THE FORMER deputy headteacher of Wirral Girls' Grammar School is on a mercy mission in Tanzania.

Jenny Schwarz joined an international group of 24 Rotarians is helping to renovate a hospital on a remote island in Lake Victoria.

Here she writes an account of her extraordinary experiences...


"I never imagined that I would experience such a magical moment, witnessing the birth of a baby to a complete stranger.

"I would treasure the memory and keep the image of her contented face alongside that of her baby in my mind for ever," says Jenny Schwarz, former deputy head, of Wirral Girls’ Grammar School.

"I was in the labour ward admiring a recently ressuctiated baby by a midwife member of our team when a lady was rushed in just about to give birth. It was amazing to see the head emerging.

"It was quite a struggle, when the left arm appeared and midwife helped the other arm out and after a final push a four kilogramme perfect baby girl arrived in the world to begin a new a life.

"Just by a little cry she made her presence felt.

"After the cord was cut, she was wrapped in a new yellow and green cloth and laid back on her mother breast.

"I looked around. The labour room had four beds, some rusted, some with torn rubber sheets – no bed linen, no privacy.

"The walls and floor were grimy the windows were dirty, broken panes of glasses, cobwebs and bird droppings.

"We were there on a Rotary mission to improve the conditions in the hospital to set higher standards of hygiene with the aim of reducing child mortality.

"Our primary focus was to renovate the operating theatre where life-saving operations were carried out, many relating to complications of pregnancy.

"The island population of 350,000 live in scattered communities connected by a network of mud tracks.

"Access to some of the remote communities is difficult sometimes involving many hours on foot.

"The hospital also serves 14 other island communities linked only by small ferries...or by boat journey. Many women in labour arrive in the hospital too late for the doctors to save lives.

"I was delighted to have been part of a team led by retried surgeon John Philip, last year’s Rotary leader in Yorkshire.

"I enjoyed the challenge. It was a pleasure to work with the dedicated staff of the hospital and help improve the conditions."

The project is part of Rotary’s effort to reduce child mortality.

25,000 children under five die each day due to preventable diseases, the vast majority of this in sub-Saharan countries, with some parts of Tanzania ranking high on the list.

Ukerewe island, with 350,000 inhabitants is one of the most neglected districts in Tanzania, where one- in-16 children born in the hospital is believed to die.

Ukerewe is a three hour ferry journey from the nearest main town – Mwanza which is the second largest town in Tanzania.

John and Chris Philip, both Rotarians from Mirfield, are leading the team of 24 volunteers with the challenging task of refurbishing the operating theatre and maternity facilities in the only government run hospital on the island.

In addition to renovating part of the hospital, the team is also partaking in a malaria campaign where by 3,500 mosquito nets will be distributed and a multi- pronged educational campaign launched to encourage preventive measures.