Christian Aid Week: The baby bishop in the kitchen drawer

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The Rt Revd Alan Wilson, Bishop of Buckingham had a strange entry into the world: “When I was born, dad put me straight in the kitchen drawer.”

Bishop Alan with a picture of himself and his brother as children

“My mother had been for a check-up at the Royal Infirmary in Edinburgh, where we lived.  ‘You have plenty of time,’ the doctors assured her. ‘Just go home and wait.’ Suddenly, she went into labour and gave birth to me right there in the kitchen. I was put into a kitchen drawer as my dad called an ambulance,” says Bishop Alan.

Fortunately, we only lived about two miles down the road from the hospital – so my mum and I were soon receiving essential post-natal support from trained, well-equipped staff. My dad was so grateful, he gave the ambulance driver a bottle of Scotch! That was in 1955. But today, every mother deserves this level of service – from trained staff with all the equipment they need to provide a great level of care.

“That’s why, this Christian Aid Week I’m encouraging supporters to raise funds for the situation in Sierra Leone, where 10 mums a day die giving birth. Sierra Leone is the most dangerous country in the world to give birth in, by a long margin. It was still recovering from the civil war when the Ebola crisis hit. The Ebola outbreak killed one in 10 health care workers and left the country with significant debt.

“These can seem like impossible situations to tackle – but it is remarkable what can be done when we stand together. Over 20,000 churches take part in Christian Aid Week to support their global neighbour and we are delighted to be part of that movement.”

Bishop Alan (left) with his brother

Churches across Buckinghamshire raised over £100,000 for Christian Aid Week in 2018. This year supporters will be organising door-to-door collections, hosting Big Brekkies and holding a range of other fundraising activities.

If there is no clinic in their village, pregnant women in rural Sierra Leone can wait up to eight hours before an ambulance arrives. Others travel to the hospital on the back of a hired motorbike, but the poorest have no choice but to walk for hours on foot. Many women and babies do not survive the journey, particularly from May to December, when food is scarce.

Christian Aid is helping remote communities come together to build health clinics as well as training nurses to provide urgent care in communities and improving hygiene, so mothers and babies are more likely to fight off diseases.

Bishop Alan added: “Christian Aid Week is an amazing celebration to change the world, through generosity, solidarity and action. We are grateful to everyone who is making this event possible. We passionately believe that, when we come together, the almighty power of people can make a world in which dignity, equality and justice are experienced by everyone – and it can be fun at the same time!”

Heavily pregnant Jebbeh Konneh is checked by Nurse Judith in the temporary clinic in Sawula village, Sierra Leone. This clinic, which receives support from Christian Aid, has no electricity and only two delivery beds. Photo Christian Aid

  • £15 could buy a stethoscope or a bucket of paint for a community health clinic.
  • £60 could buy a starter kit for community health workers, which includes a bicycle, torch, raincoat and rain boots.
  • £2,500 could buy solar panels for a new clinic.

To find out how to get involved or to donate, click here or call 08080 006 006, or text ‘GIVE’ to 70040 to give £5.* Donations will support communities such as those featured and wherever the need is greatest.

Christian Aid is also inviting supporters to join its campaign to drop Sierra Leone’s debt incurred during its fight against Ebola, in 2014-2016. The worst outbreak of the disease in history killed around 10 per cent of the country’s health care workers. Debt repayments are taking money away from desperately needed improvements to healthcare services.

The drop the debt petition can be found here