Social Policy graduates cite the family atmosphere and sense of community created by the team as central to their degree success. Professor Louise Ackers chairs the Social Policy unit, and her warm and welcoming manner doesn’t end at the campus gates.
Louise is a director of the Liverpool-Mulago Partnership, a charity which specialises in sending medical volunteers to hospitals and community healthcare projects in Uganda. Fort Portal, in the west of Uganda, is the location of their latest project, a collaboration between the University of Salford, Fort Port Regional Referral Hospital and Mountains of the Moon University. Louise and volunteers from the university have converted a disused administration building at a local health into a new maternity unit for local mothers.
“If you’ve never been to a developing country, you don’t know what to expect,” says Louise. “In the UK you would walk into a situation where everything is laid on and organised and the rationale for it being there has been thought through. That doesn’t happen in a developing country like Uganda, you have to start from the very beginning.
“Volunteers need to be adaptable, you could be painting walls, putting up curtains or overseeing local volunteers digging a placenta pit. The biggest change is the pace of life. Back in Salford we work to the clock so much and that doesn’t happen here – very often there isn’t a clock.
“If you’re here for a short while and think you’re going to make an impact it can be very stressful. You need to be here some time to see how things work and work out what resources are available. People are very resourceful – sometimes inappropriately – but you have to reuse and recycle and find that balance.
“I’m very happy with the progress that’s been made here. Within a year of starting the project, new mothers won’t need to be referred to Fort Portal Regional Referral Hospital. This will relieve pressure on doctors and staff and, ultimately, resulting in fewer mortalities. Without this facility, mothers would have babies and sit outside until they’re ready to go home.
“Our students come here and share knowledge, information and skills. It’s so satisfying to see things change in front of your eyes and know you’ve been part of the process.”