Humanitarian Travel – Nepal
Humanitarian Travel Report
On the 23rd of August, I began my three week trip in Nepal. The trip was the culmination of the fundraising challenge I undertook this year for the charity Childreach International. The Charity have been toiling away trying to improve the environment in which children in Nepal grow up in. Since the 2015 earthquake they have been rebuilding over 100 classrooms in Nepal. This project will ensure that 3,000 children can return to school and complete their education.
Having landed safely at Kathmandu airport, myself and the other fundraisers from Oxford met up with our team leader and made our way to the hotel where we liaised with the Childreach Nepal representatives. The following day, we set off to see one of the projects Childreach have completed in Nepal first-hand, a building called the Meera Centre. Construction for the Meera Centre began in 2013 and by 2015 the centre was up and running. The centre was built to provide a safe and engaging environment for children under the age of 5 where they can learn key concepts about health and education. Upon our arrival, we were given a talk about the importance of the Meera Centre, with the representatives underlining how many primary school children in Nepal will find it hard to keep up with lessons due to their lack of pre-school education. Consequently, these children are far more likely to drop out of school. It then become very clear that places like the Meera Centre are hugely important in providing children with the basic education to prepare them for school. Child trafficking is a big problem in Nepal, which underpins the need for places like the Meera Centre, as a child is significantly less likely to be trafficked when they are in full time education.
After the talk had ended we were then taken inside and were given the chance to see the children engaging with the caretakers. I was delighted to see the children all playing together, happy and smiling. We then spent the rest of the afternoon painting the handrails surrounding the centre in Childreach colours, before taking the coach back to the hotel. The next day we started our expedition to Everest Base Camp, a journey I will never forget. I am extremely grateful to the Keble Association for providing me with a grant to cover the flight costs for this trip. The whole undertaking was both enormously humbling and rewarding.
Medical Elective- Ethiopia
Libby Rose-Innes – Elective Report
The medical elective in the final year of medical school is an opportunity for us to experience and practice medicine in a different environment to which we have before, and also to contribute our skills
to the communities to which we go and work in. I have a particular interest in both primary care and paediatrics, so I wanted to undertake my elective in these two areas. Therefore, the two placements I
chose for my elective specifically focused on outreach of primary care within developing nations.
My medical elective was split into two halves – the first in Ethiopia working at the Simien Mountains Mobile Medical Service (SMMMS) clinic in Keyit with two other Keble students, George Wallis and Alex Emery, and the second was at Embangweni Mission Hospital and Outreach Clinics in Malawi with Alethea Peters (Worcester) and Eleanor Grant (Sommerville). I would like to take this opportunity to thank both the Keble Association, the Enid Linder Foundation and the Keble College Graduate Study Support Fund, without the generosity of these funding bodies I would not have been able to go on such an informative, exciting and rewarding elective.
The SMMMS clinic is in Keyit, a village in the SImien Mountains of about 300 houses, though the clinic serves a much wider area. It is made up of 4 rooms, a clinic room, obstetrics room, store room
and an ‘inpatient’ room which we lived in for the duration of our stay. The clinic was run by Addis, a joint trained nurse/midwife who trained in Ethiopia and grew up in the village. Other members of staff
employed by the clinic included two guards, one of which would always be within the clinic grounds, Shetti who worked with the charity Saddle Aid, and two housekeepers.
The clinic ran on a daily basis from 8am in the morning, though patients would start to gather at 6am. A basic triage system was in place where patients with acute injuries/acutely ill patients would be
seen first, followed by any follow ups (dressings etc), then antenatal cases and finally routine cases (including adult and paediatrics). Roughly 45 patients would be seen within a day, if more than this
turned up in the morning, they were asked to return the next day and would be seen first within the routine patients. After attending to the acute patients, Addis would give a 20 minute public health
lecture to the patients waiting to be seen, these topics would range from medication adherence to family planning and hygiene advice.
