Apologies for the late testimonial… After my month of volunteering in Vanuatu (two weeks health checks two weeks kindy teaching) I spent a week in Fiji and returned home this week.
My month in Vanuatu was simply priceless. The first two weeks were very far out of my comfort zone but a very positive and constructive challenge. Having to learn how to conduct the health checks, blood pressure in particular, were challenging. Then implementing our training in the villages was quite the experience. Having learnt all the techniques in a quiet relaxed environment and then having to practice in a noisy, busy, children/baby filled room was a whole other story. However, having to deal with those conditions along with the most intense humidity I have ever experienced (and probably ever will) was an experience I would not trade for anything. These experiences are ones that I believe every health professional should engage in at least once in their careers so as to really appreciate what it is like for those working in these regions, and also to appreciate what it is like for those receiving the health services. It really opens your eyes to the world around you and makes you appreciate all that we have in a first world country; free access to health care, the understanding that prevention is better than cure, the simple (and taken for granted) knowledge/education that when you finish a packet of your chronic disease medication you are required to get more for ongoing care, and even if it is not practiced, that your diet and lifestyle do play a role in your health.
In terms of our group, we struck gold! Living in such close proximity in a group of 8 girls who all get along, support, encourage, help and have fun together is special. Also having such an incredible coordinator like Carrun, was the cherry on top. She was very understanding and nurturing, extremely supportive, knowledgable and fun! I felt comfortable in talking to her about personal matters, about asking for assistance without judgement and also letting our hair down and having fun once the program was over.
Our local volunteers, Lyn and Miriam were also incredible. We would not have had the experience we did without their coordination and facilitation. Particularly in a culture so different to our Australian lifestyle; one where plans and arrangements are very vague and flaky, often don’t transpire or don’t go according to schedule, Lyn and Miriam always saved the day. They also got quite involved in our work, particularly Miriam who took it upon herself to learn from us, the sugar education content and then translate or even deliver the sessions herself when all group members were occupied with patients. And on top of all their work, they cooked us delicious meals for lunch and dinner daily, without any bit of complaint or stress, and integrated so well into our group.
So all in all, the program was very impactful and very eye-opening, and taught me lessons that I will implement into both my professional and personal life.
Thank you so very much for this opportunity and I hope to come back again in the future.
All the best,