As we celebrate International Volunteer Day, we bring you the story of Australian volunteer Tania Paxton who is on assignment as a Midwife Educator with Sanglah Public Hospital (RSUP Sanglah) in Bali, Indonesia, with her partner Jy and their family four children, aged between eight and fifteen. She shares what volunteer life is like for this busy young family on assignment.
"This has changed us as a family," says Tania, Tweed Heads resident, midwife and mother of four, who was motivated to become a volunteer after apprenticing at Yayasan Bumi Sehat during her Midwifery training.
"I felt inspired by the midwives I learnt from and wanted to return to Bali to help the Balinese women have safe, gentle births," Tania explains.
Tania's family have joined her volunteer journey and have enjoyed unique experiences while living in Bali.
"It's become clear that we will never be able to go back to our regular life [in Tweed Heads] unchanged. We've experienced things that have changed us forever; from helping street dogs – we fostered 10! To experiencing two earthquakes, Sunday night dinners with other volunteers, swimming with mantas, climbing volcanoes and the generosity of now lifelong friends," Tania says.
As well as the rewarding experiences enjoyed with her family, Tania has gained valuable professional experience.
"The objectives of my volunteer assignment with the Sanglah Public Hospital are two-fold – to build on the skills and knowledge of midwives and to respect maternal outcomes. In evaluating both areas I've focussed much of my work on increasing the respect for both the midwives and birthing women in the hospital system. My day-to-day role varies from writing programs, educating, interviewing staff and women who are in the postnatal care ward. There has been a lot of fun art and craft involved with preparation for the classes too!"
"Birthing women in Bali have historically received their care from traditional midwives in their homes or the midwives' homes. When they encountered complications, there was increased risk of maternal or perinatal death. In recent times there has been an increased number of government-trained midwives, however they have been unable to train in emergency skills, so women have to be referred to hospitals where their births can become over medicalised. By providing education for midwives it reduces the risk, helps them to be empowered and creates positive change," says Tania.
Reflecting on her most significant contribution to the hospital since the beginning of her volunteer assignment, Tania believes that, "by reminding the midwives and doctors that birth belongs to women, I've fired up the passion for midwifery! I hope in the future that maternal health outcomes will be measured holistically and the value of comprehensive antenatal education will be recognised for being essential and lifesaving."
On International Volunteer Day, 5 December, Tania says, "I'd encourage others interested in volunteering overseas to do their research and explore the opportunities. This volunteer assignment and our time as a family in Indonesia has enriched our life."
Tania's volunteering assignment was part of the Australian Volunteers for International Development (AVID) program, an Australian Government initiative.
For more information visit: www.australianvolunteers.com