All of the consultations were in Amharic, though Addis would translate all of them for us and were of a primary care or obstetrics nature. On average the clinic has 2-5 births a week in the obstetrics room,
however, none took place while we were at the clinic unfortunately! Our main role was to aid with the history taking of patients and to help to write referrals to the nearest hospital in Debark. We spent a
day at the hospital in Debark before travelling up to the mountains so we would have an idea about the type of referrals the hospital would be able to accept. We also continued with the SMMMMS
programme to deliver teaching on neonatal resuscitation to the health workers and members of the public within the area.
As the village is very remote it is not possible to leave the area, though we did walk to Cheroleba, where these is a government run clinic. It was interesting to compare the charity-run clinic to the
government-run clinic. We felt extremely welcomed in the village, and spent our free time at the market, visiting the houses of the clinic workers and going on hikes in the beautiful Simien Mountains.
Three of us went to work at the Embangweni Mission Hospital in Northern Malawi. The hospital has about 70 beds with a paediatric ward, male ward, female ward, neonatal ward, post-natal ward and
maternity ward as well as an OPD. There is only one doctor permanently based at the hospital, though there was an Obstetrics trainee from Prague (Timo) also visiting when we were there which
was really helpful.
The day started with handover with all the clinical staff within the hospital, discussing any cases that were admitted overnight and any particularly sick patients. Then we split up and we each did our own
ward round (as a three we covered the male, female and paediatrics wards). We were supported by clinical support workers (a three year training programme in Malawi where they have lots of clinical
experience and are able to prescribe) and also by the doctor when he was available. Ward rounds were similar to the UK in structure, however with much reduced resources and accessibility and
availability of investigations and treatments. We would stay on the ward for the day following up on jobs, writing referrals and clerking patients and also be involved in theatre – assisting in cesarean
sections and with dressing changes and other minor operations. We also shadowed Timo when he was on call at night, assisting with obstetric cases and other general emergency admissions. Overall I
think we felt really integrated into the hospital team and felt that our input was valuable, and excellent learning experience managing sick patients, running a ward round, interpreting investigations and deciding upon management plans in a resource poor setting.
In addition to working in the hospital, we also travelled to the smaller villages surrounding Embangweni to work in the outreach clinics. Here we mainly focused on maternal health care and ran
clinics for pregnant mothers, providing health advice and making decisions about birth plans.
My two main learning objectives were to experience both primary and secondary care within a resource poor setting, which I achieved over the two different placements. I also wanted to gain
experience working in a medical charity as this is something I may want to do at a later date. Working with SMMMS (which is a small charity) was helpful to see some of the local logistical problems which
arise within this area. I hoped to gain a lot of obstetrics experience in these placements – unfortunately this was unexpectedly not possible in Ethiopia but I managed to gain this experience within Malawi.
Geography Dissertation – China
Gordon Smith Award Report
I was delighted and honored to receive the Gordon Smith Award to support my
dissertation research for my MSc in Geography. The generous £750 award was invaluable in
covering the costs of my travel and visa, enabling me to have a successful and fruitful three
weeks of fieldwork in June 2017. This research marks the culmination of four years of
research on and engagement with emerging alternative food networks in China, beginning
with my undergraduate thesis at Yale, continuing through ten months of independent research
as a Fulbright Scholar, and now finally reaching fruition in the form of my Master’s
dissertation, which I hope to be able to turn into a published academic article. I am so grateful
for your generous support.
For my fieldwork, I spent about three weeks in Guangzhou, China—China’s third
largest city, located about two hours by train north of Hong Kong. As I was building off my
pre-existing network of contacts and connections from previous time spent in Guangzhou, I
hit the ground running, and within three days of arriving in China was already being whisked
away by a research contact to visit a new small-scale organic farm just outside Guangzhou,
which was started by “white collar farmers” (as the Chinese call them). These “white collar
farmers” are urban professionals who, anxious about food safety after a decade of constant
food safety scandals and reports in the media, have decided to take matters into their own
hands, and start their own “safe” farms.
