Palm Island Volunteer Experience – Day 1 & 2

Physios Arriving on Palm Island

Introduction and Day One

I’m Alicia Foreman and I’m employed in the Support Office of Back In Motion Health Group in a digital marketing and communications position. For over 12 months I have been speaking with Lynda about volunteering on Palm Island and have finally made it. I’m taking over the Foundation’s blog for the coming week to share the experience I and the other volunteers are having. This week is National Volunteer Week so I’m particularly excited about my first health outreach with the SOS Health Foundation to Palm Island!

Joining me is Pelvic Floor Physio Bronwyn Jest of Jest Physiotherapy, final year physio student Sam Ballinger of Monash University, SOS Health Foundation Board Director and fellow Back In Motion Support Office colleague Peter Bain. And, later this week Matt Burns, fellow SOS health Board Director and Director of Sinclair Brook will also join us.

Lynda Cunningham, Manager of the Foundation met us on Sunday evening in Townsville for a briefing session followed by a group dinner. Monday morning we woke early, seeing the beautiful sunrise for a 7.30am ferry trip to Palm Island.

Day1 - volunteer team
Lynda showed off her celebrity status through numerous interactions with locals also taking the same ferry ride – a credit to her dedication to the Foundation and work on Palm Island which continued into our time on the Island.

As we stepped off the ferry we were warmly welcomed by Mia from the Sandy Body Aged Care hostel and Jin, the new resident Physio at the SOS Health Services Physio Clinic here on Palm Island. Jin recently left his position at Back In Motion Woodville in South Australia, relocating to Palm Island with his wife Susan and two young daughters to fulfill the physiotherapist position and manage the practice.

Our first observations upon arriving on Palm Island were its beauty – the township itself is only small and nestled between the glistening ocean and forest covered hills. Giant lush mango trees provide shade and gravel roads interweave throughout the small community. Amoungst the beauty, the poverty cannot be ignored. Peter felt particularly motivated to connect with leaders in the community to begin a positive influence for change, beginning conversations with the Mayor and local council CEO, along with Jin on his first day here.

After a visit to the local supermarket for breakfast, lunch and snack supplies and checking into our accommodation we arrived at the Physio practice. The morning was spend being inducted into the practice and tidying the space – including packing away boxes and boxes of orthopaedic shoes very generously donated by Global Footcare.

Day1- volunteers hold shoes
The afternoon saw Bronwyn hit the ground running, treating a number of clients in the practice while Peter spent time with Jin talking about finance and running the business side of the practice.

Lynda showing volunteer physio Bronwyn the ropes in the consult room before seeing clients
Sam took an exercise class with Sandy Boyd resident and regular client Oriel. There were lots of laughs!

volunteer physio Sam takes an exercise class with regular client Oriel
Local kids made themselves helpful, aiding Sam to prune overgrown plants surrounding the practice.

On our walk from the practice to our accommodation, in true relationship building-Lynda form, we met and chatted to local Archie in his front yard. For Bronwyn, Sam and I, this was an encounter with a local, hearing a personal story, seeing a positive response to an explanation of what SOS Health is doing here is one we’ll remember.

In the evening we were invited to attend a special dinner event for International Nurse Day meeting other healthcare professionals on the Island.

Day one on Palm Island was eye-opening and rewarding!

Day Two

Lynda and Brownyn met with head nurses and health professionals at Joyce Palmer Health Service (the hospital on Palm Island).

Bronwyn is the first Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist that has attended an Health Outreach to Palm Island. Bronwyn has been actively engaging in conversations with local health professionals enabling her to learn more about how locals consume health care. Particularity, shes has been learning the best ways to grow awareness about incontinence issues not having to be something one needs to live with. All of this research is a very important first step in plans to set up a structured women’s and men’s health program for the Palm Island community.

Sam and I got stuck into more gardening, clearing overgrown bushes around the practice and Jin and Susan’s home.

volunteer work in Garden
volunteer work in garden
In the evening, we attended the regular Palm Island Pilates class. Bronwyn had time at the beginning of the class to discuss ‘secret women’s business’ with the female attendees explaining the Pelvic Floor and its importance.

volunteers physio work on Pilates class
Jin then guided attendees, including myself and Sam, through the class.

Day1- physio Jin work on Pilates class
I finished the day with a walk to the beach and reflection time. Day two was a learning experience for all of us and a bit physical too!

Read about days’ three and four or the day five and the wrap up of our experience.

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