Ellinor Börjesson & Kristoffer Gustavsson, Nursing Programme, Thesis Abroad, Papua New Guinea

Hi, our names are Ellinor Börjesson and Kristoffer Gustavsson, we are studying nursing at the school of health and welfare and we had the honor to spend some weeks during the spring of 2018 in Papua New Guinea.

We took the opportunity to write our bachelor thesis abroad. We chose to go with the organization Youth With A Mission (YWAM) Medical Ships Australia to the rural parts of Papua New Guinea because we wanted to be able to interview nurses from all over the world and at the same time help people in need. The opportunity to receive very special and different experience in another part of the world attracted us.

Before arriving, the contact with the organization was via the YWAM Medical Ships base in Townsville, Australia. The staff there helped us with applying for visa and prepare to come-information. All volunteers joining us for the “outreach” (the two-and-a-half-week period most volunteers join at a time) met up in Lae, the second biggest city of PNG. Some staff met us at the airport and took us to the harbor where the catamaran “YWAM PNG” waited for us. We were well welcomed and got a lot of information and a tour onboard. Except for the cabins (that you share with 3 to 5 other volunteers) with a toilet and shower, there were also two lounges, two sundecks, a dentist-clinic, an OR, a sterilization-unit, a kitchen, open areas outside and many storing areas onboard. We were, altogether with the staff onboard 120 people, representing 20 different nations.

During weekdays, all volunteers were divided into different teams, that were partly exchanged halftime. The optometry-, primary health care-, and community engagement-teams went to different villages every day and did their best to serve the population with everything from testing for and giving out reading-glasses, do teaching against domestic violence and hygiene to vaccinate babies and seeing unwell people. Onboard the ship, the dentist-, ophthalmology- and all staff based -teams (kitchen, engineering, housekeeping) helped people with their teeth, performed cataract-surgeries and kept the ship going.

Ellinor and Kristoffer spent one week each in the sterilization of the ophthalmology- instruments and the primary health care-team, which gave us new, valuable knowledge to use within our upcoming profession.

The weekends were free, sometimes there were opportunity to visit a local church on Sundays or engage in different activities with the other volunteers or the natives in the village.

The natives living in PNG are very welcoming and friendly. During the workdays in the villages the natives usually offer the volunteers coconuts and mangoes to show their gratitude. They are very open to share stories about their life. To learn about their country and culture, which is very different from Sweden, was very rewarding and gave us perspective of what is important in life. Often only a few people in each village spoke English, so to communicate in the best way possible during the healthcare we learned a few words in the second biggest language of PNG; pidgin.

Except for fruit, the food onboard was similar to home, yogurt, cereal and sandwiches for breakfast, salad for lunch and a cooked meal for dinner. All the water coming from taps on board was drinkable, and all volunteers were encouraged to bring water bottles, sunscreen and a hat during the workday, since the temperature often was between 30 and 35 degrees Celsius.

All together we had a wonderful journey, all new friends, memories and laughter we got to share with the people, together with the fact that we actually made a difference coming there and writing our thesis is amazing.