Providing antenatal care in Laos

A passion to provide care for people in developing countries is the fuel for studyfor Bachelor of Midwifery student Susan Xiong, 21.

The third year student from Logan recently returned from an internationalvolunteer program based in remote communities in Laos.

Along with other Griffith Midwifery and Bachelor of Nursing students, Susan wasquickly put to work providing primary healthcare services to local pregnantwomen, some of whom had never been in contact with Westerners before.

“My parents were born in Laos and we belong to the indigenous Hmong group ofpeople, so the great thing for me was that I was able to speak in the locallanguage with many of the people we saw,” says Susan. “We did have translatorsavailable, but of course, things often get lost in translation!”

Educating the local women

The three week placement saw the students educating the local women on breastfeeding, ante natal care and pregnancy-related problems amid environments thatsee little in the way of first world medical amenities.

“We travelled to some very remote, poor communities where the sanitation andlack of fresh water are extremely basic and really quite shocking. Levels of
healthcare knowledge were very low and we often found ourselves providinginformation to people that we would not normally have to provide in Australia.

“For example, in one community there was a young lady suffering from epilepsywho most of the people in the village were very afraid of getting close to her as
they thought that epilepsy is a contagious condition. Talking to villagers about therealities of these types of conditions is just one of the ways we were able to help
alleviate things a little.

“We found the people we visited to be very appreciative of the help that we gavethem, even though sometimes we found it hard to help them with the bigger
problems they face, in terms of poverty and a lack of education.”

Set to graduate in December this year, Susan says her first overseas volunteerprogram has influenced the kind of future professional midwife that she is set to

“When I first started at Griffith, I didn’t really realise the full implications of what itmeans to become a midwife, but now I am passionate about providing voluntarycare to those desperately in need in the developing world.”