What began as a grad trip to a country recovering from war
became a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a mother and daughter from
Susan Conley, a manager at the Whistler Health Care Centre,
jumped at the chance to go to Rwanda when she heard about it. A colleague was
trying to find a nurse with some background in prenatal and perinatal health
and happened to be at a meeting that was also attended by Conley.
“She said, ‘Do you know any nurses that would like to go?’”
Conley said. “And I said me!”
A nurse since 1983, Conley has done primary health care in
various places and worked in the special care nursery for nine years at the
Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster.
She had just finished a degree in leadership through Victoria’s
Royal Roads University when she heard about the Rwanda trip.
“It was a gift to myself because I had just finished a master’s
degree in June,” Conley said. “When my husband finished his MBA he took our son
on a trip, so this was our turn.”
It didn’t take long before daughter Erin, excited about working
with children in a third world country, decided to tag along.
“I basically said that she wasn’t going alone,” Erin said.
Neither had gone traveling extensively before, outside of trips
to Mexico and Hawaii.
“Not a lap of luxury, this is very new,” Susan said.
From July 15 to 29 they were in Kigeme, Rwanda, a village that
sits at over 6,000 feet on a hillside in Gikongoro province. They were there to
take part in a project that sees nurses go back and forth to the central
African country to help people in the village develop and improve their own
“Every year they had gone back and this was part of their
project,” Susan said of The Healthy Mums Project. “They were specifically
focused on teaching the people there, not necessarily bringing things to them
and leaving, but actually building their own capacity and their ability to
develop more of their resources.”
This time out, The Healthy Mums Project was looking to send
someone to train the Mother’s Union, a group of women that could help out other
pregnant women in the community — it was like a visiting mothers program,
according to Susan.