Last year, NGHS alumna Hannah Fowler, Class of 2022, received the Dr Lucy Campion Travel Scholarship, from money bequeathed by Dr Campion (d. 1985). Dr Campion was a medical practitioner, educated at Sydenham and Bromley High Schools GDST, and a founder-member of The Friends of the GDST.
Hannah used the travel scholarship to visit Sri Lanka to complete a four week midwifery volunteer placement ahead of embarking on her degree in Medicine at the University of Manchester. Here is Hannah’s account of her time in Sri Lanka:
“I arrived in Colombo in mid April and embraced the extreme humidity in readiness for beginning my placement at Sri Lanka’s largest state owned women’s hospital. I completed my hospital induction before the weekend so that I was ready to hit the ground running (travelling by tuk tuk) on Monday! The moment I stepped into the hospital I experienced sensory overload; the lack of airconditioning, the smells and the sight of women labouring in corridors made me face the reality of what lay ahead.
My main duties were to support in surgery (largely hysterectomies and caesareans), support the sexual-health clinicians, dress the newborn babies on the labour ward and pay home visits with the community midwife. What surprised me the most was that expectant mothers arrive at the hospital by bus, without any belongings or a partner or husband, and when they and their baby are discharged, they return home by bus as well. The youngest mother that I met was 14 years old and suffering from Dengue fever which is common. Abortion remains illegal in Sri Lanka and many of the doctors seemed supportive of this which, to be honest, shocked me. Even though religious observance is an important part of Sri Lankan life, I expected their views on women’s health to be more progressive.
In the community, there are high levels of deprivation, including drug abuse; babies are often born prematurely and as a result are under-weight. In addition, a high percentage of Sri Lankans live with Type 2 Diabetes and this presents issues for mother and baby anti and postnatally.
My host mother was a headteacher in a girls’ primary school. I spent a number of days also volunteering in her school. The children are taught to be proud of their country and were keen to tell me about their love for it. This resonated with me all the more as I explored different places by train and foot during the weekends. Kandy, Ella and Sigiriya were all geographically beautiful.
I am so fortunate to have secured the Dr Lucy Campion Travel Scholarship, and I know that the experiences and learning that I have gained will stand me in good stead as I go to university to study Medicine.”