Ruling the waves for childbirth charity

PUBLISHED: 09:56 28 January 2012

Six midwives and one potter who swam the Channel  to raise funds for 'safeHands for Mothers' a Hampstead based charity,L-R Kerensa Davies,Jill O'Dwyer,Jen Hamilton,Sarah Coates,Vicky Woodland,Stacy Morgan & Paula Strange

Six midwives and one potter who swam the Channel to raise funds for 'safeHands for Mothers' a Hampstead based charity,L-R Kerensa Davies,Jill O'Dwyer,Jen Hamilton,Sarah Coates,Vicky Woodland,Stacy Morgan & Paula Strange

© Nigel Sutton email

»When a small band of swimmers set off from Dover in the dead of night last September, their destination was France but their purpose was to change the world.

The group of six midwives and one potter swam the English Channel to raise £13,500 for SafeHands for Mothers, a charity in Fitzjohn’s Avenue, Hampstead, which helps make childbirth safer in the developing world.


The idea came about on a night out when the midwives talked about joining the ranks of hospital colleagues who had previously made or attempted the mammoth swim.

They chose the 21-mile “marathon” and spent a year acclimatising to the cold by training in an icy lake full of slime.

On September 15 they set off from Dover and dodged jellyfish and cargo boats as well as suffering “crippling” seasickness.

Midwife Sarah Coates said: “We all say labour is like a marathon and that was what this was like.”

Her colleague Paula Strange added: “Once you have done this you can do anything. If it had taken 26 hours we’d have carried on.”

They completed the 21 miles as a relay team in 16 hours and 20 minutes and were rewarded by cheers from family members watching from the cliffs of France and the euphoria of completing one of the world’s most notorious tests of endurance.

Jill O’Dwyer said seeing mothers and babies dying in childbirth in Africa in the 1980s motivated her to take part.

“I had a woman die in my arms,” she said. “I thought that if I could save one life in Sierra Leone it would be worth it.”

Nancy Durrell McKenna, the founder of SafeHands for Mothers, who lives in Fitzjohn’s Avenue, said she was thrilled at the lengths the team went to.

“These are extraordinary women who through their physical feat are helping to make pregnancy and childbirth safer for others,” she said.

An experienced film-maker and photographer, she founded the charity more than 25 years ago to fight for better birthing conditions and to lower mortality in the developing world.

“Women in this country have a choice as to how they give birth, but in many parts of the world there is no choice,” she said.

The charity campaigns for changes in policy to provide better birth and midwife support worldwide.

n To find out more visit the site at

Latest Hampstead & Highgate News Stories


A man has died after a fire broke out in a first floor flat on Brassey Road in West Hampstead.


Highgate’s historic Prince of Wales pub has temporarily closed for a £250,000 refurbishment but its new manager has moved to allay fears that the traditional boozer will lose its character.

Friday, November 16, 2018

I live in the north west of London in the United Kingdom. Like the rest of the country, I have been looking on in bewilderment at the Brexit deal while politicians on both sides of the house vie for political supremacy. Divisions in government make for good news headlines but do nothing for the public’s confidence in its institutions.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Normally we celebrate one business of the week – but today we’ve got three!

Friday, November 16, 2018

A Routemaster bus will take 72 passengers on a journey through Greek Cypriot history, via Camden and Holloway, on Sunday.

Friday, November 16, 2018

The latest twist in the saga of a Hampstead landlord who refuses to pay a controversial levy saw him bring a top barrister to his court hearing.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Opponents of the 100 Avenue Road development suffered a major blow last night as Camden voted through a controversial plan that will funnel seven lorries a day through residential streets in Swiss Cottage.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

The families left homeless by the fire that destroyed the upper floors of Willow House in East Finchley last week said Barnet Council treated them “like ants to be squashed” in the immediate aftermath of the fire.


Looking to get your child interested in a sport? Allianz Park, home to rugby union team Saracens, welcomes people of all ages to join their family of supporters and discover how their core values Honesty, Discipline, Humility and Work Rate underpin everything they do off and on the pitch.

As part of a major refurb, the London Marriott Hotel Maida Vale has renamed its three new-look function rooms to reflect the geography and rich history of the area. The largest, perfect for weddings and large meetings, is named after a Hampstead subterranean river, The Westbourne.

Londoners seeking high quality houses for sale within easy commuting distance of the capital are being advised to look north to St Albans’ prestigious Gabriel Square development.

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Most read Hampstead & Highgate news

Show Job Lists

Digital Edition


Enjoy the
Hampstead & Highgate Express
e-edition today


Education and Training


Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now