Gangtok, Sikkim – Day 1

Ippokratis SarrisHaider Jan thumbnail image for posts image for postsDear MaTI friends,


We are delighted to announce to you that for the past few months we have been working hard behind the scenes on a very exciting project called CALMED (Collaborative Action in Lowering Maternity Encountered Deaths). This is a project that has a number of collaborators (as implied by the title!). It is being funded by a generous grant from Rotary International and supported, among others, by MaTI, CALMED and FIGO. The main concept is that of a “Training the Trainers” model in order to create a sustainable way of promoting valuable obstetric skills in communities. It follows both a “bottoms up” and a “bottoms down” approach. For more information visit our dedicated CALMED project page on our MaTI site (

The pilot project is taking place in the state of Sikkim, in India. Sikkim is the northeastern most state of India and it borders with Nepal, Bhutan and China. The training is being run over a 10 day period in the city of Gangtok, which is draped on the steep sides of the imposing mountains of the eastern Himalayan range, on an altitude of 1,800 metres. Mount Kanchenjunga (8,598 m or 28,208 ft), the world’s third-highest peak, is visible to the west of the city and Tibet is approximately 50kms away.

The training is divided into three parts. It will start with a three-day course during which the visiting team (Vocational Training Team – VTT) will be training local obstetricians in modern methods of high quality simulation training for obstetric emergencies. They are being mentored with the specific intention that these doctors will subsequently go on to become themselves trainers. The second part of the trip involves these new trainers training medical health officers under the supervision and observation of the VTT. A final day is dedicated to the training of health workers (such as midwives and ASHAs) in the periphery.  The purpose of the programme is to create a group of local doctors who will be a resource for further training in the future. This will ensure sustainability and grass-root level expansion of expertise in how to treat some of the leading causes of maternal and neonatal mortality and morbidity. The VTT and the CALMED programme is being supported by the National Rural Health Mission and the local rotary groups. Continuous monitoring of outcomes is planned with follow-up visits as required. If successful, the CALMED model will be expanded to other areas.

MaTI has been heavily involved in preparing the training material for CALMED in general and for this trip to Sikkim in particular. In addition, two MaTI members, Ippokratis and Haider, are participating in the 5 member strong VTT which left London on the 16th of April. They are being accompanied by two rotary members who are acting as team and programme leaders, Mrs Denise Collins and Dr Himansu Basu.

Both Haider and myself will endeavor to keep you regularly up to date with the developments of this trip (internet permitting)!

Up to now most of the time has been spent travelling and preparing the local arrangements for the training. We arrived in Delhi two day ago. After an internal flight, an overnight stay in Siliguri and a 6 hour trip through the twisting and precarious roads of the Himalayas, we crossed the boarders in to Sikkim and arrived at Gangtok yesterday. The scenery has been breathtaking and the views from the rooms where we will be conducting the training compensates for the fact that we will unfortunately be spending most of the next few days indoors! The local rotary groups have hosted us on each night up to now and their hospitality has been unsurpassed. Both Haider and myself are worried that we will not fit in to our clothes by the end of this 16 day trip. Despite what might seem as just fun, we have been hard at work. We had to check and arrange the local facilities and we where very relieved to see that the equipment that we had arranged for actually did arrive!

The local health minister is inaugurating the programme tomorrow morning and after some more speeches by local dignitaries the training work begins midmorning. Long days are expected and likely poor timekeeping! More on that tomorrow though. We hope that you enjoy some of the attached pictures.

Subha ratri (good night in Nepali)

Ippokratis and Haider