Rebuilding in Rwanda 

Providing goats, prenatal care and teaching English part of Whistler mother and daughter’s efforts

click to enlarge A Conley Cuddle Erin (left) and Susan Conley get smiley with a Rwandan baby
  • A Conley Cuddle Erin (left) and Susan Conley get smiley with a Rwandan baby

What began as a grad trip to a country recovering from war became a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a mother and daughter from Whistler.

Susan Conley, a manager at the Whistler Health Care Centre, jumped at the chance to go to Rwanda when she heard about it. A colleague was trying to find a nurse with some background in prenatal and perinatal health and happened to be at a meeting that was also attended by Conley.

“She said, ‘Do you know any nurses that would like to go?’” Conley said. “And I said me!”

A nurse since 1983, Conley has done primary health care in various places and worked in the special care nursery for nine years at the Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster.

She had just finished a degree in leadership through Victoria’s Royal Roads University when she heard about the Rwanda trip.

“It was a gift to myself because I had just finished a master’s degree in June,” Conley said. “When my husband finished his MBA he took our son on a trip, so this was our turn.”

It didn’t take long before daughter Erin, excited about working with children in a third world country, decided to tag along.

“I basically said that she wasn’t going alone,” Erin said.

Neither had gone traveling extensively before, outside of trips to Mexico and Hawaii.

“Not a lap of luxury, this is very new,” Susan said.

From July 15 to 29 they were in Kigeme, Rwanda, a village that sits at over 6,000 feet on a hillside in Gikongoro province. They were there to take part in a project that sees nurses go back and forth to the central African country to help people in the village develop and improve their own health facilities.

“Every year they had gone back and this was part of their project,” Susan said of The Healthy Mums Project. “They were specifically focused on teaching the people there, not necessarily bringing things to them and leaving, but actually building their own capacity and their ability to develop more of their resources.”

This time out, The Healthy Mums Project was looking to send someone to train the Mother’s Union, a group of women that could help out other pregnant women in the community — it was like a visiting mothers program, according to Susan.


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