Sunday, 11 December 2016

Chestnut and veggie stew with herby dumplings

In the depths of winter there's nothing quite like homemade stew, preferably with dumplings.  Before my daughter became a vegetarian (nearly a year ago) I relied heavily on my slow cooker for hearty, warming dinners on a weekday, normally with beef or chicken as the star of the show.  Until now I hadn't made a such a stew with veg, fearing a loss of flavour, relying more on Asian or Middle-Eastern spices to add flavour.

But yesterday I watched Nigel Slater make a delicious-looking vegetable stew so adapted his idea to make one of my own today for Sunday dinner, with very pleasing results.  Here's the recipe if you want to try it - or add your own twist.

2 tbsp olive oil
2 large onions, peeled and cut into wedges
1 bag of frozen casserole veg (I know, the lazy option).  By all means chop your own selection of carrot, celery, swede, parsnip, or any other root veg.
3 medium sized potatoes, peeled and chopped in large chunks
1 pack cooked chestnuts (you could also use chick peas but chestnuts are seasonal right now!)
1 spring fresh rosemary
1 tsp dried thyme (use fresh if you have it)
6 chopped sage leaves
4 juniper berries
small handful of porcini mushrooms
1 veg stock cube
1 tbsp plain flour
2 bay leaves

Soak the porcini mushrooms in around 200 mls boiling water.  Meanwhile, heat the oil to a heavy lidded casserole dish, add the chopped onions and sweat until lightly golden.

 Add the rosemary, thyme, sage, bay leaves and juniper berries and stir around for a minute or so.  Add the bag of frozen veg (or your chopped celery and root veg) and continue to saute for around 10 mins until the veg is looking glossy.  If it catches on the bottom, don't worry - that all adds to the flavour.

Sprinkle on the flour and stir well, then drain the porcini mushrooms and add the liquor to the pan, reserving the mushrooms to add later.  Add the potatoes, the crumbled stock cube and some salt and pepper. Chop the reserved mushrooms finely and add them to the pan. Add enough water to barely cover the vegetables.

Bring the mixture to the boil then simmer on the hob for around 1 hour or cook in the oven at 180c.

20 mins before the end of the cooking time, make the dumplings.

In a mixing bowl measure out:

100g self-raising flour
50g vegetable suet
1 tsp dried mixed herbs
1 tsp dry mustard powder
Small handful grated strong cheddar (optional)

Check the fluid levels in the stew.  If drying out, add more water so there is plenty of gravy.

Add approx 5 tbsp cold water to bring the dough together and drop heaped teaspoons of the dough into the stew.  Bury them slightly so they pick up all the flavour and leave gaps between them as they will spread.  Cook for a further 20-25 mins until the dumplings are cooked through.

Serve the stew with lashings of Dijon mustard and some steamed and buttered greens.

Monday, 21 November 2016

Correspondence from Cambodia

I'm currently on a 2 week visit to Cambodia, following up on the twinning project between the Royal College of Midwives and the Cambodian Midwives Association (CMA) that ran between 2012-2015. During that time around 25 UK midwives visited Cambodia for short-term placements with the CMA or its partners (NGOs and various clinical and academic sites).  We also had six workshops, addressing various needs identified by the CMA and six visits from RCM staff (me and others).  We hosted 2 reciprocal visits to the UK and all attended the triennial International Midwives Congress in Prague in 2014 together with other twinned associations from Ugandan and Nepal.  This project was funded by UK-Aid through the Tropical Health and Education Trust (THET).

What difference, if any, did these activities make to midwifery in Cambodia? That's what I'm here to find out and also to identify any further possibilities for the RCM to continue our partnership with CMA in the future.

I'm fortunately to have lived in Cambodia in the 1990s and to have worked in Cambodian Refugee Camps in Thailand in the 1980s so the culture and language are familiar to me although, on my return after 15 years in 2013, my Khmer was a bit rusty and Phnom Penh (the capital city) had changed beyond recognition.  Costa Coffee, KFC and wifi - a whole new world!

