BirthLink first met Dr SaSa after he left Burma to study at medical university in Yerevan, Armenia. He had lived in the remote regions of Chin State close to the border with India, in an isolated community that suffered from poor education, a lack of food and almost non-existent healthcare. Villagers sold live stock to pay for his education abroad and following his graduation in 2009 he returned to set up a medical training centre in Chapi – close to his village, but on the Indian side of the border. Local villages in Burma each sent one man and one woman to train for 6 months as Community Health Workers on a programme based on the text book Where There Is No Doctor.
Kathy Mellor visited the Chapi setup in 2011 which by then had been established as a charitable organisation called Health & Hope. Whilst there she met with a number of traditional birth attendants, who despite no medical knowledge or training, assisted in births within their own villages. Their enthusiasm to learn and improve their knowledge was inspiring and from this exploratory trip it became evident that a training programme would be highly beneficial for their work with pregnant mothers, delivery and their newborn babies. Following the relaxation of restrictions by the Burmese Government a new training complex was built with the help of local people but this time in Lailanpei – SaSa’s village in Chin State.
In November 2013 Kathy Mellor and midwife Francis Barnsley made the four day journey by air, 4×4 and motorbike, to deliver an introductory week of training to the TBA’s to assess and plan a sustainable programme for the future. More than thirty TBA’s attended, some who had walked for six days to reach the Health and Hope Centre. This successful start was followed up in February 2014 when the team was joined by Maaike Carter, who along with Francis had initiated BirthLink’s programme in Mongolia. During this trip, as well as working with the TBA’s, training was given to the Community Health Workers who were coming to the end of their 6 month programme. Further visits are planned with the next one in October 2014.