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You are in: Somerset > People > People > Celebrating 50 by raising awareness of Africa's highest killer

Tanzanian midwives

Alison will visit the midwives

Celebrating 50 by raising awareness of Africa's highest killer

A Somerset woman is embarking on a trip of a lifetime from Over Stowey to East Africa to celebrate her 50th birthday and she's taking her mother and daughter along for the ride; it's all in aid of raising awareness of Africa's biggest killer.

Alison Hoare reached a birthday milestone this year- she turned 50. To celebrate, she wanted to do something different; like return to her East African roots.

Alison was born in Tanzania and lived there for the first six months of her life. Her father worked for a tea plantation company, the Tanganyika Tea Company, while her mother looked after her and her older sister.

Her mother, Julia McWilliam, was able to get to a European hospital where she gave birth to Alison. Today, not many mothers have access to such good hospitals and the childbirth mortality rate is one of the highest in the world.

One person who is trying to raise awareness of childbirth mortality is Alison's daughter Harriet who is part of a project to teach Tanzanian midwives how to film and edit their own stories in the hope of raising awareness of the biggest killer in Africa.

It just so happened that Harriet was going to Tanzania with The Engine Room as part of The White Ribbon Alliances' scheme. So what better way to celebrate turning 50 than by going back to her roots? She even persuaded her mother to go along and relive beautiful memories of African adventures.

Filled with emotions ranging from excitement to trepidation, Alison is keeping a diary for us.

Alison's diary

6 February

I’m excited of course. I’m also nervous – it’s a bit embarrassing in this small, modern world to admit that I’ve done very little travelling before and never further than Europe.

It all seemed to fit somehow – my 50th birthday (I’d promised myself a significant celebration), Tanzania, The White Ribbon Alliance (an organisation concerned with safe motherhood and infant health) and the chance to share the experience with Harriet, my beautiful and talented daughter. All these things, in my mind, added up to the inevitable conclusion – it had to be.

12 February

L-R: Alison, Julia and Harriet

L-R: Alison, Julia and Harriet

Mum came in for coffee. She has decided that she’ll definitely come!!
It will be great to have her companionship while Harry is otherwise occupied with work, and in many ways it’s right that she should be there. I’m still concerned about her health and general mobility, however.

Dad has decided that he won’t come. Partly, I think, because he fears re-visiting may spoil cherished memories. I completely understand. The situation in Tanzania is very different now. It was, after all, Tanganyika 50 years ago, a British Colony, and much less travelled.

29 February

I’m very excited today! I phoned the White Ribbon links-person in Iringa Town this afternoon. Her name is Mellania and she works at Iringa Regional Hospital. I’m not totally sure whether we understood each other, but she sounded very happy to meet us when we visit Iringa, and will take us out to visit the surrounding villages, to see first hand what the WRA are doing.

This is great news because we shall meet real people at grass roots level. It’s more than tourism and is exactly the kind of thing I had hoped for. (Mellania repeated the word ‘asante’ several times during the course of the conversation – ‘thank you’ in English. Surely we should be thanking her for her hospitality.)

6 March

It’s so close now I keep getting little butterflies in my tummy, and the occasional moth! I still can’t grasp the fact of our going.

last updated: 01/05/2008 at 15:15
created: 17/03/2008

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