside and outside of the midwifery associations, and asked them questions on the successes, challenges and lessons learned from our project so far.  I have two notebooks packed with information - my challenge is now to filter and synthesise this so we can use it to capture an accurate picture of where we are now and where we want to be in April 2015.  In addition to this we have a major donor report to submit on 15 October, then I leave for 2 weeks in Uganda on 20th to undertake the same thing again.  I am feeling rather tired and overwhelmed so appreciate all the love, prayers and support that my colleagues, friends and family continue to offer via Facebook, Skype, Phone, E mail and face-to-face.  Stephen and Hannah are enormously gracious in the face of my continued absences from home, so when I get home tomorrow work will be on hold for a little while whilst I nurture those most important relationships of my own.

Meanwhile, I feel something  little stronger than tea may be required to celebrate our family reunion tomorrow so, in anticipation, cheers!
Gin Fizz, Cambodian-style!


  1. Dear Joy
    Have a safe trip home and lovely reunion with your family, thank you so much for your kindness and generosity.
    Kath (CMC)

  2. Aw Kath it's been great working with you. Come for coffee in London soon! X


Dhaka Diary

I'm back in Dhaka (Bangladesh), five weeks after my last visit in July, to help facilitate the first ever online election of executiv...