With Margaret and Barb, both UK midwives with whom I worked in Cambodian Refugee Camps in the 1980s and who are still living here in Cambodia, supporting Khmer people.  So precious to reconnect
On this trip I'm re-visiting the places we've had programme activities in the past 4 years: Phnom Penh, Prey Veng and Kampot.  These were places the CMA wanted grow their branches but co-incidentally I used to live in Prey Veng from 1994-1996 so it's been great to reconnect with friends (western and Khmer) and see old haunts.

I've been here for 5 days and so far I've met the CMA in Phnom Penh, attended the annual conference of the Cambodian Obstetric and Gynaecologists Society (who want to develop their association in a similar way as they've been so impressed with the midwives!) and conducted a three-day field visit to Prey Veng to interview the local branch of the CMA and visit the provincial hospital and MCH clinic. This week I'll be visiting various stakeholders in Phnom Penh and making a day-trip to Kampot before holding a workshop with the CMA's executive members at the weekend.

Reunited with Lida (left) and Chea Ath (right): Vice president and President of the CMA - and bringing a bit of Uganda to Cambodia!

I hope to blog more as the trip progresses but perhaps I'll just share some quotes from the interviews I've conducted so far.  Let's hear it from the midwives themselves:
'Everyone now knows about the CMA and others want to learn from us.  Since the RCM's twinning project we've more than doubled our membership and we're going to increase our membership fees so that we have more resources to provide services to our members.  We now have Facebook groups for our executive committee and our branch leaders and we have a new branch in Mondulkiri (an underserved region). We feel proud of our activities and when we do them we want to share them on Facebook so that the RCM will feel proud of us too'
(Mrs. Chea Ath, CMA President).

'Here in Prey Veng we've seen a lot of change since the RCM workshop in 2013. Previously not all local midwives clearly understood about the role of the CMA.  Now our branch membership has increased from around 150 members in 2013 to 286 today. In 2013-2014 there were 14 maternal deaths in our province.  This has been rapidly decreasing and, to date, there have been no maternal deaths this year. Now we have multidisciplinary training every three months and midwives know how to use Magnesium Sulphate for pre-eclampsia and compression garments for post-partum haemorrhage. These save lives.  These changes are due to the efforts of many different organisations and programmes, but the RCM's twinning programme with the CMA has raised the profile of midwives in the province and has given them more encouragement to change themselves' .
 (Mrs. Samrith Sotheavy, Branch Leader of Prey Veng CMA Local Branch). 

With the lead midwife at Prey Veng Provincial Hospital and Barb Soung, who helped to establish the CMA in the 1990s and has been supporting midwifery in Cambodia in various ways for the past 20 years
'I am a midwife.  I need to be a member of the midwives association.  It's important to discuss things together.  It's our role. We feel we can ask our branch leader for support if we have problems.  After the RCM workshop I encouraged my colleagues to join the CMA.  Now all of our midwives in this clinic are  members of the CMA. The CMA provides insurance if our members get seriously ill or die. This is very important for us. In the future I hope the local branch will organise more learning and provide opportunities for the midwives to share their experiences and problems together'.
(Mrs. Cho Pahnita, Assistant Lead Midwife at Prey Veng Provincial MCH Clinic)

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Joy Kemp cycles to France via the North Pole!

The moment has finally come. I'm on my way to Portsmouth to join the Royal College of Midwives' staff team cycling 230 miles across France for Women's Aid, our chosen charity of the year.  This is a huge personal challenge for me, being around 6 Stone overweight and not doing much exercise on a regular basis except for walking the dog to my favourite teashop. I am responsible for the RCM's global work and spend much time on planes, in far flung guesthouses with carb-heavy menus and a working long days in London when in the UK with a two-hour commute and too many station sandwiches. And then there's the cake which is a steady feature at the Royal College of Midwives office!

