I have volunteered with ADI twice now. In PNG, I worked alongside local health workers as part of a team of seven people. It was great to feel part of the local community. At no time did I feel unsafe. In fact we were welcomed with flowers, drums and dance and were taken to see special sights by locals! Our time was divided between treating patients and upskilling health workers. In many areas, we were the first doctors with vaccines, and family planning/sanitation advice to visit in more than 20 years! It was a rewarding experience and I plan to return again.
The ADI team are enthusiastic and energetic and treat hundreds of people during each remote patrol clinic. I remember being very busy most days. While on patrol, our maternal and child health nurse does pap smears, STI checks and immunises children where possible. The Physio sees patients with back and knee pains, teaching them how to lift properly and do simple rehabilitative exercises. They often find disabled people they did not previously know about, and arrange for appropriate equipment to be delivered and follow up care. Our Dentists visit local schools and screen hundreds of children, as well as treating adults at our clinics. And our Doctors deliver babies, reset bones, diagnose a variety illnesses and conditions and work to upskill local health workers to ensure communities have ongoing medical support once the ADI team has moved on.
I have many good memories of both the times I volunteered in PNG. I was always looked after very well – receiving advice of the best way to wash while wearing a ‘lap lap’ (sarong), making sure I was safe if I had to use the outdoor toilet pit late at night, and trying to teach me Pidgin (my attempts at saying many of the words were a source of great amusement).
Living and working in PNG is an amazing experience. In your free time there’s lots to do – there is swimming in the ocean or beautiful rivers, diving, surfing, and birdwatching. One of the highlights for me was being a part of a traditional canoe race. Food wise, the prawns, lobster and fish are amazing. And the people are so welcoming. The local colleagues are just the sweetest people, always keeping an eye out for you and making sure you’re doing fine.
Professionally, it’s amazing to fly into all these remote villages and very rewarding. You really visit the most health deprived people in PNG and there is a lot you can do. I liked that we were focused on the basics: water, sanitation, vaccination and training local health workers. Things which have long term health benefits.
Working in PNG was a learning experience on many different levels. The patrol schedule was the biggest challenge, especially in the beginning. It was a challenge mentally and physically and was harder then I expected – sleeping arrangements were not always optimal for someone as tall as me! Sometimes street dogs would keep me awake as well. Despite this, I felt very safe and supported during my time in PNG and it is an experience that has challenged me and made me a better doctor.
Volunteering with ADI is a life experience that’s unique. It’s sweaty, it’s exhausting, it’s amazing, it’s frustrating and it’s wonderful all in one day. And it has enriched my life in many different ways. I would definitely go again!
My six months with ADI was an experience I will always cherish. The medicine was not only eye opening, but served to provide me with a vastly different clinical mindset and understanding toward best patient care across multiple areas of medicine. I had the opportunity to examine and treat patients with diseases that virtually don’t exist in developed countries, including malaria, tuberculosis, leprosy, filariasis and yaws.
Nothing had prepared me for the sheer isolated and untouched paradise of New Ireland Province – sandy beaches, tropical rainforest, miles of un-spoilt reef and traditional villages. The place was simply unbelievable and I was lucky enough to live alongside the local people and enjoy and appreciate firsthand the traditional way of life that still exists.
We live in a wonderful privileged bubble in Australia, we are so so lucky and we seem blissfully unaware of this fact. Within two hours flight from my home I can step onto a totally different planet, a parallel universe, it is surreal. I am so blessed to have been given the opportunity to work in PNG, to ignite a passion for teaching, to have received in abundance and to have pushed myself beyond my limits.
We can, with the help of ADI, continue to teach, advocate, support, save lives, lead and just be there for the people of our closest and neediest of neighbours.
I was ADI’s first volunteer doctor to work in New Ireland, and I went again in 2013 which speaks for itself! I have done several other volunteer doctor jobs overseas and I thought this one was the most useful and rewarding. ADI is a small organisation and its management are very hands-on and involved. They are keen to get your ideas, feedback and suggestions. As a volunteer doctor you work closely with the local health staff ‘on the ground’ at health centres and with the Provincial Health office. You see and treat patients clinically who desperately need some medical help – but you don’t ‘take over’ from local staff.
New Ireland is beautiful and you’ll be treated to delicious fresh fish and some fruit and veg. Also, you might love the heat and humidity! I’d thoroughly recommend volunteering with ADI to any doctor, nurse or health administrator who wants to work with patients in need and is keen to work alongside the local health staff.
Patience, diplomacy, flexibility and a willingness to get ‘stuck in’ is what is needed to really enjoy your time in PNG. There is certainly no shortage of variety: one day immunising children in remote villages and the next participating in health planning meetings with church and government officials. If you want to use all of the life and professional skills you have – and find a few new ones – then this is an opportunity to grab with both hands.
My 3.5 months with ADI was an incredible and adventurous experience that has left a profound impression – I think about it every day. I was pushed beyond my physical and professional comfort zones many times, but ultimately those experiences gave way to the greatest sense of achievement and satisfaction. I now feel more skilled and confident as a practitioner.
ADI has deservedly built up a good reputation and a great deal of respect in the Western Province. It’s sometimes hard to believe the extraordinary discrepancies between our lives and the lives of our nearest neighbours in PNG. Although the overall situation seemed bleak at times, there were many examples of hope and progress, and a sense that so much can be achieved.
Everything about PNG is an experience like never before: trekking through jungle to villages that have never seen a doctor; hours on a dinghy on the Fly River en route to remote villages with breathtaking scenery and sunsets; seeing leprosy, filiarisis and other tropical diseases in actual patients and not just in textbooks; working at a grassroots level with local staff and communities; sleeping in traditional huts and eating local food.
Things don’t always go according to plan, but that’s all part of the adventure. Bring an open mind, a sense of adventure, tons of patience and a friendly smile.
Some days it’s like a big adventure: rivers and jungles, boat trips, bush hikes and meeting people whose lives are so very different from mine, yet in many ways so much alike.
If you are after an adventure, if you want to contribute to a team effort, if you want to do your bit with others who have given the best part of a lifetime to mission work, if you want to see how the other half struggle through life, if you want to see an ancient culture in our nearest neighbour, if you have patience, tolerance and persistence and you want to be challenged in all these areas, then come.
It tested my clinical decision-making, my medical judgement and my ability to improvise solutions. There were no x-ray machines in Kiunga, very limited pathology testing, and at times no batteries for torches (…) You could do a career here in Australia and still never see some of the medical conditions that I saw over two months in PNG.
I just love the out-of-town clinics. Here, it’s more about chronic pain and chronic bronchitis, TB and congenital defects in kids, and of course the occasional leprosy patient (…) The belief in custom is strong – no death is natural, and Western medicine is viewed skeptically. And there are many different languages; it’s a different one in each village.
Working for ADI in PNG is about the medicine, the people and the place. It’s about pathology you will never see in Australia and it’s about life experiences that you will never have at home. You will be part of the lives of people who are socially and medically isolated and be part of the lives of people who are disenfranchised. You will learn about yourself and your limits. You will make a difference. A big difference.
How to Apply
Complete the Online Application Form
If you would like further information about these roles, please contact ADI:
Phone: (02) 9907 8988.