For over 14 years local Adelaide girl Kate Taylor has been talking up the virtue of helping others. In particular is Kate’s passion for Cambodia’s traditional birth attendants and the mothers and babies they assist.
For over 10 years local Adelaide girl Kate Taylor has been talking up the virtue of helping others. In particular is Kate’s passion for Cambodia’s traditional birth attendants and the mothers and babies they assist. Not many would know however that Kate failed her Year 12 Biology examination (and the subject for that matter). Not the ideal springboard for a future in health science. Here are a few other things you might not know about the founder of 2h.
Where did the idea for 2h come from?
To be honest I got tired of the toy box and the lounge room floor. Our three kids were great but I had started to wonder what life the other side of Playschool’s arch window looked like. I wasn’t hankering for a corporate life or a money making career but I did want to expand my world. I’d always had a sense of fairness and standing up for the rights of others. I think it was part of my upbringing. My parents were pseudo hippies. Mum had delivered my older brother in the hospital’s corridor because she’d been told if she wanted Dad at the birth then it would have to be outside of the delivery room. Though I wasn’t born something of the protest must have rubbed off.
The first year you travelled to Cambodia your kids were aged seven, five and two. Did you feel like you were abandoning the family?
No I felt like I was introducing them to a world that needed help. It’s easy to become insular as a mum. To talk about nothing else but how precious your kids are. I love them to bits but I was lucky enough to realise they were part of something bigger (and I don’t do aimless chit chat very easily). I thought there must be a way of doing both, you know, raising kids and helping others, of fusing the two together. I wanted to show my kids how easy it was to share what you had with others. Whether it was a selfish thing or not time will tell, but really I hope it’s made them better people in the long run.
Village midwives are largely an invisible group of people. How did they come across your path?
In the first year I was in Cambodia I met a pregnant girl about to have her child. Her mother had died in childbirth delivering a sibling so the girl was understandably very afraid at the thought of labour. With my limited understanding of the situation I encouraged her to get help from a doctor or the hospital. Neither of these were options. Who was available was the village midwife, the traditional birth attendant (TBA). What quickly became apparent was the huge responsibility these women carried and their very limited support. The seed of that conversation led me to enrol in the Bachelor of Midwifery. My motivation was simple; learn what I could and return to share it. Sounds ridiculous I know but here we are eleven years later about to train our two thousandth midwife.
So it seems school was not your strong point or more specifically study. Why do you think you struggled at school? Was the thought of assignments and exams a bit of a turn off for enrolling at Uni?
I was too social. I loved school. I loved the interaction. I just wasn’t any good at the academic ‘stuff’. I wasn’t really sure where I was heading either so it didn’t make a lot of sense. At the time I found it was easier to get others to do the work for me. Uni was more scary than doing anything overseas. I never managed anything higher than a P2, well maybe the odd Credit or P1. But having a goal, wanting to use the qualification to help others made the ultimate difference. My learning style was more show me and I’ll do it, like see one, do one, then teach one. Perhaps that’s why I relate so well with the TBAs. At the end of the day it was good friends that got me through Uni.
18 months ago it looked like the Cambodian Government’s interpretation of ‘skilled birth attendants’ might end the role of the TBA and the Safe Arrivals program with it. How did you feel about that?
Disappointed and frustrated. Ticked off actually. Because I knew the country didn’t have the infrastructure to meet the demand. Without the TBAs to help the transition the maternal death rate would remain high. It wasn’t fair for the poor either. The women who couldn’t afford to get to hospital or a health centre had to rely on the TBA. So supplementing what little they knew was really important. TBAs still remain a vital link for pregnant women in rural Cambodia.
How did you get around the problem?
Last year we worked closely with the Government directive not to raise the capacity of TBAs to assist deliveries. We were respectful. We were careful. We maintained relationship. In a way it helped us get a fuller picture of what was happening. Change or transition is tricky for everyone. It’s a balancing act but we feel the training is better than ever because of it. Ultimately it’s about saving lives and this year we have training scheduled with hundred of TBAs.
The Safe Arrivals program is in it’s fifth year. What have been some of the highlights?
Getting others involved. Most of us would never have even known who a TBA was let alone meet one. Knowing that some obscure village or family has benefited from what we might have shared. Meeting so many amazing people and having a deeper appreciation of what the TBAs do, their dedication is amazing. These women are inspiring, they do what they do for the women in their villages not for any personal benefit or gain. I think I’ve become a better midwife because of it.
There have been so many great experiences along the way like the fifteen year old girl that came with her mum to take notes because mum couldn’t read or write, or the TBA who stood up at the end of the training with a very impromptu thank you, saying how grateful she was that we would care about their education. A wonderful breakdown in communication did lead to one of our team taking a wee in a health director’s office mistaking it for the toilet. Crazy I know but incredibly funny!
While 2h doesn’t directly support projects confronting the sex trade the issue continues to be a real concern for you. Do you think it might form part of the future?
Absolutely. A day doesn’t go past without me thinking about how we can be part of the answer. The thought that people want to destroy other’s lives for their own sick gratification upsets me unbelievably. I think the answer needs to start in countries like ours where we unwittingly propagate the demand.
Some people might regard you as an inspiring person. How do you feel about that? Who inspires you?
That makes me laugh. It’s nice for them to say. But I feel like we’re only scratching the surface. People better equipped than me could probably do way more than what I’m currently doing, so if it inspires that then it’s a good thing. I don’t really see myself as inspirational more like someone having a go. If the roles were reversed and I was in the back blocks of nowhere I’d hope someone might care enough to step out and give it a go.
Christina Noble, Somaly Mam, Catherine Hamlin are truly inspiring women.
Aside from 2h what else do you do?
Stand at soccer pitches. I’ve grown to love it. All three of our kids have played the game since they were tiny. It’s a release, something different. I do occasionally get carried away. If I’m not doing that then I’m at the shops buying groceries. I like to read biographies. I enjoy going to work (my paid job). And my spoodle is definitely a welcome distraction.