On May 20th 2016 the first ever Vocational Training Team from District 9980 departed for Mongolia for three weeks.

The team members are Sam Dunne, Julie Dockrill, Jo Palmer, Beverly Te Huia and team leader Gary Dennison, along with translator Ariunaa Geresaikhan.
This is the second visit to Mongolia by New Zealanders after the project began in 2013. It started as a water project but then was influenced by a chance meeting between two ex-pat women living in Mongolia whose paths crossed at a play ground. They were pregnant and discussing the lack of availability of childbirth education for Mongolian woman and families, also the conditions in the local hospitals.  With connections to Waimate Rotary, the project turned from water to maternal and child health and welfare. The Waimate Rotary Club looked wider to the district and the other local Rotary clubs (Timaru, Timaru North, Timaru South, Geraldine and Oamaru) got involved along with a club from Melbourne Australia. Funding was sourced and the Mongolian Maternal Health project was launched.

The aim of the project was to provide Mongolian midwives with the tools to teach childbirth education.  A team of five midwives were put together - Julie Dockrill (Timaru), Bev Te Huia (Hastings), Jane Myers, Sam Turner and Jo Palmer from Melbourne. The team of diverse, energetic midwives who all had a passion to share and embed clinical skills and education with cultural awareness and sensitivity.

Together we developed a manual that was printed, and following that we devised interactive leaning sessions for our groups. We did evaluations throughout the courses. We had over 100 participants through the courses. We taught a five day course in Ulaan Bataar, a 3 day in 2 cities in the rural mining areas of Gobi desert. We all realised that this was a privilege to be able to experience this type of project and the feedback was phenomenal. During our last five day session in Ulaan Bataar we were lucky enough to have International President elect Gary Haung and his delegation attend some of our sessions to observe our project and the potential it had to be sustainable and life changing for the woman and children of Mongolia.

Phase Two in 2015, again supported by many of the Rotary clubs in the district, saw Amaraa  (the director of midwifery) from the Number One hospital in Ulaan Bataar coming to New Zealand to observe midwifery and childbirth education, mainly in the South Canterbury area, for a month. She visited Oamaru maternity for a week and spent the rest of her time working and observing with Julie at Timaru Hospital.
This time was so valuable for Amaraa as she had a list of things, practices and methods that we did very differently that she could go back and instigate with little cost but these would have huge impacts for better outcomes. Many of these things were based on best practice and the most recent research, but unfortunately it appears that Mongolia has not kept up with many of these practices.  She was also exposed to the importance of community services for families and mothers and how this combines with midwifery to reduce infant mortality rates during the complete pregnancy and post birth journey, which is not something that currently exists in Mongolia.Amaraa went home inspired, and focused on making changes in her hospital, so the sustainability continued from the original project.
Phase three sees the original manual being updated and teaching on obstetric emergencies being added. This will add an extra level and depth to the original curriculum, and the team will also assist the University to put in place a programme to teach student midwives how to teach child birth education. This will then further add to the sustainability of the project.