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Volunteer stories: Sue's story

Sue Grieg – Community Health assistant

Sue Grieg

I am a Consultant in Public Health working in local government in the UK on maternal and child health and sexual health. My work in the UK involves assessing population health needs, promoting and evaluating the impact of evidence based interventions to improve health, and commissioning health protection and improvement programmes and services.

I wanted to widen my perspectives and learn about public health in developing countries. My partner had worked in Madagascar and volunteered with SEED Madagascar previously, and he suggested that working with the NGO for a short period, supporting work on maternal and child health, could offer just this.

In one month at SEED Madagascar I saw and felt at first hand the public health challenges facing low income countries, the lack of healthcare infrastructure and access to resources, things which we take for granted in rich countries. Also there were the more familiar public health challenges; how to gain real understanding of the health needs and behaviours of local communities, and how to work with all stakeholders to make national and local government policies work on the ground to 'put the last first' and reach those with most needs. Working with the dedicated and professional local SEED Madagascar staff and energetic international team, all keen to learn and develop their skills, was both invigorating and inspiring.

One of the best bits of my time at SEED Madagascar, in addition to the sheer beauty of the place, whale watching from our balcony, and all the great food and socialising, was to visit the local community health centre with one of SEED Madagascar’s community health agents. We talked to some of the women waiting for their antenatal visit and heard from the midwife, providing vital services, with neither electricity nor running water, and often lacking basic supplies of drugs and testing kits. I also had the privilege of visiting a remnant of littoral rainforest at night and seeing a mouse lemur up close!

My time with SEED Madagascar has without doubt strengthened my professional public health practice here in the UK, and rekindled my interest in development for people and the environment. I am keen that the opportunities SEED Madagascar offers to share and develop public health skills is nourished and further developed. I am now seeking to build both academic and public health training links between SEED Madagascar and the UK.