2022 CRANAplus Early to Remote Practice Award Winner, volunteers in Vietnam

12 Dec 2023

Last year’s CRANAplus Early to Remote Practice Award Winner, Lorraine Woods, put her prize money towards a volunteering trip to Vietnam, where she and her friend Judith delivered resources and education to local women and girls.

Ear­li­er this year, Lor­raine spent three weeks trekking in Lào Cai province in north-west Viet­nam along­side her friend Judith.

At every break in the for­est, they would be reward­ed with views of ter­raced rice fields and tow­er­ing peaks, but this was not a sight­see­ing hol­i­day. They trekked rain or shine, in gum­boots through the mud, car­ry­ing Days for Girls reusable hygiene packs as well as birth packs.

These packs con­tained items such as wash­able, reusable san­i­tary pads, scalpel blades, nap­pies, gloves, soap, wash cloths, and oth­er items that are invalu­able in one of Vietnam’s poor­est areas.

The pair car­ried them to empow­er local eth­nic hill tribe women and girls (in this instance, most­ly H’Mông women and girls) includ­ing those who birth at home in unhy­gien­ic con­di­tions and have lim­it­ed access to men­stru­al hygiene products.

We’d meet up with a local H’Mông inter­preter and learn­ing edu­ca­tor, Nhu, who knew the area and she’d let peo­ple know we were com­ing and trek with us to the vil­lages,” Lor­raine says.

We would make our way, usu­al­ly to a meet­ing place like the church, and all the mums and girls would come.

Then we would give out the hygiene packs and birth packs, and deliv­er an edu­ca­tion ses­sion – teach­ing the local women and girls about con­tra­cep­tion, men­stru­al peri­ods, hygiene, and to be safe from men.

Nhu would trans­late. One of Judith’s goals was to upskill her to teach the local women and girls, so that when we are not there, she can still go out to the vil­lages to teach as well.”

The trio also deliv­ered oppor­tunis­tic edu­ca­tion on the go.

As we went along, we would meet fam­i­lies with babies and kids, stop and give them bean­ies and oth­er items of cloth­ing, and talk with them,” Lor­raine says.

The hill tribe women, they often walk miles and miles to sell their trin­kets in the streets, 

to make mon­ey for food. We would meet with these women too, tak­ing the oppor­tu­ni­ty to talk about safe birthing and hygiene.”

Asked what she gained from the expe­ri­ence, Lor­raine says perspective.

The local com­mu­ni­ties often live with no run­ning water, no flush­ing toilets. 

Young girls can’t go to school when they have their peri­ods, because they have no mon­ey to buy pads. Thanks to these packs, they can go to school; more kids can be educated.

There is a hos­pi­tal in Sa Pa, but how do these women get there? They don’t have the means and that is often why they don’t head to hos­pi­tal when in labour; they labour at home. In one house, we asked how did you cut the cord?’ and the moth­er brought the scis­sors out of the kitchen.

These resources are not to encour­age women and girls to birth at home; but if they are going to, this way, it’s hygien­ic and safe.” 

Inter­est­ed in shar­ing your expe­ri­ence of work­ing in remote health? Per­haps there is a top­ic that you would like to see cov­ered in the CRANAplus Mag­a­zine? Get in touch with your sto­ry or sug­ges­tion at communications@​CRANAplus.​org.​au