It’s out to Africa for doctor Mary

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COLERAINE doctor Mary McCauley will shortly be swapping city life and her post at Altnagelvin Area Hospital in Londonderry for a volunteering adventure in rural Ethiopia.

Mary is taking up a one year placement with international development charity VSO to share her skills at the Yirgalem General Hospital in Southern Ethiopia.

VSO the charity that works through volunteers places professionals to work in over thirty six of the world’s poorest countries.

A fifth year trainee in obstetrics and gynaecology, Mary will be working in a hospital that has a catchment area of over three million people.

Yirgalem General Hospital performs around 1,500 deliveries and 2,000 general operations a year. The hospital has a two labour ward rooms and twenty obstetric and gynaecological beds.

There are currently only two local obstetrician and gynaecologists serving the hospital. During her twelve months in Ethiopia Mary will train local obstetric and midwifery staff along with medical students. She will also support and strengthen the health management information services at the hospital.

Ethiopia has one of the highest child and maternal mortality rates. In 2010 a government health survey showed 25,000 women die each year giving birth, and 400,000 more suffer long-term disabilities due to complications during pregnancy and delivery.

Speaking of her forthcoming placement, Mary said: “Having reached the fifth year of speciality training in Obstetrics and Gynaecology, I decided it was time for a change of scenery.

“I have always intended to travel and work in a developing country and VSO provide the ideal way to do this. Hopefully I will be able to make a difference in the relatively short time I am in Ethiopia.”

VSO volunteers such as Mary aim to build capacity in local communities and leave behind a sustainable programme on their departure.

Placements with VSO are long term, generally one to two years, with costs such as accommodation and flights covered. VSO recruit professionals from the areas of health, education, business management, and community development.

Malcolm Quigley, Director of VSO also called on professionals from Northern Ireland to consider volunteering with VSO as it leads to an immense sense of personal and professional satisfaction, “Volunteers such as Mary can make a huge difference to the welfare and future prospects of people living in poverty.

“The VSO approach of sharing skills ensures that one volunteer in a developing country can transform the lives of thousands of people. In these challenging times it is also important to recognise that volunteering overseas is a form of career enhancement as volunteers return to the workplace with an enhanced skill set and an increased cultural understanding.”