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News of our work in India & Bangladesh November 2005 - April 2006

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The following excerpts from ‘A Hundred Years in Bengal’ give us an idea of the dedicated person we all knew as Helen Slawson.

In 1942 at St. Anne’s Hospital, Oxford Mission, Barisal the maternity work was expanding thanks largely to the presence of a Nursing Sister - Helen Slawson. She had built up a Mission Hospital on her own at Chabua in India.

When the SPG (Society for the Propagation of the Gospel) were able to send out a doctor to take charge there, she offered to come and help the Sisters at Barisal.

Once whilst she was there, the news came from one of the villages - Dhandoba - that Sister Maria SE had developed cholera. The local people did their best for her and also sent a man into Barisal with the news. Helen Slawson set off in the only vehicle available - a cycle rickshaw. One of the Fathers remembered chasing her on a bicycle to tell her that more news had come - Sister Maria had died.

In 1956 Helen Slawson, who was now well over the normal retiring age, was finding the training of the young nurses at Barisal too hard for her. She retired from St. Anne’s but feeling that there was still work that she could do, she offered her services to the Bishop. He asked her to reopen the dispensary at Jobarpar (which had been closed for several years) as a Maternity Clinic. This she did, and worked for another twelve years, much to the benefit of the local people.

In 1965 Bishop Blair BE wrote, ‘Sister Slawson carries on with her dispensary at Jobarpar. She says that she has had slightly fewer patients than in the last two years, but all the same she has seen between 700 and 1,000 patients a month all this year, and from her reports is seems that she did not take a holiday at all. The utter lack of medical facilities in a rural area like hers is shown by one remark of hers : “This week we have had three children brought in several miles very severely burnt...It is pathetic how they beg and beg us to do the impossible - such large raw surfaces are involved which need skin-grafting and skilled attention. They would have to take them into Barisal 30 miles away by boat; even there the treatment they would have received is doubtful”’.

It was only when I spent some time at Jobarpar that I really came to know Helen and the high regard in which she was held by the local people there.

Always there seemed to be someone needing her help and she gave herself to them unstintingly - though woe betide any malingerers.

Mother SE

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