BY FILZAH SALLEH (Nurse Undergraduate 2015)
A group of us consisting of medical, pharmacy and nursing students from NUS went to Padang, Indonesia from 22 July to 1 August 2015. We partnered with Singapore Red Cross' Overseas Humanitarian Programme (OHP). We are very privileged and honoured to have gotten expert opinion from SRC and healthcare professionals from MHPA that are willing to provide us with knowledge and endless support throughout the preparation for the trip. Throughout the expedition, we stayed in the local kampung and carried out five health screenings in the vicinity. We also visited two primary schools and conducted lessons and games on hand and dental hygiene.
One of the challenges while carrying out the health screenings was having to manage with only one medical doctor. We had a rough start sorting out the flow of the screening and managing the dispensing counter. However, all of us were quick to adjust to the different size and settings of the screenings' location allocated by the local red cross. The flow of the screenings were much better from the second screening onwards as we learnt to adapt. Our pharmacy friends were a great help at dispensing drugs for the villagers. For almost all of the screenings, we trudged on tirelessly non-stop for a few hours. As this was most of our first time conducting such an event overseas, we were quite often left physically drained. However, the reward for us came when we were told later on that some villagers were thankful for our contribution and they have benefited from the drugs given to them. Most of them are also hopeful that we will return again next year to carry out similar activities. Another heavy challenge for us was to count and prepare the drugs almost every night before we head for the health screening. Even after a long day, the logistic subcomm tirelessly pushed on for this to facilitate a smooth screening process the next day.
The experience we captured in Padang were truly memorable. It is true that some of us are involved at helping out with similar health screenings here in Singapore. However, it was an entirely different ball game when you have absolutely no idea where your screening is going to be and logistics wise, you have to work with what you get. For example, the location of our second screening was almost a bare hall. We worried initially about the chairs, tables and space needed for the different stations. But thankfully, the supportive locals helped us to source for enough furniture. Another lesson we learnt was punctuality. More often than not, we underestimated the time needed to be present. For the second screening, we managed to start only at 9.30 am instead of 9.00 am which we announced earlier. As a result, a group of elderly villagers ended up having to wait under the sun. For the subsequent screenings, we worked hard at being on time.
Hard work aside, the team also had a lot of fun preparing for our dikir barat performance for the cultural exchange on our last night at Koto Hilalang (Pariaman). For R&R, we visited Bukit Tinggi for some delightful food and affordable retail therapy. There was a good balance between work and play.
We are hopeful that whatever small contribution we did will snowball into a bigger change later on. We had a discharge counter which gave the villagers concise information on their medical illness and we hope this awareness will empower them to take charge of their own health. True to the project's name, DAMAI will continue to deliver aid to needy and underprivileged Muslims in Indonesia, in shaa Allah.
Project DAMAI would like to take this opportunity to thank sponsors and donors who have generously supported this project. Without it, we would not have been able to meet the objective of this project and benefit the communities as we hope we could.
Looking forward, we have a new team of enthusiastic and dynamic students who are currently working on Project DAMAI 2016. Your continuous support for this project will definitely mean a lot to us as we continue to benefit more people in the Muslim communities.