Travelling to Uganda in January

However, I turned 50 last summer and vowed to make some changes. My back and knees were complaining and my parents, 30 years older, seemed fitter and healthier than me! In early July. Whilst attending a training course in The Hague, I found myself cycling to and from the B&B at the insistence of the landlady, and loving it. Then, with my friend Anita, I walked the North Downs Way. 153 miles in total, to celebrate my half-century and hoped to continue the slow route to fitness. An opportunity arose to sign up for this bike to de and I thought it would give me the incentive to get back on a bike after 20 years out of the saddle and put in the training hours.
with my friend Anita at the start of the North Downs Way, July 2015

The best laid plans...! I was travelling in Asia and Africa almost continuously between September and January, Christmas was typically indulgent then the Global Team got very busy writing reports and submitting bids, working late to ensure everything was completed before my colleague Eleanor went on maternity leave. The winter nights made evening rides unappealing but I knew I had to get on with training so started riding Boris Bikes from station to office and around London between meetings. Finally, my friends Kim, Angela and Sylvie,  plus my wonderful husband Stephen, all volunteered to come out riding with me and I managed to do five, then ten, then fifteen and finally up to more than 40 miles. Midwife Claire  lent me her bike (Bob!) then when I struggled with injury Judith, from my church, lent me her bike too. I learned how to map my rides and share them on social networking sites and people started sponsoring me, then more and more. Amazingly I have raised over £3,000 and as a group we are nearing £10,000. I'm topping the leaderboard for fundraising which is good as I'm likely to be at the back of the ride!

The fundraising efforts culminated in a bank holiday Monday tea party earlier this week at which we raised over £400 with 55 people enjoying scones with cream and jam, cucumber sandwiches and vast quantities of cake as the rain miraculously held off between the hours of 3 and 6 PM!  I did my last proper training ride on Monday before the party, cycling pass the North Pole (yes really!) which was looking resplendent with bluebells and tulips in abundance. Who knew?!

So tonight the team of 8 riders (most of whom are much slimmer and fitter than me) plus three organisers, converge on a cheap hotel in Portsmouth before we board an  early ferry to Cherbourg and cycle out first 40 miles later in the day. My bag is packed with unfamiliar items such as gels and chamois cream, along with padded shorts galore and a ton of flapjacks and jelly babies. It's going to be a huge challenge and I may be slower than the rest but I'm not a quitter Nd I'll keep pushing the pedals, one after the other, and maybe, just maybe, I'll make it.

Please follow our progress at and continue to sponsor out efforts here to make a difference to women and families living with domestic abuse. Thank you.

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

An interpretation of Indian Winter Soup

My daughter is currently vegetarian.  I’m not sure where her motivation comes from, she doesn’t seem to have a strongly held philosophical position other than being ‘against animal testing’ and ‘it’s healthier’ but I’m happy to support her and we’re probably all better for not eating too much meat.  The problem is that I’m trying to avoid gluten and diary for health reasons, so it’s a challenge to cook meals that we all enjoy and that fit the bill.  I came across this recipe for Indian Winter Soup and have adapted it to be gluten free.  It is absolutely delicious, cheap as chips and will definitely become a go-to regular.

Heat 2 tbsp vegetable oil in a deep, heavy-bottomed pan and add 1 chopped onion, 3 chopped garlic cloves and a ‘thumb’ sized piece of grated fresh ginger (or take the lazy option and  use 2 tsp garlic and ginger paste from a jar!)
Add the spices:
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 chopped chillies (or chilli powder/flakes/dried chilli – what you have!)
  • Bay leaf
  •  2 cloves
  • 1 small cinnamon stick
  •  ½ tsp ground turmeric
  •  ½ tsp mustard seeds
  • Plenty of freshly ground black pepper

Then cook for 5-8 mins until soft. Stir in:

  • 1 parsnip, peeled and diced
  •  ½ butternut squash, peeled and dice
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced
  • 1 large regular potato, peeled and diced
and mix thoroughly, making sure the vegetables are fully coated with the oil and spices.
·         1 cup red lentils
·         1 tin chopped tomatoes, fill the tin with cold water and add this too
·         1 tin coconut milk, fill the tin with cold water and add this too
·         1 gluten-free vegetable stock cube
·         1 tsp sugar (I always add this when using tinned tomatoes)

Bring to the boil then turn down and simmer until the vegetables and lentils are cooked (approx. 45 mins).

