Rotherham College student Nichola Tongue is now one step closer to her ambition of becoming a qualified midwife after fundraising to gain the opportunity to volunteer in health clinics in the Gambia.
Nichola raised £250 to work alongside the GLOVE project, a charity that works to improve the basic living standards of people in the Gambia, as many in rural areas live in extreme poverty.
Nichola took part in a range of tasks, including providing clothes and food to families who had lost their homes in a fire, on her first day in the Gambia.
“I helped three women and nine children aged between two and eight who had lost everything in the devastation,” Nichola said.
Following this, Nichola was then given the option to work in either the newer or older hospital in the local area to practice her nursing and midwifery skills. Nichola opted to gain experience in the older hospital, which was a very basic set-up behind a market.
“I spent most days at the hospital and assisted in the birth of one baby boy,” Nichola said, adding “I saw a lot of women in labour and also unfortunately witnessed a stillbirth, which was really heavy on my heart.”
The experience made Nichola want to raise more awareness in the clinics about the importance of monitoring a baby’s movements closely throughout pregnancy, which she was able to make a start on by giving the women an opportunity to hear their babies’ heartbeat by using the Doppler she fundraised to buy.
Nichola’s efforts in taking the equipment quickly had a positive impact on the clinic, she explained, saying; “some of the women who came to the clinic hadn’t seen a midwife once during their pregnancy, and there’s no such thing as scans there. So when they had a chance to hear their babies’ heartbeat for the first time, it was a special moment for them.”
As well as volunteering in the clinics, Nichola also had the chance to visit a remote village on the North Bank where the GLOVE project had recently installed accessible water for the residents.
“On the way to the village I saw the river that the villagers had been using to collect water and so I could appreciate what a difference it made. It was hard to process that they were actually walking for miles for water and a massive culture shock,” Nichola said.
Nichola is now back at college continuing working towards starting a degree in midwifery, and the experience has made her even more determined to success in her career. “It’s definitely opened my eyes and I will be going back to volunteer on the project again.” Nichola said, “the experience stays with you and I would love more people to get involved and experience it too.”
Gina Burgess, Health and Social Care tutor at Rotherham College, said:
“Nicola has been a motivated and inspirational student from the beginning of the course.
She had a huge range of experiences whilst she was in the Gambia and this has greatly informed her understanding of midwifery services and the challenges that midwives face. Not many students will have these experiences and hopefully this will give Nichola an added advantage and enable her to complete an exciting and unique personal statement and secure a place to study midwifery at university.”
Jackie Church, a representative from The GLOVE Project, said:
“Volunteers have a great role to play in our project in terms of both the skills they bring and the fundraising they do to come out to the Gambia. For example, Nichola bought a Doppler machine with her, which are a very rare commodity within maternity services here and so donating them to maternity units is a lifesaving endeavour. Nichola trained local midwives to use the Doppler, which meant an expectant mother could to hear her baby’s heartbeat for the very first time.
For the volunteers it is a potentially life-changing experience and allows them to witness and observe midwifery skills in the most basic of facilities without the reliance of machinery and interventions.”
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