My research for my dissertation focuses on these types of new farms, as well as new
social enterprises that are acting as trusted middlemen between producers and consumers,
buying and selling “safe” food from “white collar farmers” and other small-scale producers
using organic or otherwise “safe” farming methods. For this project, I sought to better
understand the urban middle class professionals who are flocking to these farms and social
enterprises (commonly called “platforms” in Chinese parlance). What does “safe food”
actually mean to them? In a society where few people trust government regulators, farmers,
food distributors, or even other consumers, how can “food safety” be defined and regulated in
emergent grassroots food networks? What new kinds of relationships, self-understandings,
and social organizations are being cultivated by these food networks, alongside their “safe
food”? And to what extent do these vibrant but still small-scale alternative food networks and
consumer activist groups present a potential model for viable social organization and
grassroots activism in China’s authoritarian context?
I’m currently in the midst of transcribing and digesting more than twenty hours of
interviews (all in Mandarin), so I’m not sure that I yet feel comfortable posing definitive
answers to any of the above questions. I will say that my initial findings show a common
thread between my interviewees, many of whom see their agency and identity as consumers
as their only form of power in Chinese society. Whether such individual, atomized power can
have any broad social impact remains to be seen.
I have attached three photos: one is from the farm visit I mentioned, one is of the
entrance to the office of a safe food “platform” connecting producers and consumers, and one
is of me with the organizers and attendees of a conversation about the future of Chinese
Thank you again for your generous support!
STOP, a New Musical: The OUDS National Tour
STOP, a New Musical: The OUDS National Tour
The tour began with eleven days of rehearsal in the Worcester boathouse in Oxford. Rehearsals consisted of workshopping the characters and scenes, and involved extensive discussions of the mental illnesses and symptoms being represented in the musical. The first performances of the tour were at the Pegasus Theatre, Oxford, where we performed to packed audiences and received stellar reviews (included below). Driven by the excitement that followed these performances, we travelled up to Edinburgh to begin our month-long stint at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. We spent our days flyering and performing on the mile, raising awareness of both the show and of the mental health charity SANE, which the show was developed with and was raising money for. We were lucky to have a beautiful and spacious venue (which functioned as a church hall for the rest of the year) and so were able to have a full 6-person band playing live each show. Whilst in Edinburgh, we received a number of excellent reviews (included below), and were also interviewed by ITV for a segment on the new Mental Health Award at the Fringe, for which we had entered. We were also interviewed by Musical Talk (a musical theatre podcast) about the processes behind the making of the show, and its role in the destigmatisation of mental health. We loved talking to audience members (including Sophie Okonedo, and infamous tweeter WestEndProducer) after each show, and were delighted by the support the show received online. It was particularly stirring to see how mental health was being given a platform to be discussed at the Fringe, with so many companies bringing up new writing tackling this difficult topic. What struck us particularly was the variety of these acts, ranging from stand-up, physical theatre, straight acting and more, each raising awareness and working towards the destigmatisation of mental illness. Halfway through the run, we found out that we had been shortlisted for Best Musical at the Fringe by Musical Theatre Review alongside 9 other shows. Following this, we were thrilled to end the run by being awarded a special commendation for Best Musical, in addition to being given the award for Best Score.
We then travelled on to London, for our final four sold-out performances at The Cockpit Theatre. On the 1st September, SANE ran a free post-show panel discussion entitled ‘Can a song save a life?’ The aim of the discuss was to look first at how the arts can play a role in the recovery of those with experience of mental health problems, and second at whether shows such as STOP can play a role in the destigmatisation of mental health in society. We were thrilled that in addition to being able to raise awareness of mental health and the amazing work SANE does, we raised over £2783.88 for SANE from exit collections throughout the tour.
Though the tour is now over, the writers of the show are in discussion with a number of people who are interested in taking the show further, potentially even professionally, so we are all excited to see what the future holds for the show!