Just before serving stir through:
·         1 cup defrosted frozen spinach
·         Juice of ½ lemon
·         Salt to taste (if you add it earlier it will make the lentils tough)

And sprinkle with fresh coriander.

Here is the original version:

Thursday, 21 January 2016

If you want to go far, go together

There is a Ugandan Proverb that says: 'If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together'.  We've had to constantly remind ourselves of this during the past week at our MOMENTUM project workshop where the Royal College of Midwives' UK consultants came together with their Ugandan counterparts to develop a shared understanding of mentorship, explore some teaching and learning theories, consider the context of Ugandan midwifery (where maternal mortality is 438:100,000 compared to 9 in the UK and 4 in Sweden) and finalise workplans for the next 5 months.  It's all too easy for us to fly in, require our partners to drop everything to escort us around and attend our workshop, and expect our plans to be their top priority.  We can tend to be results and outcomes driven, rather than learning from our twins about the importance of relationship, of respecting cultural traditions and putting family first.  We try to remember that that building capacity and relationships comes first and the project outcomes second.  It's tough to do that though, especially when the days in-country fly past at an alarming rate.

UK midwife consultant Liz Bannon, with her counterpart from the Ugandan Nurses and Midwives Council, Mercy
UK midwife consultant Kade Mondeh, with two of the midwifery students who hope to benefit from better mentorship through their placements in our project pilot sites
Its fabulous being here with such a great team of experienced and knowledgeable RCM midwives. Everyone is getting along famously and in many ways it reminds me of my first overseas posting to Cambodian refugee camps in Thailand where I was part of a big team and made life-long friendships. Here we've eaten together most nights, debriefing from our busy days, identifying opportunities and challenges and sharing many laughs.   Due to a mix-up with bookings, my colleague Eleanor and I have left the team guest-house and de-camped to the hotel next door where we both have huge rooms but everything is dysfunctional including the water which is liquid mud and the breakfasts which offer plantain stew, goat, liver and lurid pink sausages as well as toast and eggs.  Thankfully we can laugh about it and I do occasionally sample the Ugandan options at breakfast with mixed results.  We have made it though a week's worth of Ugandan workshop lunches which are carb-heavy and rather samey but generous nonetheless.  Looking forward to going home and eating salads!
This is why I usually decline the fish

Eleanor and I will depart for the UK on Saturday evening, leaving our UK consultants to work with their twins for a further 2 weeks.  During the workshop the changes that we want to see have been identified and some of those barriers to change such as cultural beliefs which we explored using more proverbs.  We shared proverbs from the UK such as 'The leopard can't change its spots' and 'You can't teach an old dog new tricks' and the Ugandans shared one of their own: 'You can take the girl out of the village but you can't take the village out of the girl'.  Achieving change can be challenging when a culture believes that change is not possible.  However, we all agreed that we don't have to accept such sayings and that with support and friendship midwives can change the way they work and adopt new practices.  We've also had lots of singing, dancing, role play and prayers!
Brainstorming around the Lancet Midwifery Series for the Ugandan Context

Teaching how to tie a reef knot using the 4 stage technique, a simple strategy for learning on your feet at work, facilitated by RCM consultants and midwife teachers Aine Alam and Hilary Patrick,
Our first action-reflection cycles have been identified and the activities agreed upon.  Communication strategies have been drawn up for twins to communicate via E mail and Whatsapp and the M&E tools are being developed as we speak.  Bridges have been built, tea has been taken, speeches have been made and much coloured paper stuck on walls.  I'll be back in June for the next workshop and to visit each project pilot site.  Hopefully we'll find that progress is being made.  I shall close with a few more pictures from our workshop and one of the new frock!
Making workplans

Using the Lancet Midwifery Series (2014) Framework to identify what care women need in Uganda

RCM consultant Sue Deakin (left) and Global Projects Officer Eleanor Shaw (right) in disucssion with Ugandan colleagues about the skills that women need their caregivers to have in Uganda

The new frock!

