citizen of the year

Linda McDonald was awarded by the City of Edinburgh the Sir William Y Darling Bequest for Good Citizenship in recognition of her work for MUMs. The award was presented by the Lord Provost George Grubb, at a civic reception in the City Chambers in June 2008. Around 50 family, friends and supporters of MUMs Recipes were invited to share the celebration.

Here is the transcript of her speech:


Lord Provost, family and friends

Thank you very much for that generous introduction.
I would firstly like to thank all those responsible for awarding me
the Sir William Y Darling Bequest for Good Citizenship Award.

It’s a great honour, not to say a big surprise,
for an Irish girl brought up in the west of Scotland
to become Edinburgh’s Citizen of the year (big surprise).
On the other hand, Edinburgh has been my home for many years -
it is the city in which I trained as a nurse and midwife,
the city in which I met my husband, raised my children
and made many of my best friends.
So, because the city means so much to me, this award does too.

Those of you who know me, will now be waiting for my Malawi speech -
the one you’ve heard so many times before.
And you’re right I don’t like to miss an opportunity,
but this time I’d like to shorten it to three images or short scenes
which to me speak about the Malawian experience
and explain why I got so involved – and why so many of you supported me in MUMs.

Firstly, when I think of childbirth in Malawi,
I see groups of women and children, a hundred or more, many pregnant,
Sitting quietly under trees on pale dry earth outside the hospital, waiting.
They are surrounded in colour: under the red sun, they wear
brightly coloured materials called chitenjes
or the chitenjes are lying on the grass, drying.

The second scene takes place in the hospital.

As I move nearer the building my other senses kick in.
The smell hits first which is strong, unusual to me, unpleasant and very human.
The light is gone and it’s dark in the corridors.
I hear moaning from the labour ward and here many women
are lying side by side on narrow beds on their own,
no curtains pulled, no privacy, no sheets,
no pain relief, no hot water, few nurses.
One women looks at me with her brown eyes wide, pleading for my help- hand outstretched —‘nursie,! nursie! she calls.
There is a feeling of calm in the ward where I feel there should be urgency.
A woman pushes a baby out alone. No one rushes to her side.
A baby is born dead. Nothing is said. There is sadness on the mother’s face -
but there are no questions, no explanations
and the baby is wrapped and placed in the fridge.

That is the reality. I have seen it and felt it.

How could any midwife or mother look on such images and not be moved to action?

3. The third image is a bit different.
The aroma of beef and Guinness casserole lingers in the kitchen,
while the home-made apple tart and custard lie on the dresser
waiting to be devoured. My family are talking and laughing around the table.
What great pleasures we get from eating and being together.

The desire to make a difference to women in childbirth
and the desire to share memories and experience through recipes
has been at the heart of MUMs.

Much has been achieved in three years.

[As you have heard] A new hospital is being built——— ( the LP has outlined)
for which MUMs has contributed £100,000.

We have contributed £25,000 to a programme to prevent
HIV positive pregnant mothers passing the virus to her baby.
This will reduce the incidence of transmission
in the Lilongwe district from 100 babies a week to 15.

We have contributed £25,000 to the building of a Wellness Centre.
This is a centre of care for the cares, nurses and midwives who are HIV positive.
This centre will help and support the health workers and their families through treatment, and prevention. It will also provide education and professional development opportunities

We are sponsoring Rachel Mcleod, an experienced English midwife,
to work in Bwaila hospital full time. Rachel is working with the midwives,
teaching constantly, questioning and making a difference daily.
We will continue to sponsor her into next year as her work
is extremely beneficial to the mothers and staff.

Many other smaller projects have had the benefit from the MUMs money
and have helped individuals in their own way.

None of this would have happened without the support of many people -
everyone who bought a book, a calendar or a concert ticket to support MUMs
has a little piece of this award.

But there are people without whose steadfast support, industry and good humour
MUMs could not have flourished as it has.

Right from the very start my husband Iain gave me the backing and support I wanted in the work I did for MUMs.
So this is really a journey we have taken together.
Without the unrestricted freedom he gave me and the hard graft, to do what it took to make money and to raise awareness of the plight of these women- MUMs would not have happened.
He has put up with the telephone stuck to my ear,
my mind working overtime
and quick Marks and Spencer dinners over the last three Christmases,
when life was manic.
The irony here of course is I am an advocate for home cooking and we were doing the cheating!

Iain and I have been encouraged by everyone around us.

All my family, my mother Jackie, my sisters Julie and Nikki,
my daughters Katie and Sally, my niece and nephew, Jenny and Cameron
and my brother in law Tom have supported us
each in their very special way because they believed in what we were doing.

My friends, Lorna Pascal, Barbara Watt, Laura and Jeff Thornton
along with Mike Pringle and Anne Finley from the Trust
have worked very hard and contributed to making MUMs the success it is.

I would also like to give a special mention to the amazing Tarek,
one of the two obstetricians (?) at Bwaila. He is thrilled to hear the news of the award.
Words could never begin to explain his commitment to these women.

I think at this point I can speak on behalf of the women in Malawi
and say ZIKOMO – thank you.

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