I noticed how clean and shiny the tiled floors were! The cleanliness stood out to me particularly because one: I dislike cleaning floors; and two: in my experience of living in a home with six people, the floors get dirty so quickly, and frankly, I find it hard to keep up.
To put things into perspective, I’ll paint a picture of the surrounds of the clinic-with-shiny-floors. I’m guessing…about…5 metres away from the clinic, is a busy road. Dirt and dust was everywhere; there’s construction going on all along this stretch.
The picture below shows how the dust hovers like a brown mist in the air outside the clinic. Not surprisingly, when I asked the midwife later about common complaints treated at the clinic, respiratory issues rank high “because of the dust”.
Despite the dust, look at the beautiful floor! I removed my shoes at the front step of the clinic, and considering the surroundings, I wondered at the cleanliness as my bare feet hit the cool tiles. And then, I met the clinic director, Lienkham Sengavone.
Lienkham is one of those people who rock your world, just with her smile. She has a no-nonsense manner when she talks, but then she cracks this lopsided smile, full of humour and sass. I couldn’t understand the words but listening to her made me go, “YEAH! This woman is spirited, compassionate, confident and strong!” I knew it. And I liked her for it.
At one point in the conversation — after a sentence from Lienkham — the translator chocked back a laugh, and I looked to her for an explanation.
“She said she needs another midwife because the men [nurses] are useless.”
Ha! The translator went on to explain that the women in the Nan district in Laos, will only see a female for maternal related issues. There’s something interesting about that. Women: we need each other. We really do. Especially when it comes to motherhood. And yet, it saddens me how often women bring each other down. I guess it goes both ways, doesn’t it? When the need is there, then so is the potential for damage, and hurt.
Not in the case of the gorgeous Lienkham. Here’s a woman who supports and helps women. And women trust her. How do I know this? I know this because stats show that 100% of pregnant women in the area chose to be under her care. But there’s more! This woman is so awesome, females outside of the designated district travel to see her too. This is an incredible result because at the beginning of this Save the Children Primary Heath Care project (in 2007) up to 84% of births were unassisted at home, and corresponding maternal deaths for the year were 450. Four hundred and fifty precious mothers were lost! Breaks my heart! And yet in contrast, 2012 saw the number reduce to zero, zip, nil, none. Clinics like this one, saves lives.
P&G sent me to Laos to share stories of Save the Children’s work. It’s an honour to be a small part of this wonderful venture. With my own eyes I saw how P&G’s fundraising of over $31,000 for the Save the Children Health Programs directly impacts the health outcomes of thousands of children and families in remote communities in Laos and other countries like Cambodia and Bangladesh too (the support from 2012 to 2013 will benefit over 60,000 people!). One facet to this initiative is the training of community health workers to increase the delivery of vital health services to families at risk of poor health outcomes. And it works! Below is a sweet video featuring Lienkham, a trainee from the clinic, and a child who was saved. It’s a beautiful story, embodying much of what can be achieved by intentional investment.
I slipped my shoes back on feet at the front step. Lienkham and I were snapped in a photo together, and she made sure I was on the lower step so we were at a similar height. Love her! I left the clean floor behind me and walked out with dust swirling at my feet. Long after I left the clinic behind, the image of clean floors stayed with me, like there was a message there. A quiet confidence, perhaps. A just kind of pride, maybe.
I know this: we need more women like Lienkham — yes. Be a woman who instills trust, supports and helps other mothers. Let us not bring each other down with words or actions.