Friday, 15 January 2016

Negotiating Access for Action Research

I’ve now been back in Uganda for over a week and the team is growing.  Eleanor, the RCM’s Global Projects Officer, arrived on Thursday and tomorrow we will welcome Dr. Lucie Byrne-Davis and Dr. Jo Hart from Manchester University’s ‘Change ExchangeProject’ who are working alongside our MOMENTUM mentorship action research project, helping us to maximise the effectiveness of health behaviour change interventions.

Due to double-booking at the lovely Emmaus Guest House, and to enable our UK midwifery consultants to stay together as a team, Eleanor and I have moved out to the ‘Christian Glory Guest House’ down the road.  So far it has been rather un-glorious but it’s only a bed – we are taking meals with the team and out all day.
View of Lake Victoria from Emmaus Guest House this morning
Our consultants headed out to their project sites for the past two days, meeting their ‘twins’ with whom they will work together, face to face and remotely, for the next 18 months and seeing the context, opportunities and challenges of their workplaces.  We’re experiencing the reality of negotiating access to sites, especially where information is not shared and access must be assured at many different levels.  However, due to the tact and diplomacy of our consultants, based on their many years of midwifery experience, everyone has built good relationships and gained engagement with  the project.   Meanwhile, Eleanor and I have been working with our Ugandan Partner Midwifery Association to plan next week’s workshops and meet more important stakeholders at a national level. We now have a workshop  programme and everyone will spend the weekend preparing the sessions they are leading as well as getting some R&R.  Trips to the nail salon and supermarket, swimming and ice cream have been mooted along with a desire to try some different churches including Catholic Mass and the Anglican Cathedral service on Sunday.  I suspect some may also spend Sunday morning catching up on sleep!

With Aine Alam (in white), meeting Agatha (in red) who trained as a midwife at Lewisham and Pembury Hospitals in the 1960s. Now in her 70s she's running a private midwifery home in Uganda, is a member of the Private Midwives Association and was renewing her license at the Nursing and Midwifery Council when we bumped into her.

We had excellent meetings today with a Nursing and Midwifery School Principal who is also Chair of the Nursing and Midwifery Council, a Professor of Nursing and Midwifery who is the Chair of the NMC’s Education Committee and the Assistant Director General at the Ministry of Health who appeared equally interested in Northern Irish Politics as he did our programme!  It’s great to have buy-in from these very important individuals and we hope they will attend the opening day of our workshop to give their blessing.

With Liz Bannon (one of our team who has worked for the Nursing and Midwifery Council in the UK), Mary from the Uganda Private Midwives Association, me and Sister Stella, Chair of the Ugandan Nursing and Midwifery Council and Principal of the Nsambya Catholic School of Nursing and Midwifery.  A formidable nun!

Next instalment in another few days.  Meanwhile, thanks for reading.

