2012 Volunteer Ireland Awards, International Development (2008 - 2015)

Jacqueline McAuley, VSO Ireland

Antrim, Volunteer of the Year

In Ethiopia, Jacqueline worked in some of the toughest conditions a midwife can face. Ethiopia has one of the world’s weakest health systems, especially in maternal health. Only 6% of Ethiopian women have access to a skilled birth attendant, and one in every 150 births results in the death of the mother. According to Jacqueline “before volunteering with VSO in Ethiopia, I never saw a woman die in childbirth, but here I’ve seen a number of women die that probably didn’t need to.”

In Gondar University and Semera Health Science College, Jacqueline lectured, mentored and provided supportive supervision to midwifery students. An example of the innovative and impactful work that Jacqueline carried out is the undergraduate professional ethics module she developed and taught there, organising for first year students to visit the labour ward and observe the care given. In this way, she encouraged the staff themselves to identify ward problems, poor practice and how they were going to change their practice.

One of the many examples of real impact that Jacqueline had was on the nursing staff at Yekatit 12 Hospital in Addis Ababa. Before Jacqueline arrived, the nurses there worked in a corridor, which was dark with no windows. There was no intensive care unit (ICU) or high dependency unit. Jacqueline took the lead in establishing an ICU and a room opposite was also converted into a recovery ward. She improved the attitudes of nurses and standards of care through in-service training and critical reflection.

Donnacha Maguire of VSO Ireland nominated Jacqueline for a Volunteer Ireland Award, he said "Jacqueline devoted two years of her life to improving health care for babies and mothers in Ethiopia. She demonstrated a strong sense of social justice and worked hard to ensure that all of her patients received equal access to services."

Photograph by Vishva Sodhi