DELIVERING women’s health services on a blue tarp under a tree in the Fiji Islands took Amanda Nash out her comfort zone, but she described the experience as a “privilege”.
A women’s health nurse at the Timboon and District Healthcare Service (TDHS), she said the women were “beautiful people” who appreciated her help and support.
Mrs Nash has recently returned from two weeks in Fiji as a volunteer for the Loloma Foundation – a California-based mission dedicated to providing sustainable medical, dental and infrastructure support to rural communities in the South Pacific.
“Their life expectancy is 67 – ours is 84...there’s a high rate of diabetes, heart disease and their health in general is not particularly good,” she said.
“Cervical cancer is a known killer and my role for two weeks was, among other things, talking to young girls and women about women’s health issues including the cervical cancer vaccine.
“It was a privilege to be able to share my knowledge. The women don’t expect anything and are so appreciative of what we could offer.
“We just set up under a tree and they came to us because they knew we were going to be there. It was wonderful.”
Mrs Nash took with her a box of bras TDHS staff and members of the Port Campbell community had donated.
She said the women were excited with the donation.
Getting to the remote location was no easy feat for Mrs Nash.
“Each day we left the private island and travelled by boat to the island of Qamea. It was so out of my comfort zone – a couple of days the seas were very rough, it was so hot and humid, but it was also so worthwhile and rewarding,” she said.
“This is the kind of way I like spending my annual leave – it’s what I want to do when I can so when I was asked to join the group it was a pretty easy decision.
“There were five doctors, a paediatrician, a nurse practitioner, myself and Zillah Douglas who I met doing similar work in the Solomon Islands five years ago.
She is an amazing young woman, who is so passionate about equality. I always said to Zillah that if there was ever anything she needed to give me a call and she did that just before Christmas and I of course said ‘yes’.”
Mrs Nash said anyone who knew her was aware she talked about menstruation and women’s issues openly and was a believer in breaking the stigma.
“Part of my work was demystifying the whole period thing – even in our culture it is taboo and people don’t talk about it,” she said.
“The beautiful women wanted our help and it was so rewarding. I mean it was in very basic conditions when you’re doing pap tests on the floor in a dim dark room, but I really felt like what we did will help these women to improve their health and wellbeing.”
Mrs Nash said the team also handed out Days For Girls reusable pads – a patented product which lasts five years if washed properly and provides women in remote areas with dignity.
“It’s a different world – many girls don’t go to school when they have their period because they don’t have the products to deal with it, so their education suffers and they become disadvantaged and so it goes on,” she said.
“They are over the moon to get these kits – it makes such a difference to their lives and I’d encourage anyone who can to visit the Days for Girls website and donate or get involved by making the kits.”