Palm Island Volunteer Experience – Day 3 & 4

Volunteers Engaging with the Community

Day Three

On Wednesday morning, promptly at 8.30am we were required to be at the mall for an exercise class with Joyce Palmer nurses and health care trainees.

Exercise group in the mall
We joined them as part of a regular Wednesday activity whereby the health care staff are encouraged to get out in the community and be visible to residents promoting trust and engagement.

Exercise class with Joyce Palmer staff
The staff had a great time, music blaring with Jin and Sam guiding them through different exercises and stretches. I also took part in some of the exercises and also interacted with the locals hanging out in the mall, waiting for the supermarket (one and only) to open at 9.00am.

Jin guiding walking lunges
Although engagement in the exercises were from the locals was a little low the activity sparked much curiosity. I also had a number of interesting chats with many of the locals in the mall, discovering their personal stories of growing up on Palm Island. I also learned about why they were shy to take part in the public exercise classes and sharing the news that they now have access to a physiotherapist on Palm Island on an ongoing basis.

One of the concerns I’ve come to realise here on Palm Island is not only lack of awareness of what physiotherapy is but also accessing the services. The indigenous people are shy and being in a small, tight knit community where everyone knows everyone, they resist getting involved in a public place. On the contrary, making an appointment in advance and visiting the practice is also a very rare occurrence even though the practice, to someone from a big city, would be seen to be located quite centrally and to be very accessible.

In the afternoon, Matt arrived and was introduced to the team. The physios had a number of consults. Jin saw new clients and had Sam sit in on these consults, a great learning experience for him. Bronwyn and her special skill set have been very well received. She saw a number of clients, saying that the experience has been very rewarding and also spending time with Jin educating him on Pelvic Floor physiotherapy. Bronwyn described her experience treating clients just like locum work.

Wild horses outside the Catholic school
As well as sharing our experience here, Lynda has tasked me to capture thoughts and opinions of a range of residents of the island about the work of SOS Health, the impact we’re having on the community and more. I took a walk to the southern side of the town to visit the Catholic school and church. I met with Sister Judy and Sister Robyn who attend the weekly exercise and Pilates classes SOS Health provides. We chatted about their involvement in the community and the struggles for the community. I then interviewed them in the beautiful lush garden outside their home before another swim and then dinner with Jin and his family.

Day three was an active day (not unusual!) and informative.

Day Four

We were prepared for a busy fourth day on the Island. It started with each of us undertaking variety of tasks including (more!) gardening, consults with clients and Jin leading a session in a life skills workshop. Jin spoke to attendees about how physiotherapy can assist them, explained dry needling and then we all got up and took park in exercises and stretches.

Jin speaking at the life skills event.
As an observer, it was great to see the attendees begin to understand what physiotherapy is and how it can aid them to live a more comfortable and pain-free life.

Stretching during the life skills class
Jin received excellent feedback from this first talk and has been invited to speak at future events. Getting in front of a captive audience of locals is a very important exercise not only to educate them about the benefits of physiotherapy but to grow awareness of the permanent SOS Health physio practice on the island.

Bronwyn, Matt and Lynda met with local GPs, a learning experience for each of them. Sam and I spent time with the residents at Sandy Boyd Aged Care home in the adjoining building to the practice. We had a great time chatting to residents, especially one of the most active and lively Oriel who’s become special to us!

Alicia and Oriel
Over lunch we took a tour around the island, learning about the history and significant and interesting locations such the different areas of residence (including ‘the farm’, ‘chook city’ and ‘top end’ ‘bottom end’), dams and other service providers on the island.

On the island tour with Uncle Laurie. L-R Susan, Jin and their daughters, Sam, Uncle Laurie, Matt, Bronwyn and Alicia

We saw some beautiful sites as well as camp style housing set up by locals who are waiting for government housing.

A beautiful view on the tour of the island
In the afternoon, we had more clients visit the practice, more gardening was completed. We’ve been thrilled with the number of bookings that have shown up. It’s quite common to have a couple of no-shows a week but we’ve had very few for our time here.

Day four came around really fast. The volunteer group has bonded well. We’ve spent time reflecting on the impact we’re making and personal experiences here.

Want to know more? Read about the first two days of our experience or day five and the wrap up.

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