Parishes, schools and agencies

Nurse's passion shines light of Christ in Africa

By Beulah McCulloch

April 7 2016
Nurse and midwife Kirsteen McCulloch with members of the Chibobo community.

There’s a track winding back”... to a remote village called Chibobo. This community lies in outback northern Zambia, approximately 450km from the capital Lusaka. It is an impoverished region which relies on the rains to sustain more than 15,000 people. To say ‘life is tough’ is an understatement. Food is limited to what is grown locally and if there is a poor season many will starve, children are left orphaned as a result of losing their parents to HIV/AIDs and malaria is rampant during the wet season. Despite these trials and tribulations, the people of Chibobo greet you with a warm, welcoming smile.

St Paul’s Ringwood had established a connection with this community more than 10 years ago when it raised funds to support the building of a health post for the village. It was nothing grand but nonetheless a vital resource to a region which lacked any medical services whatsoever. With one medical officer, it provided basic primary health care to more than 150 people a day, seven days a week.

Fast forward to 2015 and the association with Chibobo was re-established with even stronger ties. Through funds raised privately by Kirsteen McCulloch and with the financial support of St Paul’s, a vision to build a maternal and reproductive health clinic was launched.

As a young girl Kirsteen had always displayed a passion to serve, and in particular to serve in Africa. She trained as a midwife and nurse at the Royal Women’s Hospital, gaining invaluable skills which stood her in good stead for a remote posting when the time was right. Continuing to listen to where God was calling her, in the latter part of 2015 she volunteered to work in the community of Chibobo. Her focus was improving women’s health and providing a safe environment for birthing. Research had shown that one in seven women died in childbirth, under five mortality rates were 182 per 1000 and most women gave birth without a skilled person present. Such high figures were staggering and heartbreaking.

Sharing her desire to assist those most in need, St Paul’s committed its support to help fund a maternity clinic to this region. On arrival it became abundantly clear that the original plans of a one-room maternity clinic attached to the already outdated medical centre were totally inadequate.

New skills and prayer were required as talks between Kirsteen and government officials began. The purpose? To create a resource that both parties would agree upon. After long negotiations, a clinic that provided both ante- and post-natal care, rooms to accommodate expectant mothers, a consultation room and a house for a midwife were designed and approved. The Zambian government agreed to provide the appropriate personnel for the clinic, the building construction was to be completed by the local members of the village (giving them ownership over the project) and jointly financed by Kirsteen and the parishioners of St Paul’s.

The clinic will open in 2016 and it is estimated that, when operational, it will see more than 100 patients a day. The maternity ward at the health post will allow more women to give birth in a monitored and safe environment, ensuring a greater chance of survival for both mother and child. With immediate health care available, as well as promotion of health education and access to immunisation programs, the health status of the region will improve, which will ultimately lead to improved productivity.

Ongoing practical support and prayer for Chibobo will be offered by St Paul’s in 2016 with the aim of providing essential medical equipment and solar power to the clinic. Kirsteen will return to the village for a short stay later in the year to train local women to act as birthing assistants.