Saturday, 9 January 2016

Building MOMENTUM in Uganda

Checking in for my flight at 4am - British Airways no longer fly direct to Kampala so this time I flew with Brussels.  Good leg room and a spacious seat, strange food and lots of turbulence.  Overall impression: OK but please make the skies smooth, I don't like bumps, however seasoned a traveller I may be!
I'm back in Uganda, my 7th stay here since joining the Royal College of Midwives 3 years ago and so in many ways it feels like coming home.  Our new MOMENTUM (Developing a MOdel of MENTorship for Ugandan Midwifery students) project will be officially launched next week and tonight 7 UK volunteer midwife consultants, members of the RCM, will be arriving for four weeks to take up their roles in supporting the development of midwifery mentorship in Uganda.  In the first week they'll be meeting their Ugandan 'twins', seeing the challenges they face and gathering some baseline data.  Some will be in Kampala but others will be based at hospitals, clinics or Universities further afield.  The following week we will all come together for a workshop to launch the programme with various dignitaries, to share ideas, identify challenges and opportunities and set workplans for the next year.  I'll be leading the workshop with our partners, the Uganda Private Midwives Association.  It will be very participatory with contributions from everyone and (if previous experience is anything to go buy) will involve lots of flipchart, coloured paper, blu tack, singing and prayers!  Even meetings in government offices and at the Nursing and Midwifery Council  start and end with a prayer.  I can't see it catching on in the UK....  For their final two weeks our volunteers will be working with their twins in their workplaces.

The calibre of our UK volunteer midwives is exceptional.  To work with the Ugandan Nursing and Midwifery Council on developing a national standard for midwifery mentorship comes Eliz Bannon from Northern Ireland; Eliz is recently retired, giving her an opportunity to do something different. She has worked for the Nursing and Midwifery Council in the UK and has held many other senior health service roles in addition to close links with the RCM and we are so lucky to have her associated with our programme.  Another MOMENTUM workstream is the development of a work-based learning CPD module to train midwives as mentors. Again we have two exceptional UK midwives to lead on this; Hilary Patrick, a Lead Midwife for Education in Scotland with loads of curriculum planning experience and a previous placement in Nepal with our Global Midwifery Twinning Project in 2014; also Aine Alam, a midwife and teacher from Kent who is currently completing her PhD in work-based learning and has recently published a book on midwifery education aimed at low-resource settings.  Aine has undertaken 2 previous placements in Uganda with the RCM, helping to develop a Midwifery Masters Programme, and is also an RCM Union Learning Rep.
Left to right: Patricia Cosgrove, Kade Mondeh, Helen Rogers (RCM Director for Wales), Joy Kemp (RCM Global Professional Advisor), Eliz Bannon, Cathy Warwick (RCM Chief Executive), Eleanor Shaw (RCM Global Projects Officer), Aine Alam, Sue Deakin, George Castle, Breedagh Hughes (RCM Director for Northern Ireland), Hilary Patrick
The MOMENTUM project will also link with four clinical pilot sites to improve the quality of mentorship in practice.  These sites have been chosen in conjunction with the Ministry of Health and include public, private and faith-based services, reflecting the different health sectors in Uganda. Four UK midwives with expertise in clinical mentorship will link with these sites.  George Castle from Berkshire is a Practice Development Midwife and RCM steward who has previously lived and practiced as a midwife for many years in Uganda, bringing much local as well as professional knowledge.  Kade Mondeh, a consultant midwife in London, has years of Practice Development and midwifery leadership experience.  Sue Deakin from Yorkshire has a previous placement with the RCM in Uganda, several other overseas postings and years of experience as a practice learning facilitator in the UK to draw upon.  And last but not least, Patricia Cosgrove from Northern Ireland is an experience Practice Education Facilitator who participated in the Global Midwifery Twinning Project in Uganda in 2014 and assisted with the needs assessment for the MOMENTUM project. I have every confidence that these seven individuals, working with our Ugandan Partners and supported by the RCM, will make a huge difference to the experience of student midwives in Uganda and ultimately improve the quality of care available to women and babies.

Due to lack of flight availability I've had an additional two days in Uganda before everyone else arrives. It's enabled me to rest and prepare my mind for the next two weeks, to stay with my school friend Deborah in her spacious and peaceful home on the outskirts of Kampala, and to catch up with e mails.  I hope to blog again as this trip continues; meanwhile, thanks again to my husband Stephen and daughter Hannah for releasing me so generously, to all who offer lifts, meals and dog-walking whilst I'm away, and for all who support this work in so many other ways.
A game of Banangrams with Deborah last night - thanks to my friend Manda for the Christmas Present!

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...