After an 18-hour sail from Alotau, the MV YWAM PNG arrived to the shores of Woodlark Island. The island is home to approximately 10,000 people, halfway to the Solomon Islands from Papua New Guinea’s mainland.
Villages are scattered throughout the island’s dense, tropical jungle and along the coastline of white sandy beaches.
Over the course of eight days, YWAM Medical Ships – Australia’s (YWAM MSA) team of volunteers visited 13 villages and provided immunisations, maternal health services, dentistry procedures, vision assessments, glasses, preventative health resources, health promotion, and continuing professional development for the health workers.
It was the first visit of its kind – optometry, dental, and training for health workers had never been provided on the island before.
The villages on Woodlark are remote – not only in their proximity to the mainland – but to each other on the island. So much so, that only 15 percent of births happen at a health facility.
During the MV YWAM PNG’s visit to Woodlark, 60 mothers received an antenatal check, education, tetanus shots, mosquito nets, and birth kits to help ensure they have a safe birth.
YWAM MSA also worked alongside the local aid posts and health centres, including Guasopa Health Centre. The health centre has a team of nine health workers who service a population of 5,000 people, support the other aid posts on the island, and carry-out patrols to surrounding islands.
Their patient-load is often more than they can manage – and their isolation means that their medication supply is limited, with irregular medication deliveries to the island.
YWAM MSA’s primary health care team jumped in to support the health workers by treating patients, providing continuing professional development, fixing their generator and outboard motor, and re-stocking their medication and vaccines supply.
Many of the CHW’s hadn’t had training since they graduated, which for some, was over 20 years ago. They were hungry to learn, and were quick to provide the topics they wanted more training on.
One of Guasopa Health Centre’s patients was 6-year-old Angeline. Angeline had fallen from a tree and fractured her forearm. The fracture was a compound fracture – the bone had broken through the skin and then had receded back into the wound.
The local CHW’s had provided antibiotics for the wound, and put Angeline’s arm in a sling – but they had neither the skills nor the medication available to sedate Angeline and reset the bones.
YWAM MSA’s volunteer doctors, Dr Anthony Bloch and Dr Ronny Gunnerson, offered their services. Dr Bloch sedated Angeline and together they doctors reset the bones in her forearm.
After the procedure, they checked her arm with an ultrasound – the alignment was a success. Angeline’s arm was then splinted and IV antibiotics were administered to stave off infection from the wound created by the protruding bone.
If the bones had not been reset, the arm would have healed incorrectly – potentially leaving Angeline with difficulties using her hand that could impact her for the rest of her life.
In the midst of the hundreds of people YWAM MSA saw every day – the babies that were immunised, the elderly that received glasses, the families that received dental care, and the school children that were educated on hygiene; the common response from people was gratefulness. Grateful for the 87 volunteers from 13 different countries that had left their homes and paid their own way to be there; for their national and provincial government who had given funds; for the companies that gave fuel, medical supplies, and equipment; for the individuals that hoped and prayed that the MV YWAM PNG would reach distant islands like Woodlark.